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Make of it (anything) what you will

Last week I found myself in conversation with my father’s current carer, who formerly held a senior position in a church school in his native South Africa. Somehow our discussion moved onto the subject of the wide variety of different ways in which elderly people cope with the vicissitudes of passing time as the modern world leaves them behind and recedes into the distance.

My companion mentioned that at one stage in his teaching career he had a meeting with a professional educational psychologist whose expertise – in one form or another and at the time the meeting concerned took place it wasn’t entirely clear to me which it was – ranged from working and dealing with school pupils with special needs and/or behavioural problems to issues affecting teachers and others including administrative staff working in the educational system.

At one point he had asked the psychologist the general question – one might suggest the most fundamental of all of them – “What is normal?”

The essential response came back that there was no absolute answer to the question.

Normal was whatever any individual thought it was.

If you like, springing from the notion that “One man’s meat is another’s poison”, the theme was that whatever an individual was interested in, or felt like doing – whether boring, odd, weird, or indeed repellent or attractive to others – was normal.

Maybe with the added conditions that ‘so long as it wasn’t illegal or harmed the rights, interests or indeed person safety of others’.

I don’t know why, but whenever a discussion veers towards this sort of subject, my mind immediately flits on towards sex and sexuality.

I thought could see where psychologist was coming from.

Some people, through religious conviction or careful thought, by choice only engage in sexual relations for the purpose of procreation – and therefore regard all sex engaged in for the sheer hell or pleasure of it as being somehow ‘not good’, inferior and/or simply unworthy of rational human beings and therefore tantamount to a sin.

Others regard recreational sex as not only a right but a ‘good to have’ thing to the point of entitlement in itself – e.g. because it promotes feelings of well-being, contentment, happiness and self-esteem.

By the same token, those who by nature are gay, bisexual, transgender, whatever-else-have you –  including those interested in ‘dressing up’ exhibitionism, bondage, domination (whether the doing of, or the ‘being done to’ of) or any variation of sexual interest or obsession – would presumably like to (or do) regard their interest – and the extent to which they pursue it – as perfectly normal.

And the gent or lady next to them, who has naturally or gradually taken that same interest one or  more stages further than the person we were first considering, would perhaps be regarded a ‘not normal’ on the similar basis as mentioned before, viz. that however far you personally want to go is ‘normal’ and anyone going further than that is ‘abnormal’.

By your standards at least.

But not perhaps theirs.

After all, if you have one metal stud pierced into your eyebrow, that may be enough for you.

But the person who has two studs put in his or her eyebrow would regard two studs as ‘normal’ and three perhaps as over the top.

But then the person with three studs might be happy with three, and maybe consider four as ‘weird’.

And so on.

And then there are other imponderables. If I’m a sadist and you’re a masochist – would getting together work for both or us, or possibly for neither of us?

I mean, in the sense the theoretical sense that – since I can genuinely hold my hand up and admit that I tend towards in the Meatloaf school of sexuality, as per his ditty I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That) – that if I’m a sadist, presumably, half the ‘fun’ would be the fact that the person or people you are being sadistic towards aren’t enjoying the experience.

And that therefore, logically, being sadistic towards a masochist wouldn’t float a sadist’s boat.

Am I right?

Or am I wrong?

Let’s look at another scenario: say a sadist or ‘dominant’ person gains his/her pleasure/enjoyment from the domination of someone – i.e. having power over them.

So maybe someone who craves being in or under the control of someone else (a masochist and/or submissive?) may actually be a very good potential partner indeed for someone who is keen on being dominant over someone else?

But let us get off the sexual merry-go-round and broaden the debate.

Does it matter if say a 500-plus group of sea cruise tourists sets off on a liner designed for the purpose on a three-week holiday excursion around the Med tailored exclusively towards those who belong to the Flat Earth Society?

What should it matter to me, who believes the Earth is a sphere (or whatever a scientist would describe it as) that exists in a perpetual orbit around the Sun, if 500 Flat-Earthers go on holiday together? Why should I find that offensive?

But presumably some do …

Some other people live and breathe their hobby of collecting, restoring – and going to festival gatherings celebrating – their 1960s and 1970s Morris Minors.

Does that harm anyone?

Last week, when I was having the conversation I mentioned above, I was quite struck by the suggestion that “normal” is whatever anyone thinks it is.

Which means that (at any time) there are as many versions of what is “normal” as there are human beings upon the Earth.

I just thought I’d mention it.

About Arthur Nelson

Looking forward to his retirement in 2015, Arthur has written poetry since childhood and regularly takes part in poetry workshops and ‘open mike’ evenings. More Posts