Whatever thoughts, opinions etc we have of how others live, we need always to remember that to them,
we are the others . . . and they are making similar judgements about is. Therefore, there is no
independent ‘standard’ to decide which one is the ‘right’ of ‘normal’ one. That is one of the great
paradoxes and dilemmas of life.
Due to Cultural diversity and Individual Self-Expressions , the range of "normal" is a vast continuum:
hence it really is virtually to give a definitive answer to "what is normal". Really, it is basically meaningless.
So maybe, what we are used to is not the best standard of judging ‘normal’ versus ‘not normal’ against.
Yet, there must be some common ground or criteria by which we can make judgements. And interestingly
enough, there is, it is simple, perhaps too simple because so few ever think of it or use it. It is using what
we know from experience about what feels and is good for people, relationships, families, communities etc.
In other words, we use the effects on people of living in certain ways as the criteria. It may not be the
complete answer, but a much safer, intelligent and fairer way to do so. And one which opens the door
to us allowing ourselves to change some of the things we do or believe, and to incorporate, in our own
way, some of the things we have gathered from observing and witnessing others to improve and expand
our own repertoire of what is ‘normal’. Once we begin that process, we quickly discover that it will be
an ongoing one.
This works between cultures, between groups and between individuals. In relationships it is crucial to do
so. Each one comes into it with their own sense of what is ‘normal’ and will notice things about the other
that don’t fit that description. The choices are simple, either continue seeing them as ‘weird’ or ‘not normal’,
or try and get to know and understand why they do/say things the way they do. When each one does this,
it becomes a win-win for both. When we apply it across the board, it is win-win for everyone.
-Klaas Tuinman, 2010, (revised 2020) Deerfield, Nova Scotia
What Is Normal?
There is a criteria humans use to
‘measure’ things, events and people
against: that standard is called “normal”.
We all use it, we all ‘know’ exactly what
it means (to us), yet when asked to
define or describe it, it comes down
to something simple, yet odd.
It’s odd because it can be very simply
summed up. First, “normal” is your side
of the fence; “weird”, “different”,
“strange” and “wrong” etc, are the other
person’s side of the fence. And that works
in both directions, regardless which side
of the fence you’re on. Each of you is
on your side and paradoxically, each of
you is on the other side. Of course, that
instantly begs the question, “which one is
the real “normal” one”? Who decides?
The answer is straightforward. There is no
definitive universal "normal": the definition
of "normal" resides in the "eye" of the
definer, within a given context.
When we look a bit closer, ‘normal’ turns out to be “what we are used to”. It is that simple, and that
real. What we are familiar with is the criteria by which we make sense of the world and people around
us; and of our own lives. When we see, hear, witness or experience things we are not familiar with
we become disoriented for we cannot place it into the context that we are so used to, so familiar with.
Our general tendency is to call it ‘odd’, ‘weird’, ‘wrong’, or ‘not normal’.
Yet, sometimes on these occasions, those things, while unfamiliar to us, don’t look ‘weird’ or ‘wrong’.
Instead, at those moments they are eye-openers to other, perhaps better ways of doing certain things;
or other and better ways to live. They create a recognition within us, because we realize that whatever
it is resonates deeply with something we knew we’d been missing but could never before put a finger
on it, so to speak. And then suddenly, there it is right before our eyes. At that moment the unfamiliar
transforms into something that expands our sense of ‘normal’ because it connects with something we
already ‘knew’, yet didn’t ‘know’.
Another point to consider is that the
more often we are repeatedly exposed to,
or experience, the same ‘weird/odd’ things,
the less their impact tends to have on us, and
we gradually come to accept it, too, perhaps
not inclined to live it ourselves, but make
allowance that this is how it is, or works, for
others. Sometimes that is good, and it is
called ‘tolerance’. But often it is not
good, because we subtly accept things that
aren’t good – that are harmful to others and
to the people who live and experience it.
That’s how people become inured to
violence, alienation, social injustice,
prejudice and violence, as just some
“Normal”, because there are so many
people in so many places who live their
lives very differently from what we are
used to, turns out to be situational and
relative – it is always connected to what
any person, or group, had become used to,
as a way of thinking, feeling and living their
lives. Also see "Culture".
Klaas Tuinman MA
at the virtual Dawn Cove Abbey online
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