Ethereal Normal

The concept of “normal” is fiction. There is no steady state that conveys a sense of normalcy. Normalcy can be understood only in a context of unending change. Chaos, in other words. The moment we think we have entered a smooth state of normalcy, which we equate with routine, internal or external forces interrupt that state. The apple cart loses a wheel or  the cart’s driver gets annoyed or drunk or both. Crushed apples and disappointed teachers litter the landscape.

The “new normal,” another brand of chaos, is just as ethereal as the old normal, just dressed in gauze of a different color. It consists of a repaired apple cart, driven by a Buddhist teetotaler who, when things appear to have settled down to a reliable routine, will be charged with either murder or manufacture of methamphetamine in a middle school art studio.

I wrote not long ago that fiction is truth clothed in costumes. If I am right that normalcy is fiction, then normalcy is chaos dressed up to look like serenity. Another assertion I made when I wrote about truth in costumes seems to apply here: normalcy is the view of serenity from the other side of the mirror.

If I knew myself better, I could write myself into a story as protagonist. But without knowing a character’s motives and what drives his reactions to his version of normal, a story is saddled with a wooden, two-dimensional character. I know more about characters I’ve written than about me. Of course some of those characters may have arisen from seeds planted in my mind and nurtured with the same nutrients that sustain me.


About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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