The New Norman Normal. He looks a lot like you. And me.


The idea of “normal” is one of the simplest and most difficult concepts in all of human discourse. While getting an undergraduate degree in philosophy, I became well-acquainted with the idea of “normative ethics” and “normative behavior.” As a graduate student studying film theory and criticism, the idea of normative was a fundamental requirement as a basis of any sort of criticism. Nothing can be decreed either good or bad unless you have a standard, a norm to measure it against. But while the concept may be useful, even essential, it can also be destructive and repressive. The critical problem is that Normal is, by definition, self-centric. Normal is me. Normal is how I see the world. What else could it be? In our entire life, in the life of every individual of every life form on this or any other planet, there is only one mind we are ever in, and that is our own. We require the concept of Normal to negotiate our own existence. As humans, we gravitate to those who think like us, who believe like us, who walk and talk and look like us.

My “normal” is a constant struggle with time, with the organization of time, with the very concept of time. I’ve tried countless things, and continue to try new things. “Make a list.” Do you know how many times I’ve heard that? I do make a list, and then I lose the list, forget the list. Or start out to do the first thing on the list and two hours later I’m organizing my toolbox, which was never on any list, and still haven’t checked off Numero Uno. Some “coping techniques” help, some don’t. To those who don’t struggle with time wrangling, i.e., those who don’t have ADHD (which comes in many shapes and sizes and manifestations), I am lazy, disrespectful, and live on a diet of bullshit excuses. To me, those who think like that are ignorant bigots. To me, they seem sick. I am not. I am normal.

The reality is, and we are now approaching such a level of sophistication in our investigation of the brain that this can be confirmed, there is an incredible array, a monstrous tapestry of normal, and it is that very diversity, the one that so often perplexes and frustrates us, that contributes to the survival and success of the human race. We thrive as a species because there are so many different normals, and when one normal fails, other normals prevail. Check with Charles Darwin. Of course, if you are one of those normals who thinks evolution is a Satan-driven hoax, you dismiss natural selection as heathen conspiracy. You are a Believer; I am a Doubter.

In the course of human history there have no doubt been times when True Believers saved us, just as there have been times when the Doubters, the Questioners the Nonbelievers, did too. It’s not our fault we don’t agree, or don’t like each other. We were born that way. God/Evolution (pick one) made us that way. Because, borrowing the words of Noel Paul Stookey, this new “Norman Normal, he looks a lot like you.” And me.

And like Eleanor Longden. Eleanor hears voices. Read “Why I Thank the Voices in my Head.”

It turns out a lot of people hear voices, and while some of those who do may have difficulty functioning in day-to-day existence (as do some who don’t hear voices), some get along just fine. It is normal. It is their normal, and they do not need to be on anti-psychotics, but need to be understood, need to have help in understanding this phenomenon with which they live and with which most of us do not. At other times, in other cultures, those who heard voices were not considered crazy or defective. They were considered blessed. Both they and others believed God was speaking to them. They were oracles. They were the chosen ones. Remember Moses, who climbed a mountain to take dictation from God? Twice. Remember Joan of Arc? A great many, if not all of the world’s religions were founded, shaped, driven by men and women we would today consider delusional. God told Abraham to kill his son. Jesus spent forty days in the wilderness talking to Satan and meeting with long-dead prophets. Sure, that sounds reasonable. Where’s the dude with the Thorazine and Haldol when we need him? Does he stock Adderall too?

As Bob Dylan put it (and if there were a God, I would argue he speaks to Dylan–or used to):

Bob Dylan performing at St. Lawrence Universit...

Bob Dylan performing at St. Lawrence University in New York. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Oh God said to Abraham, “Kill me a son”                                                                         Abe says, “Man, you must be puttin’ me on”                                                                     God say, “No.” Abe say, “What ? “God say, “You can do what you want Abe, but                                                                                   The next time you see me comin’ you better run”                                                              Well Abe says, “Where do you want      this killin’ done ?”                                                     God says. “Out on Highway 61”.

So if there are any True Believers out there who want to further discuss this with a True Non-Believer, I’m happy to meet you at Starbucks. Be advised I will probably be ten to fifteen minutes late. Unless I completely forget, and that happens, too. Fairly often. Please don’t take it personally.