Monday, August 6, 2012

Anyone Truly Normal?


As someone interested in human nature, I wonder if anyone is truly "normal." No matter how you look at it, being normal is a very strange thing, and I can't think of anyone that I know reasonably well to be a truly "normal" person. Everyone is quirky in one way or another. I mean this as a compliment and that's what curious about it.

In our society, being called normal can be a downer, as it implies being boring. It's considered better to be unique, a trend-setter, an outside-the-box person. So why is our civilization so hung up on normality?  The concept of "normal" is expressed across our cultural institutions as an ideal state.  It helps define the standards of what is a healthy person, for example.  Being normal is a part of manners, positive behavior in general, and even found in principles of law.  Considering just how much emphasis and energy we put into being normal, it seems contradictory that we aspire to and even revere individuality.

What does this have to do with nature and society which are the supposed subjects of my blog?  A lot, I'd say, as the question goes to the heart of human nature and of our "individualistic" culture.

There are two reasons usually given as to why most people aspire to be normal, or at least appear normal, as opposed to being a misfit or seen as a weirdo. From a personal point of view, the need to be "normal" is an expression of the fact that we humans are social animal and as such want to fit in. On a larger level, to have a functioning society as opposed to "Lord of the Flies" type chaos, people have to conform to social standards, in other words, people have to act normal. And this is why our institutions are so hung up on normal.

I don't know, but things seem to be changing.  I don't think it's coincidence that post-apocalyptic stories are so popular today.  People seem to be fascinated by scenarios where the normalcy of society is challenged and even falls apart.  I wonder if the very idea of "normal" is being challenged now.  I think young people are thinking about normalcy much more critically. Is the very idea of "normal" changing?  Is social media responsible?