This text was originally posted in my Medium blog.
Recently I met one guy called Jan. Jan is an owner of a nice cute shop in the Neuköln area of Berlin. “I’m boring” — told me Jan. In his free time Jan does street art and designs special cards and stationary for his shop. And Jan is “boring” because he goes to the same bar with his friends all the time. Jan is open-minded, friendly and he is happy.
As you can guess there’s nothing boring about Jan. The only thing that is wrong about him is that he is not trying to be normal. And that’s why Jan is adorable.
Before you read further I must say that despite my tone being quite didactic, I’m addressing this text to myself more than to anyone else. And it took me 26 years to realise the things I’m saying below.
The concept of “normal” is one of the main products of the consumer mass society and it’s killing the spirit of uniqueness, it’s making us as Marcuse stated “one-dimensional”. It does the job with regulating people’s behaviour, but it’s not helping us to be happier. And the problem is that this train has no driver. Though I must admit it’s giving many people who aren’t aiming for more a sense of purpose. Here’s why.
Erich Fromm says we’re all scared of death and there’s not that many options to address this fear. And feeling ourselves a part of a social group and behaving in accordance with the norms of this group is one of the options, it makes people’s existence meaningful. And unhappy, because it washes away all the unique roughness we have inside.
Normality is just a constraint in our brain that doesn’t exist in reality, but it helps us to address the uncertainty. We’re limiting our potential because of the imaginary others, because we’re scared to be different and wrong. Just to be clear, I’m not talking about laws or norms of morale/ethics here, I’m talking about the “average man” and our constant comparison of ourselves to this goastly guy.
As soon as you let this constraint go, the true creativity awakens and you can generate new ideas and forms, you can do something beautiful that makes us truly human and alive. You can’t leave a footprint in history by making what people expect you to do.
There’s nothing more boring than being normal. You have two choices: enjoy the beauty of every moment and make it special for you and only you or settle down for normal to make it work for the average man.
As a first step (and I’ve actually tried this one) try to dance on the streets if you’re feeling good without being afraid people will think you’re insane, smile to people in public transport, say to people they are adorable on the streets (but only if they really are) and you will be surprised to see how beautiful is the world on the other bank of the lake of normality.
Why being normal if you can be yourself? But of course only if you have the courage to.