Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Abstract Distractions: Aggressive Normalcy

Last night I was watching my favorite sort of programming.... commercials, and I saw a commercial for one of those antidepressants. At the end of the 30 second sell came the flow of warnings and restrictions that follow all of these types of pharmaceutical sales pitches, and this one was one of those really amusing ones that even allowed for the possible side effect of death. Those kill me. There was another side effect that was noted, however, and this one was not so funny. "....call your doctor if you experience....feelings of aggressive normalcy." What? What the hell is that? And it was put right up there with the side effect of death. The pursuit of normalcy is now as problematic as a death sentence? Wow.

It got me thinking. What is that? The aggressive pursuit of normalcy? And why is it considered dangerous? I would think that if someone was taking an antidepressant, normalcy is what they are shooting for? Right? Or are they talking about a manic sort of scurry towards the normal. And what is normal anyway? In the study of sociology everything is normal. We are what we eat, so to speak. Everything is relative. If you are born in a crack house and drugs are all around you and you eat coco crispies for dinner, that is your own personal normal.

Is normal, for Americans, that faint idea of the marriage and the home for the 2.5 kids and the dog and the white picket fence and the corporate job? Is it a six million dollar home on the upper east side of Manhattan? Is it a tire swing? Is it living with your grandma? What is it? How can we aggressively pursue something we can not define?

The term normal is an abstract concept. The only way to define it at all is to go to the opposite of what it is. We can define abnormal pretty easily. We, all of us humans, seem to be able to sniff out the not normal among us, but it is more instinct than circumstance. Sometimes a person or a situation that seems on its face to be perfectly normal is simply not. And we can smell it. Or at least we should be able to smell it. Sometimes I think that instinct is beaten out of us. I have my dials for it set on high, because studying human behaviour is my livelihood. It is normal for me to look at people and places and figure out right away if there is something "off."

I am even able to judge when I am acting abnormal, but I can only judge that because I have a pretty clear idea of what my normalcy vital signs are. And another thing to note is the excitement that comes along with going outside of the boundaries of normalcy, of tasting the strange delight of chaos. A storm coming, a dangerous adventure, an interesting mold in the backyard. All of this adds to the experience of life. We need a bit of crazy.

So I began to understand what they might have meant by the aggressive pursuit of normalcy. Perhaps they were speaking of a person losing themselves inside the medication. Losing themselves as well as the necessary ups and downs we need in order to fully participate in the human experience. I thought of the low hummmmmmm of life and what it would be like if that normal pulse of mine never went fast or slow, but always stayed the same. How could that be a good thing? It couldn't. Quietly blip, blip, blipping your way through this mad cap adventure we call life could only be described as a fate worse than... death.

*This entry has not been approved by the FDA, it by no means is meant to change your social, political, or religious views or any view you may have even from your window. Please contact your doctor immediately if after reading this entry you feel sullen, depressed, active, sad, overwhelmed, underwhelmed, or excited. All of these side effects could be serious and may lead you to want to read other, less important blogs.*


  1. Thanks for this post, Professor Palmieri!

  2. LP, thanks for being a great student!

  3. Great post. Thanks for the smile on an otherwise boring Wednesday morning.

  4. You are welcome! Happy you found me, and now I found you. Great blog as well!

  5. I agree! This should be a fun class!! I'm looking forward to getting to know you!