“I have often found myself in conflict with the status quo as well as with the private opinions of others. I often went against the grain, swam against the current, and resisted the tide of prevailing public opinion to not only survive but to actually thrive.” page. x. Preface “Seven Decades: A Learning Memoir” (River House Press, 2013)
I have been blessedly estranged from normal for most of my life. I have preferred an aberrant life as a more interesting way to live. It has not always been easy or comfortable and I know I have upset others along the way by doing what is unexpected rather than what they might have expected. I do not believe I reached a point where I was seen as crazy or dangerous although I am sure there were some who found me, at times, difficult and challenging. My parents and grandparents admitted as much to me personally more than once although they did it with great love and understanding. My first wife and our three children can provide further testimony that may indicate some behavior that was confounding. Second wife concurs.
What happened in the ensuing years? I learned how to engage people in the process of change and steering from the norm by finding a more creative and dynamic response. If you look at the bell curve of normal distribution, I found more exciting and engaging opportunities near two standard deviations beyond the norm. Sometimes it was experimental and didn’t work but we still learned something of value even when we had to go back to the drawing board and design anew.
Recent conversations and observations that focus on losing what was normal miss the mark. What was normal? Really, what was normal and where did you find it? Was it in your work? In your relationships? In your health and well-being? Was that normal satisfying? What, do you think, made it normal? Was it the majority? The average or statistical mean, medium or mode? Were you happy with normal?
If by normal you mean calm, peaceful, beautiful and healthy of body, mind and spirit, I can get behind those and even promote them. However, for many people in the world who lack sufficient resources, their normal is far from our normal. Consider that there are approximately 71 million refugees in the world, the global homeless. And, there are 553,000 homeless people in the United States. There are 30 million children in the U.S. on free and reduced lunch program without which they would be hungry and malnourished. Are we to accept this as normal, even for them?
- Now this which the COVID 19 crisis has caused me to think about. Three million registered deaths in the S. in 2018 were due to the top ten diseases and if this is normal then why do we invest so many people, so much time and millions of dollars in trying to find cures and change that norm? Here are the top ten, FYI with info about each:
- Heart disease
- Unintentional injuries
- Chronic lower respiratory disease
- Stroke and cerebrovascular diseases
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Influenza and pneumonia
- Kidney disease
There is no comparison between the COVID 19 virus death rate with any of the above diseases if you look at the weekly numbers, The virus far exceeds any one of those ten diseases. Nor is it about yearly numbers of deaths as in the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918. The point is that we generally regard disease as abnormal and we respond with testing and diagnosis, research into cures, treatments and a variety therapeutics. We have made progress and had success with many although there is still much work to be done on all fronts.
- We developed vaccines for small pox, measles, polio and the Tdap booster that prevents diphtheria, typhoid fever and whooping cough. And we’re now working feverishly to develop one for the COVID 19 virus. Maybe this is what normal looks like in the laboratories but on the street, not so much.
We need more people who do not accept all of this as normal but rather see it as the abnormal that it is. What is not acceptable can be changed if we have the collective will and conscience to make it happen. Conscience as opposed to behavior that we see often that is unconscionable. Collective consciousness is good for change too. Thank you.