Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Don't Call Me Ishmael and Please, Don't Call Me Normal

Your associations with the concepts of  "normal" and "normality," have often been shaky.  For long periods, you feared you were not normal, punctuated by attempts to become so.  After a time, as your experience and vocabulary increased, you feared you were normal, prompting behavior to suggest to the world about you that you were not.

In many ways, your early years were a shaky, hesitant dance, which is an apt metaphor.  Although you appreciate many forms of dance, embracing the music and staging of ballet the way many of your friends are opera fans, your own ability to dance cannot be considered a tool in your toolkit.

This makes normality and dancing a well-met pair, a comedy team for you to consider when you find your thoughts slipping off toward seriousness and dignity.  Come to think of it, you are not all that accomplished at those, either.  With too much seriousness comes the same sensations that accompany the need for a nap after a large meal. Dignity is tricky to pin down.  

You may appear dignified if you are caught up in your work to the point of being "in" it, a part of it.  When you are in some transaction with another person, caught up in it to the point of being involved, well then, you are sincere, which is what you'd intended in the first place.

By a slow, tedious production of creating normal characters, striving for what you considered normal goals, and the even slower accumulation of rejection slips, you began to make the connection that none of your favorite characters was on speaking terms with normality.  Lesson learned, to the point where characters wanting things beyond the threshold of normality often brought you those smaller envelopes, the ones saying a story had been taken.

For quite a while, you were trying to approximate normality in your life, at the same time identifying with individuals who did not respond to stimuli or the need for moral choices in the same way you did.  Some of this changed when a then well-known literary agent took you on as a client, suggesting you set your sights on the so-called slick magazines, those printed on a coated stock as opposed to those printed on pulpy paper.  He went so far as to suggest to you that the conflicts were more in line with what normal readers could identify with.

There was that word again, and the reality of your awareness that the persons you were dating, refreshingly nice and accommodating, left you yearning--another good word--for dates whose life seemed to have some unconventional aspect, perhaps even several, such as one person you knew who had a cat with a persistent urinary tract infection, an automobile that seemed to defy the best diagnoses of numerous mechanics, and who was being pressured by two employers to chose between what seemed to you to be two of the most remarkable, unusual jobs you'd ever heard of.

After much reflecting and rejection slips from the slick magazines suggesting you'd perhaps gone too far from convention, you began to realize there was in effect a war between the states going on within you.  At the time, you read a good many novels set during the actual War between the States, as it was called in some of the schools you attended, the Civil War in other of the schools, and when you lived in Florida, you were corrected by the information that "it" was in fact The War of Northern Aggression.

Normal has become a gray, undifferentiated state to you, with boundaries established by the conventions of your early learning, which was eclectic enough, given you'd attended schools in California, New York, Rhode Island, and Florida, but not informed by any of the conversations you were being able to have as you made friends and acquaintances and, also to the point, conversations with the polar aspects of yourself.

Normal is convention, a median, a state more figurative and undifferentiated in its way than individuality is diverse or, as you've heard it expressed, anarchistic or chaotic.  Much as you believe in and subscribe to The Social Contract, you also believe there are just as many crazy persons in the normal range as in the creative or super-cognitive.

We are all of us multi-tasking as we walk about our daily agendas, routines, and dreams.  You walk about with your own dreams and fantasies plus those of friends and associates who are no longer alive.  Thus you are in effect libraries of the ideas and concepts and notions of those individuals, whom you sought out and they you, not because of your similarities but because of the deviations.

If you'd wanted nothing beyond your own visions, you'd never have taken up reading with such a sense of yearning, nor would you have indulged those long nights of argument and drunkenness with kindred spirits, each of whom was passionate beyond normal in her or his beliefs.

There is a conventional wisdom you rather enjoy, even when it sometimes bites you.  This conventional wisdom is to associate yourself with individuals you consider stronger,more advanced, more daring, more idiosyncratic than you.  They will be among the last to notice your socks don't match or that you've in some fit of daydream shaved the same side of your face twice instead of the entire face once.

With this calculus in place, you understand with ardent certainty that many of your close friends think you are crazy, possibly cantankerous, for a certainty notional.  You are comfortable with this wisdom, because it is a wisdom that orbits in ways you are still struggling to learn so that you will not go out into the bright sun without a cap or sunglasses.

At one time, when you were trying to be more normal, you had scant hope you'd be doing the things you're doing now, imagining instead some more conventional way toward what you saw as your destiny.  This included writing books that sold remarkably well, which is in effect quite a normal thing for a beginning writer to wish.

It is not that you are shucking off the potentials of making an adequate living from your chosen craft, rather that you are more interested in the inner living you earn from writing the things you write, then seeing them through the publication process.

You'd have to be crazy to think the way you do about the things you think about.  To the extent that you are crazy, so too are you a healthy, abnormal person, happy much of the time, alert to things he can do when the happy, crazy times are gone and normality comes rushing on in its tsunami intensity.

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