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Redefining Normal, Part 2

Grain at a local farm


Somewhere between ages 2 and 4, a vast majority of children go through a stage of asking “Why?” about EVERYTHING. It’s an interesting experience when you’re around children at that state, because when they ask “Why?” you often can’t help but wonder yourself. Of course it very quickly becomes annoying, as the whys come up far too frequently!

After a few months, children stop asking why. Until they become teenagers. And then the whys come back in full force, and for a parent or guardian or relative, the whys can be difficult to answer. (Often the answer is “because I said so” but you know that’s probably not the best answer – you just don’t have a better one.)

At a certain point in our teenage years, we stop asking why. And then, unless we have a brief moment in college where we ask whys, or we have children from 2 to 4 who are asking why, we really cease to do so. For the rest of our lives. We accept what society tells us is normal. We stop questioning.


Why do we stop asking why? Because it’s easier to accept the status quo? Because we want to be accepted, and to be accepted we must be considered “normal”?

But where has normal got us?

We’re in danger of irreversibly destroying our planet due to climate change. We’re not coming up with many solutions for a predicament in the not too distant future when we run out of cheap oil and natural gas. We’ve killed off innumerable species. We’ve obliterated forests, we’ve poisoned our food supplies, we’ve even managed to destroy a whole lot of our own cultures and peoples.

So maybe we should redefine normal. Don’t you think? Maybe we should start asking why, and come up with some better answers!

Why do we live in big houses when we could live in smaller spaces and be comfortable? Why do we have gigantic cars when we could have smaller cars and do just fine? Why do we have things just because they are available to us? Why do we buy more things than we need? Why do we purchase packaged, processed food when we know it’s bad for us and for the environment? Why do we “need” certain things in order to help us relax? Why do we wash our hair with lab-generated chemicals every day, just because that’s the way we’ve been taught to do it?

Let yourself be free of what other people say is normal. Define normal for yourself. Is it normal to destroy the environment because you’re too tired to do it any other way tonight? Maybe it shouldn’t be normal. Maybe normal should be that we do everything we can to stop irreparably destroying our planet!  (Even if you’re tired tonight.)

Maybe normal should be turning off our televisions, and instead spending time meeting others in our communities and learning ways to generate a new, society-wide ‘normal’? Maybe normal should be giving instead of taking, loving instead of hating, happiness instead of sadness and loneliness, and working together instead of in isolation.

Redefining normal doesn’t happen overnight. Redefining normal happens over days, months, years. But it only happens if you work at it. It only happens if you start asking “Why?” again. And then start coming up with better answers.

I’ll do it. I’ll do it because we must if we are to save our planet and its life. I’ll do it because I believe it’s important to do so for the next generations. I’ll do it for many, many reasons. Will you?


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12 comments to Redefining Normal, Part 2

  • Rob

    I am with you sister- of course it’s easy for me because I have been so on the other side of “normal” for so long it ain’t a long trip for me!

  • yup. normative behaviours require major consciousness to everyone who speaks up, acts up, shows up, does something to help shift the norm.

  • Interesting post, definitely something to reflect on. Though I sometimes get tired of second-guessing myself every two seconds. I guess for me, redefining normal means doing what is right for me. And I think that works for me.

  • Excellent suggestion! As the economy sprials downward, and other things that we call normal begin not to be so, it is the perfect time to redefine for ourselves what normal is. Redefining for ourselves could make each of us much happier and more content in our individual lives and collectively as a society. It will also eventually change the collective definition of normal.

    For me, it will start with redefining what is “normal” employment and a “normal” diet.
    My recent experimentation tells me that outside of the current “normal” definitions suits me far better. Thanks for this thought-provoking post.

  • I love that you point out that redefining normal can happen over a period of weeks, months, years. I really do think it is a gradual process. Some of the things I do now, were so not normal to me a year ago. Now, I cannot imagine doing all my food shopping at some grocery store. Nor can I imagine leaving the lights on. Not line drying in decent weather. Growing grass in the front yard.

    As you know from my post yesterday, I think this is a very important time for us – a perfect opportunity to change what is “normal”. What an interesting time to be alive!

  • monica

    the only “normal” that I know of is a setting on the washing machine!

    Smart kids are the ones that ask ‘why’ and get answers. The ones that ask ‘why’ and don’t ask anymore might have asked a question and kept getting dirty looks.

    I promise to humor our son as much as possible, so that he will continue to ask.

  • Great suggestion. I’ve been wondering what this ‘normal’ thing is for a while now. Very interesting post, giving me something to reflect on.

  • Rob, LOL!

    kelly, agreed.

    Stephanie, I guess I see it not so much questioning myself as questioning what the outside world tells me. Sometimes what the world tells me to do isn’t the best thing for me. So it’s not too far off from what you’re saying, actually.

    Willo, : )

    young snowbird, “It will eventually change the collective definition of normal” – exactly!

    GB, I feel the same way.

    monica, “the only “normal” that I know of is a setting on the washing machine!” Awesome. “I promise to humor our son as much as possible, so that he will continue to ask.” Even more awesome!

    ironic, that’s good to hear – thank you for your comment.

  • I feel like I’ve been spending a lot of time redefining normal and I ask why all the time. I think it isn’t something that can be accomplished in a hurry even though we really need to make change in a hurry.

    My son asks “why” about absolutely everything and even when other parents get squeamish I have always tried to give him the most direct and honest answer I can and the few times when I try to avoid answering him this way? He objects and will not let me off the hook. I want him to feel empowered going out in the world, and armed with answers, not sheltered from the truth so that he has to relearn what is real as an adult.

    This was a great post- as usual. Your writing is energetic and warm!

  • Roiane

    Hi, for over twenty years I have always responded to WHY with “why according to whom?”
    My Motto for life is “The end results show your TRUE intentions!”
    Blessings Roiane

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