‘Normal’ – what does that even mean??
RJR: I am a great lover of words and I truly respect the power of their use. We create our entire mind’s landscape with words, and what meaning we put to them. ‘Normal’ has never been a word that has gelled with me, in fact, quite the opposite. But it is a word that is used in most conversations these days, so cannot be avoided! And of course normal will mean different things to each and every one of us. I would really appreciate the opportunity to play with the word with you and see where the exchange takes us. I guess it is a word that can hold hope, but also a great deal of frustration – as well as so much else. What has the word meant to you in the past, and how, do you think, can we liberate the word to manifest hope for our present and near future?
NS: In school and college days I remember ‘normal’ being a term you didn’t want aimed at you! ‘Normal’ was a label used to describe someone as conventional and boring. I suppose that was because ‘normality’ suggested being content with the way society was. ‘Getting back to normal’ now seems to have become something that is widely desired… but that phrase, too, seems to encompass just being content with the way things were. ‘New normal’ is already an unappealing cliché… but in that maybe there is a positive use of the word. Perhaps radical reappraisal of ‘normality’ could be, for want of a better phrase, the ‘new normal’.
RJR: Looking at the bigger picture of our entire planet, what would you like to see as our ‘new normal’?
NS: An end to war… strict weapons controls… full use of sun, sea and wind power… green action to combat climate change and restore and re-wild the environment… an end to animal abuse… more vegetarianism and veganism… measures to close the gap between rich and poor… greater value placed on holistic health… all the usual things, really! Why shouldn’t these be considered normal?
RJR: What about the impact of this time on the other animals on our planet?
NS: That wasn’t an exhaustive list! Yes, any animal abuse – including destruction of habitats and species – should not be part of any ‘new normal’ – although, sadly, it’s part of the old and the current normals. And that’s particularly poignant, since it could be our awful interaction with some animals that has led to the pandemic (and to the chance to change what is ‘normal’). What else do you think should shape the ‘new normal’?
RJR: I am reluctant to use the word ‘should’… a higher level of awareness and consciousness; tolerance and respect for all living things; equality; kindness and compassion; truth, transparency and honesty; and a total shapeshift of priorities.
NS: Yes to all of this; and perhaps the ‘new normal’ should also include fluidity. The ‘normal’ that I referred to earlier, used as a pejorative term, encompassed the meaning of conventional and unchanging; there was a certain stuckness in this ‘normal’. So I think the ‘new normal’ might perhaps include constant awareness and openness to change and adaptability. Does that make sense?
RJR: I am very much sensing that we are all together on a meandering river – so I like the idea of fluidity. Everything is changing, as it always does, but we are noticing it so much more because these times are impacting our whole lives. We are moving through the river and we are the river. The vaccines are coming into the river, and they will change how we flow, where we flow. Our thoughts are doing the same. Everything is moving – so we keep up by adapting and accepting. These are such important times because we are shedding light on so much that was in the dark. Don’t you think?
NS: Maybe the river was even a bit stagnant in the ‘old normal’! And now it’s rushing on… and we’re not sure where to… ‘You better start swimming or you’ll sink like a stone’, as Mr Dylan observed at another time of crisis and change. And it’s down to us all as individuals as to whether we ‘please heed the call’… and see things in a new light. Being alive means forever changing, doesn’t it?
RJR: I don’t feel the river was ever stagnant. I think we have been racing on in a fast current for a very long time. Our banks are full and overflowing, and have been for a long time… we are just more aware of it now. I agree, being alive means we are forever changing, and being aware and accepting of that really helps. It is all about mindset! What do our readers think?