Normal

Photo by Chela B. on Unsplash

This is part one of a two-parter. I don’t think they need to be read together, but they will reinforce each other. Part two is here.

I’ve always wanted something for other people. I think they would be happier, and I think society would be better off. In my head, I use the word normal. I just want everyone to be normal. However, I’m not using normal in the normal sense. That’s because I don’t think there’s a good word for what I want. The lack of proper vocabulary keeps me from talking about it much. So, in an effort to change that, I’m going to pull an old philosophy trick and explain what I mean by the word normal.

For starters, I absolutely don’t mean that everyone should be the same or conformist or anything like that. A big part of being normal, in my sense, is you being you. Everyone is different. Diversity is normal and diversity is good. That’s fundamental to my beliefs. Another part of being normal is respecting that diversity, whether you “agree” with it or not. (I put agree in quotes because I don’t think you can agree or disagree about who or what someone is. They are who they are regardless of your acceptance of the facts.) Bigots are not, and can never be, normal.

The next step to being normal is realizing and accepting that no one cares. That needs some unpacking. Hopefully, there are some people who do care about you. Hopefully, those people are loving and supportive. Be they friends or family or whomever, it’s almost impossible to not be normal when you’re with them. Being normal is only an issue when you’re with everyone else. They’re the ones who don’t care. Whether you’re at work or the grocery store or the beach, you’re surrounded by people who just don’t care about you. That’s fine. Remember, you don’t care about them either and everything will be good.

Now we come to the crux of the matter. Being normal, in my sense, is basically finding an Aristotelian Golden Mean, a happy medium, when it comes to the self. When people fail to be normal, they are either too aggressively themselves or too timidly themselves. There is an aspect of themselves that they are excessively proud of or embarrassed about. Both extremes are wrong, but for different reasons. The aggressive selves impose on others. They force people who would otherwise be minding their own business to notice and have an opinion about them. The problem with the timid selves is they lack honesty and authenticity.

A couple of examples may make it clearer. Gaston in Beauty and the Beast is the aggressive type. It’s not enough that he believes himself to be the manliest man in town. He insists that everyone else know it too. Belle’s indifference to his manliness (she just doesn’t care) is more than he can handle. His aggressiveness probably comes from insecurities, but if Gaston had just been normal, Belle and the rest of the town’s folk would have been much better off. The timid type is exemplified by Aaron Burr in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton. Burr is so worried about what people think of him, he refuses to let anyone see his true self. He appears to be whatever he thinks the people around him want him to be. It keeps him from forming any genuine relationships. Hamilton has more respect for his sworn enemy, Jefferson, than he does for Burr. It’s because Burr won’t be himself, he won’t be normal.

That’s what I’m really saying when I say I want people to be normal. I want them to be themselves while letting everyone else be themselves, too. It’s weird to impose on people who have no reason to care. And it’s weird to worry what people who don’t care think. None of us are perfect. I’m sure I’ve erred on both sides. But, I’m always trying to be normal.

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