Pardon this shameless plug, but I have written an essay for Issue 5 of New Escapologist magazine, which you may be interested in checking out.

The following is an excerpt from the essay:


Our vernacular rarely lends “not being normal” as a compliment. There’s an inherent cultural drive towards being normal.

Yet what is normal? I have come to believe that normality is a rather arbitrary standard subject to fads and fashions. These days it’s become normal to run a marathon. Every middle-manager I know either has run or plans to run a marathon, which is ironic given that the reason the marathon distance originally became famous was because of the sheer craziness in running such a great distance; the reason the marathon became legend was that the first one to run it collapsed and died from exhaustion! The crazy has become normal.

What would also have been considered crazy at the time of the first marathon is our culture’s obsession with work. Back then, work was considered something to be avoided and best left for slaves. Someone wanting to spend a lifetime working would have been considered as crazy as someone running a marathon for fun. Yet now it is normal to think of work as almost the highest form of human expression imaginable. After all, people spend 8-12 hours a day, 5-7 days a week for more than forty years of their life simply working with the rest of their life arranged around it. Working is normal. It is the standard to strive for and the normal thing to do. Some even say life without work is now meaningless. Yet much of what passes for work these days can hardly be said to be meaningful, other than as a means to an end.

A normal life is defined as graduating high school, getting a college degree, buying a car, buying a house, filling it with furniture, clothes, television sets, washing machines, and lawn mowers, and then spending the next forty years working 9-5 to pay it all off. This cycle of earning and spending is usually offered in forty different flavors of vanilla. You can have any flavor you want as long as it’s vanilla. People mistake this for choice, but it is just variations of one single choice; different choices are not considered. Fish don’t see the water in which they swim: it is an invisible part of their experience.

The complete article can be found is Issue 5 of New Escapologist, available at their online shop.

Originally posted 2011-04-04 04:01:31.