Ramblings: The irrational concept of "normal"

I started writing this in a moment of anger after reading different news stories a few weeks ago, and after some random conversations with different people decided to try to finish it today. It remains unfinished, as do most of my ramblings, but I think that is the nature of the subject. There is no real answer.

Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to be a normal person, surrounded by normal people, living in a normal world. And then I realize that there is nothing normal about anything in this world. What on earth is normal about living in a country where religion dictates who you are or are not allowed to marry? What is normal about living in a world where a government decides to bomb part of its population into submission? What is normal about some people being able to eat copious amounts of an endangered species in one country while another country is literally starving to death? What is normal about someone deciding to walk into a school full of children and murdering them in cold blood for no real reason? What is normal about two people making fun of another person’s hair or clothes or weight or life just because they don’t consider him or her “normal”? None of this is normal, is it? There is no real “normal”, it’s all just a concept of what we perceive to be a way of living that doesn’t shock, hurt or scare us. In this case “abnormal” is everything outside of those boundaries that we have set.

This Merriam-Webster definition pretty much says it all:
a : according with, constituting, or not deviating from a norm, rule, or principle
b : conforming to a type, standard, or regular pattern 

How boring is that? So basically in order to be “normal” you have to conform to something that you had no part in developing or setting up or deciding upon. As a conclusion, being normal is therefore just following the crowd; being just another white sheep in the herd. What happens if you weren’t born to follow though? What if you really were born as the odd one out, the black sheep that sticks out amidst the others. Are you doomed to spend the rest of your life trying to conform, even if you know that’s not right for you; or running away from the pack and having to live with your “differences”?

You know, this just gets more and more complicated as you delve into it. Because what is “being different to the norm”? That could literally mean someone who has different world views than most people surrounding him or her. Or it could be someone who thinks that murdering other people for fun is how life should be lived. Or it could be someone who thinks that having multiple husbands or wives is what marriage is all about. It could also be someone who believes that Satan exists and prefers to worship what is considered evil, rather than “God” who is supposed to be good. Or, quite simply, it could be just someone who wants to live their life happily without feeling that they should have to conform to something that they don’t believe in, and don’t want to be vilified for being “different”.

Back in my high school days I had an amazing English teacher whose words continue to inspire me today. He told me during a creative writing class that one should avoid using the words “nice” and “kind” as much as possible, because the English language is so abundant with words that describe something better than those two words that have practically become meaningless with overuse. I feel that the word “normal” has joined “nice” and “kind” in the category of words that don’t describe anything anymore. If I said that “the stars looked nice in the sky tonight” and “that person is kind”, would you feel any kind of interest in what I was trying to explain? However, if I said “the stars glistened in the blue-black sky more than usual last night” and “that person went over and beyond expectations to make me feel comfortable and at home”, you would probably be more interested in hearing more about both experiences. The same goes for “normal”. Technically, if I am explaining myself correctly here, “normal” doesn’t really exist, except maybe in our own minds.

On that note, I am going to continue to live my life in my usual way, however unconventional it may seem to others.

Ramblings: The question of a man, a dog and a choice

The question of a man, a dog and a cliff

“You are sitting on top of a cliff between a human being and a dog. You can only save one – do you choose the human being or the dog?”

I can’t answer that question without thinking about it. As much as I would like to live my life through reason and pure rational thinking, I never can. I live my life as an emotional being, meaning that everything I do, think and wish for is tainted by my emotions. This leads to many a contradiction and many a paradoxical way of thinking that sometimes surprises even myself, but I have come to terms with the fact that I may not always make sense to others. As long as I live my life the way I think is beneficial to myself and others, meaning that I will not do anything that will harm others, and will always treat others as I would expect to be treated myself, then I am OK with the fact that I may contradict myself. 

For this reason, if someone asks me the question at the top of this page, then my answer will be another question: “who is the human being and who is the dog?”. If both were random beings, unknown to me, I would probably choose the human, even if it would break my heart to technically let the dog die. If it were a random human being, but my own dog I would most probably choose the dog. If it were a random dog and someone close to me I would definitely choose the human. If it were George Bush and a random dog I would most definitely choose the dog. And so on. My brother is not as wishy washy as me in his response: for him, his choice would be the human every time, as they are capable of reason, and therefore necessary to keep the planet moving (he will probably explain his thoughts on this better than I can, actually I prefer that he does, because even if they differ from mine they are very interesting). I would rather spend the rest of my life feeding and taking care of the dog than having to justify to myself that I was the person who saved George Bush over a dog. I mean if the choice were between Ted Bundy and the dog no one would bat an eyelid if I chose the dog would they? It wouldn’t even be for a “I prefer dogs to humans” perspective – for my own personal survival Ted Bundy would need to die. Because if him and I were the only two people left on this planet who else is he going to murder once his killing impulse sets in?

Thankfully I doubt that I will ever have to make the choice between Ted Bundy and a dog. Or George Bush and a dog for that matter. Or my sister and a dog. Or even an unknown human and a dog. Because, in the end, I would probably end up jumping over the cliff and saving myself having to make the choice. Does that sound stupid? Probably. But some choices are just too hard to make. But wait… I need to think back on that statement now… I live in a constant survival mode, where I prepare for the worst and hope for the best, so if I really were in a situation where I had to choose between a man and a dog, would I really prefer to die myself instead of making a choice I would have to live with for the rest of my life? Now I am questioning myself again. I would probably search for a way for us all to survive first, and then decide if my life was more important than the other beings lives. If the choice were between my sister and my brother I would prefer them to live rather than me. If it were between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, I may just go into survival mode and kick Romney off the cliff. I don’t know, I make choices through emotion not reason, so who knows what way the wind would blow if I were actually in the situation.

But what if I just walked away and let the man and the dog fight it out for themselves? Is that an option? That’s the way my mind has always worked – there is never a simple solution to a question. Logically I should be making a choice based on a reason of importance, right? But what is important to me may not be important to others. And I have just been sitting here for an hour wondering about a hundred different types of situations and determining whether or not I would let an animal or a human die, or let myself die to save others. There is no one situation where I could automatically say “him” or “her” without having to think about it properly. I can’t take a blank statement and attach it to a situation and always follow it through without letting my own personal thoughts and emotions take hold of me. And, to be honest, I don’t think I actually ever want to. In the end, I am me, and I accept that nowadays. Contradiction or not, that’s the way I am.

I just hope I never have to choose between a man and a dog.

Those deaths we celebrate – food for thought

While reading the below remember that I am not pretending to have the answers to any questions. All I want is for people to start questioning things more than blindly accepting them.

So, when are we allowed to celebrate a death? When are we allowed to be happy about the death of someone we actually have never met? What allows us to rejoice, watch gruesome videos online, when normally we would weep, or, most often, not care. Why does the death of certain people touch the world, when ongoing death and starvation in third world countries takes a back seat.

In the beginning of May this year, US Special Ops stormed into a house in Pakistan and shot Osama Bin Laden dead, and many of us around the world rejoiced. There was no doubt that this person was one of the main masterminds of the World Trade Center attacks in 2001, and the head of one of the biggest terrorist organizations in the world. The world is now a better place, no? Would it have been possible to have caught him alive, and tried him in front of a judge and jury? There was no doubt he was guilty. He was Number 1 on the “Most Wanted” list. Dead or alive… He probably would not have even wanted to be taken alive. I’m not even going to try to go into his mind, or that of the guys who went in there and killed him. He was taken out, pure and simple. A small act of violence to venge the death of thousands. A celebration around the world that the head of a despicable organization was chopped off, but as we all know, if you remove one, there are many more ready to pop up and do the dirty. We just got rid of the face of 9/11. Some may say that it took long enough, but “we” finally did it. I do think the whole death at sea part was a little strange, but who am I to question this? Then again, for all we know, the guy could have been captured alive, stuck in some bunker in some far off country, while people try to make him talk by any means possible (which I honestly doubt he will do, he probably has the willpower that Jean Moulin did when he faced Klaus Barbie). Or his body could really be at the bottom of the ocean, bones picked dry by fish and other hungry sea predators. Not that we will ever know, right?

This week Muammar Gaddafi was killed. We all knew this was going to happen at some point, he said he was going to fight until the bitter end, and again, I don’t think he really would have wanted to be taken alive either. First of all I doubt the “rebels” were going to treat him with kid gloves, and second of all, I doubt any of his former allies (hello US, Italy…) would really have wanted him alive. It could have been a little embarrassing, you know, going through some of the secret actions that had been kept secret for so long. Every country has its secrets, some just remain buried forever.

I’m happy for the Libyan people. They were ruled for 42 years by a cruel dictatorship and are now going to have to learn how to live as a free country. I’m happy that they are now going to have the chance to actually choose their own government. I don’t envy them however, because they are now going to have to fight off plies from their “allies” who all want a piece of the Libyan oil pie. In any case, we know Gaddafi was captured. We’ve all seen the videos, and he had such a memorable face that it would have been difficult to mistake him for someone else. The autopsy revealed today that he died of a bullet to the head. Where that bullet came from, no one will ever know, all we know is that he is dead and gone. So we celebrate his death all over the world, and hope for a better future, for the Libyans at least.

So, back to my original question: when can we celebrate a death? What makes it allright to rejoice over the death of someone we never even knew, instead of crying about it? Yes, the fundamental bases are there: we rejoice over the death of someone who caused harm, death, pain and grief. I myself am happy that Bin Laden and Gaddafi are dead (at least I hope they are), but I just wish people would question themselves about everything before blindly believing everything they are told. Instead of just rejoicing over the death of a dictator by posting about it in your Facebook status, why don’t you read about what kind of atrocities he committed to merit such a death? Why not take a few minutes to go back 42 years and read about how he came into power, about how certain countries courted him and then turned their backs on him, the love/hate relationship he had with certain secret services, how his name was attached to the Lockerbie bombing, and how he treated his people during his time in power. Yes, it’s totally OK to rejoice in the deaths of despicable human beings (as long as we know they are really guilty), but at least know why you are rejoicing before you do.

If you don’t bother to question anything you are just accepting the world we live in. And I can’t rejoice in that.

(On a lighter note, I think someone should count how many different spellings of Gaddafi there are and decide which one is the correct one).

Who reads this?

I would love to know who actually reads this blog on a regular basis... i see a bunch of visitors come in from the same places on a regular basis, and would love to know what you like and don't like, what you would like to read more about, and what you get bored with...
I see someone from Grenoble in France, where I grew up, who reads me regularly, but I don't know if it is someone who knows me or not... Mysterious... ;-)

I started this blog in 2007, when I wrote on a semi-regular basis (mainly after a long stint of drunken nights out), and I feel that it has grown with me over the years. The whole point of this blog was to force myself to write a little each day, as writing is still my favourite pastime, and I always felt I wasn't giving myself the time to do so.

Now that I left my job, I will be writing a lot more, and would love to have some feedback, or know who actually takes the time to read the tings I post. In the end it's all about what I am thinking, what I love, what I hate and what I want others to know, peppered with a sarcastic story here and there.

We all know that other humans actions and thoughts sometimes make for the best stories...


I Love You.

I spend a lot of time talking to people about their relationships, listening to them, trying to give out advice that will help them. I also spend a lot of time wondering why it always has to be so hard. Why does every relationship that my friends embark on have to always be full of pitfalls and questions? I don't even want to refer to myself in this post, just because I never listen to my own advice and to be brutally honest, I feel like I am a lost cause. I'd rather focus on making sure my friends and family are happy and in love and smiling... It's easier that way.

Back to the main point of these thoughts that constantly flow through my mind: if you love someone, and someone loves you back, why does it need to be so hard? Is it fear? Are we so worried that we will get hurt that we push the other away? Is it because we are too scared to commit to one person, to be part of a couple? Is it because we feel that if we open up completely to another we will lose part of what we hold secret inside? Do we think that it's just not worth it? Are we not willing to fight for something that could ultimately end up being the best thing we would ever accomplish in our lives?

I don't have the answers, and every question I ask opens up another question, and another, and another. Why does something so simple have to be so hard? How many times are we all going to regret holding back from saying I love you just because we were scared of the consequences?

One day I would like to be able to look back at these days with all my friends and say "I am so glad that we said those words when we did" and "I am so glad we fought to stay together" and "I am so glad we got through that rough patch together". I don't want to hear any phrases beginning with the following: "I regret..." or "I wish things had been different..." or "I guess the timing wasn't right..." or "I wish I had said that..."

Wishful thinking?

Just say it. Can't be THAT hard can it?