Are You Normal?

“Everybody wants to be normal, but no one wants to be average.”

But isn’t normal synonymous with average? Don’t both words mean basically the same thing?

I recently wrote to you that misunderstandings often arise from a lack of definition of terms. Likewise, the answer to today’s normal/average paradox is hidden within the subtleties of each word’s definition. Or, more accurately, within the inverse associations or “unspoken opposites” that each word carries with it: We want to be normal because to be otherwise would be “abnormal.” But the words most often contrasted with average are “above average” and “exceptional.” These, we don’t mind being.

The meaning of a word is much bigger than its definition. And much of this meaning is drawn from an unconscious ocean of mute metaphors, symbols and impressions. Neurologist Richard Cytowic says it plainly; “Not everything we are capable of knowing and doing is accessible to, or expressible in, language. This means that some of our personal knowledge is off limits even to our own inner thoughts! Perhaps this is why humans are so often at odds with themselves, because there is more going on in our minds than we can ever consciously know.”

Indeed, the unconscious mind is a surging ocean, and there are things swimming in it that no fisherman can hope to catch. Our conscious awareness is merely a raft that floats on the surface of this unfathomable sea. We see the blue sky, the clouds, the birds, the waves, but we cannot look into the deep. Yet the deep, the unconscious, is always there. And much more is hidden beneath its waves than is hidden in the sky above.

One of the sons of Korah felt the weight of this unspeakable ocean within him; speaking to God in Psalm 42, he said, “Deep calleth unto deep at the noise of thy waterspouts: all thy waves and thy billows are gone over me.”

Have you felt what this man felt? Were you able to put it into words?

Their ability to communicate profound depths of feeling has placed the Psalms among the most beloved books in the history of man. In them, David, Asaph, Moses, Heman, Ethan and Solomon speak in the language of symbolic thought, conjuring powerful mental images that envelop an intellectual and emotional complex in a single moment of time. Perhaps Tristan Tzara said it best when he said, “Words are only postage stamps delivering the object for you to unwrap.”

Do you have sufficient vocabularic postage to deliver your message to a waiting world? Are your words strong enough to carry its weight? In every session of Wizard Academy, my admonition to students is, “As you read, so will you write.” Do you want to speak and write “above average?” If so, you must strengthen your ability to speak to the heart.

And reading the Psalms is a great place to start.

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One Response to “Are You Normal?”

  1. Lee W Reed May 17, 2011 at 12:51 pm #

    Wow, great posting. This reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from Ansel Adams:

    When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence. 

    I have always considered myself a pretty good word smith, but, like Adams, I have also found the profound limitations language imposes.

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