It’s hard these days to claim the exalted status of “normality,” a rare wine, indeed. But thankfully, I’ve known a few people who come pretty darned close. Maybe I should simply have called this piece “The effort toward normality.”
Some of you have perhaps tried learning foreign languages like German, or even Japanese or Urdu. And you know how hard it is to attain a level whereby you could call yourself “fluent” in such tongues, right? It’s rather like climbing a tall mountain, even an Everest, and never quite reaching the summit.
Well, it’s that way with normality, too. However, just making the effort again seems laudable. Particularly given all the pitfalls there are at a click or several (today’s internet at its worst is a kind of sewer!); and so many ways of falling off the wagon in that arduous attempt at crafting a healthy life.
Of course one can get good and singed these days for even hinting that there’s one kind of normality, and for not endorsing the extreme relativism that now makes a wide variety of lifestyles supposedly OK.
By the way, how did this topic come to me? It arrived after driving and flipping compulsively at the radio, then returning and briefly savoring the velvety night air outside. Then looking up at a fine crescent moon enrobed in a gauzy coat of white. The whole scene brought back the romance of youth, but I only gave it a minute or two, and then? Then inside to things like phone, TV or net surfing, bill-paying, etc., etc.
Back in the day sensitive types gazed up at that same moon on more or less the same kind of night, and penned songs like, well, “Moonglow.” A ditty nicely recorded in the ‘50s by such as the McGuire Sisters, but also in a gorgeous, earlier version by Artie Shaw and his orchestra (1941).
So, looking at that moon, and thinking of how people used to mint tunes about it (“Moon over Miami,” “Moonlight in Vermont,” etc.), not to mention art or poetry, is what started me thinking of all that deters us these days on the road to … “normality.” There’s just too much that distracts, detracts, gets in the way.
Of course one realizes that lots of people are to some degree neurotic, and not perfectly “normal” for that reason, but at least harmful to their own selves alone, including via the OCD variant (or irritant). And anchored in a certain sense of reality, with an emphasis on giving and the rest. Far worse are the phonies among us. What they’re good at — particularly narcissists with cheery smiles always gracing their chops — is feigning normality, i.e., faking those they know into thinking they have it all together and care deeply about others. Which they don’t…
Normality ... Ain’t it often synonymous as well, and particularly in our era, with a kind of recovery? From serious addictions to gambling, to this or that stimulant, to Amazon shopping and so forth? Where again the effort alone becomes central and praiseworthy?
Re. this thorny subject, I can already hear devil’s advocate bowling balls hurtling down the lanes! Given that drawing attention to the many temptations we have in our society makes one sound like a fuddy-duddy, a Calvin or Cromwell, a spoilsport (in a time when others can easily retort as well: “Et tu, Brute!”). I.e., who are you to spout the old puritan values? The virtues of forbearance? Everyone’s swimming in today’s decadent waters, right? You think you can just stay on the beach in your sober ministerial garb?
All that aside, dodging corruption or let’s say, time-wasting pursuits which beckon in such variety, and seem to get in the way of normality, again feels useful. As in Bette Midler not giving her then-tiny kid TV time? Perhaps.
So yes, I salute those who at least make an effort, walk the walk, all that. In a world where much around us is indeed “abnormal,” if not always by the latest standards, when anything like consensus has taken a beating (think legit weed, sports betting, compulsive cellphone use, etc.), but rather by time-tested ones (including the Judeo-Christian variety) of a longer past.
B.B. Singer has taught at several area colleges including Niagara University.