Friday, July 10, 2009

Finding Normal

I don't know why I'm drawn to unusual people and circumstances. Maybe they are drawn to me.

Perhaps I am a magnet that attracts the the unique, the different, the aberrations of what whoever "they" is call normal.

Diane Arbus is a photographer, worth googling, who insired me when I was young. She sought out the abnormal within the normal. She was the one who first made me realize our faces are simply masks you can see though... if you look hard enough.

Whoever "They" is, "They say" say... the only place you'll find normal is on your washer/drier setting dial. I say... there is no place called normal, no specific line of demarcation between normal and abnormal. Normal is not a space or place you can see or define, like the horizon line, where the ocean meets the sky.

Normal is only what we know. And what we know is what we've been taught.

Some people, either by nature, nurture or a combination of both, see love, kindness, positive attributes, basic human decency as normal.

Other people, either by nature, nurture, or a combination of both, see the hustle, the con, the hype, the game, the lies, deceptions, delusions as normal.

In my humble opinion, the ten commandment and countless versions of the bible were an attempt to establish a positive based, "normal" pattern of human behavior among the people who moved in those particular religious circles. For some it is normal to beleieve in God. For others, it is normal to believe in a different God. or many Gods. Or no God. Or Mother Earth.

Religious zealots called Native Americans "savages" or "heathens" because they weren't "normal" according to their zealot standards. The Natives Americans called their bluff and lost their ground. But not their faith.

Take all the religious people in the world... the Christians, Catholics, Episcopalians, Jesuits, Jehovah's, Jews, Palestinians, Zen, Amish, Druids, Native Americans, Mormons, etc etc etc... We are all molded by whoever raised us and whatever genes and DNA run our through our individual internal operating systems.

Some people clearly aren't normal. The ones who are easiest to deal with are the ones you see coming. They do not act, appear, or behave by any standards anyone of us would conclude is normal.

Other people appear normal, almost too normal, while underneath, they are ticking time bombs of destruction and death. These are the people who've been taught or self-taught how to act normal even though there's a monster under skin.

Sometimes, the flukes of human nature are created by nature itself. Sometimes, its solely nurture, how we are raised from day one. Sometimes, it's a combination of both.

Othertimes... or at the same time... something's wrong with the wiring in the brain, the circuits, the way thoughts flow through space and time within the brain's confines.

I see the brain as a machine of human origins and components -- a living engine of flesh, neurons, energy, links, processes, all flowing together. This incredibly sophisticated and complex engine has an ability to transport us back through time.... or project us into a future we conceive of living.

Some brains simply need tune-ups to maintain a degree or illusion of normal.
Others need meds.
Some brains are damaged and heal physically over time.
Some brains are irreperably danaged and a persons behavior is affected permanently.

Given a healthy brain to begin with with, we need a balance of additives -- nurture... nurturing... loving to be as close to whatever normal we are trying to achieve. At the very least we need food, shelter, clothing. Educations ups the ante.

To find normal, we need a healthy balance of positive with the negative. An excess of either can be self-destructive.

Too much of the postive can lead a sense of entitlement, narcissim, a self love that excludes all others.
Too much of the negative can lead to a sense of depression, hopelessness, helplessness, self-loathing.

I have always been intrigued by people who teeter totter on the edge of either extreme. But I am even more fascinated by those who have gone over the edge of normal and lived to tell about it.

My mother used to point out the homeless and hapless to me as she raised me. She was a brimming bottle of love overflowing with guidance, love and clever sayings, I call "momisms" that I carry with me... one right here, to this very day.

I remember Mom pointing out one man in particular, he had no legs and his bottom sat on a platform of wood and rollers. He propelled himself down the sidewalk with the palms of his hands.
My mother touched my shoulder as she look to the man and said,
"There but for the grace of God, go I."

I think I was five when I first heard it. She has said it me infinite times since then. And it has taken me decades to figure it out.

"There but for the grace of God go I." If it were not for God... or luck, coincidence, Allah, Buddha, whoever, whatever... that person begging for help on the streets could be me.
You get old enough and wise enough you figure it out>
No matter how hard it gets, no matter how bad you have it, or think you have hit... someone out there has it a whole lot worse.

I have passed my mom's words onto my children. And I say them in my head every time I deal with an investigation where only one thing about the case is certain... it ain't gonna' be normal.

The next case I write about is going to be one of those cases that are many degrees of separation from normal.

If the fates are with me today, I'll post about it later this evening or tomorrow. Stayed tuned. And more important, stay safe out there. Remember... The ones who are often the most dangerous... are the ones who appear the most "normal."

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