What Is “Normal”?

(Source of photo: https://bcdairy.ca/uploads/bcdairy/Resources/SoWhatisNormal.jpg)

Let’s engage in a little thought exercise, shall we?

Before we do that, I’d like share a line from an episode of one of my favorite classic television shows, The Twilight Zone (from its original run, 1959-1964)…

The particular episode I’m referencing is a 1963 episode called Miniature (season 4, episode 8) in which the main character, played convincingly by veteran actor Robert Duvall, is a lonely, henpecked man still living with his overbearing mother and who also has a sister who tries desperately to “find him a nice girl” so that he can fulfill his manhood and become “normal”.

To escape his social awkwardness and his family’s desperate attempts to normalize him, the Duvall character frequents a local museum where he intently stares at an antique dollhouse encased in glass and containing a particularly well-made female doll that he seemingly imagines is real, so real in fact that he not only falls in love with the doll, he seemingly imagines the male doll encased with the female doll and dressed in fiendish black clothing and a top hat (this dollhouse is styled as a Victorian-era home) attacking the female doll he’s in love with, prompting the Duvall character to smash the glass case to rescue her, leading to his arrest where he is subsequently sent out for psychiatric evaluation.

Upon being deemed ready for release by the psychiatrist treating him, the Duvall character’s mother asks “is he really normal?” To which the psychiatrist delivers the line that this post examines…

“Normal” is a word we try not to use; because it is meaningless. “Normal”, in the popular sense, only refers to the behavior pattern of the majority, which is not necessarily good; try not to judge (the Duvall character) by the degree to which (he) conforms to society.

I thought that line particularly thought-provoking. We as a collective society often judge others by the behavior patterns of the majority.

Fads and trends get to become fads and trends because they quickly become “normalized”, with fads usually fading as quickly as they began and trends usually lasting many years before fading.

History is replete with such fads and trends that are considered silly and sometimes even dangerous in retrospect. This alone validates the point that the behavior patterns of the majority are not necessarily good.

Methinks that if you apply this little thought exercise to other, more significant things, it would at least offer you means to see more than one side of an issue.

As Mark Twain said:

Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it’s time to pause and reflect

Perhaps striving to be yourself rather than “normal” is a more worthwhile endeavor.

-The Rational Ram

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