joi, 20 aprilie 2017

Most of us are rather interested in being normal. We want to belong - and worry about ways in which we don’t quite. No matter how much we praise individualism and celebrate ourselves as unique, we are, in many areas, deeply concerned with fitting in.
It’s therefore unfortunate that our picture of what is normal is in fact – very often – way out of line with what is actually true and widespread. Many things that we might assume to be uniquely odd or disconcertingly strange about us are in reality completely average and ubiquitous, though simply rarely spoken of in the reserved and cautious public sphere.
The idea of the normal currently in circulation is not an accurate map of what is actually customary for a human being. We are - each one of us - far more compulsive, anxious, sexual, high-minded, mean, generous, playful, thoughtful, dazed and at sea than we are ever encouraged to admit.
Part of the reason for our misunderstanding of our normality comes down to a basic fact about our minds: that we know through immediate experience what is going on inside us, but can only know about other people from what they choose to tell us - which will almost always be a very edited version of the truth.
We know what we’ve done at 3am, but imagine others sleeping peacefully. We know our somewhat shocking desires from close up, we are left to guess about other people’s from what their faces tell us, which is not very much.
This asymmetry between self-knowledge and knowledge-of-others is what lies behind loneliness. We simply can’t trust that our deep selves can have counterparts in those we meet, and so we stay silent and melancholy. The asymmetry encourages shyness too, for we struggle to believe that the imposing, competent strangers we encounter can really have any of the vulnerabilities and idiocies we’re so intimately familiar with inside our own characters.
Ideally, the task of culture should be to compensate for the failings of our brains by assisting us to a more correct vision of what other people are normally like - by taking us, in a realistic but entertaining way, into the inner lives of strangers. This is what novels, films and songs should constantly be doing - defining and evoking states of mind we thought we were alone in experiencing - in order to alleviate our shyness and loneliness.
We are particularly bad at recognising how normal it is to suffer and to be unhappy. Around relationships, for example, we constantly operate with an image of the bliss of others which mocks and undermines our own efforts to keep going with many flawed but eminently ‘good enough’ unions. We find it hard to bear in mind that more or less everyone is, beneath a cheery surface, intermittently profoundly sad and rarely not anxious.
We become embarrassed too by our close-up knowledge of our own sexuality, which appears necessarily more perverse than that of anyone we know. It almost certainly isn’t. We simply haven’t been told the full story.
Ideally, art works would offer us a hugely consoling truth: that our hidden worries, the nagging anxieties we keep to our chests and our stranger thoughts and impulses don’t actually make us strange; on the contrary they are precisely what make us normal. One great goal of the love novel, for instance, should be to tell us what love and long-term relationships are really like; so that our own tribulations do not appear so readily as signs that everything is going wrong - but rather that our sufferings are very much in line with common human experience.
Our culture often tries to project an idea of an organised, poised and polished self, as the standard way most people are. We should discount this myth. Other people are always far more likely to be as we know we are - with all our quirks and surprising aspects - than they are to be like the cardboard cut-outs we meet in our social lives.
Sursa alaindebotton

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