A better “Normal”

At its worst, “Normal” can be a tyranny, as in the church of the evil pastor Sean Harris:

So your little son starts to act a little girlish when he is four years old and instead of squashing that like a cockroach and saying, “Man up, son, get that dress off you and get outside and dig a ditch, because that is what boys do,” you get out the camera and you start taking pictures of Johnny acting like a female and then you upload it to YouTube and everybody laughs about it and the next thing you know, this dude, this kid is acting out childhood fantasies that should have been squashed. Can I make it any clearer? Dads, the second you see your son dropping the limp wrist, you walk over there and crack that wrist. Man up. Give him a good punch.

I got that quote here, and a reference to Harris’s snivelling yet arrogant apology:

I did not say that children should be squashed.

Yes you did, Sean. It is frightening to see that in the US people are still expressing such views, when the UK has moved beyond them.

“Normal” need not be so poisonous. It can be reassuring, a way everyone behaves so that everyone can more or less know what to expect from others, a framework for society. It can be flexible enough to include others: Boris Johnson includes all, immigrants and provincials, as “Londoners”, and Justin Duckworth gets to be a bishop. Too wide a “Normal” can be frightening for some-

All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned.

I want to be free to be truly Myself, in my own creative and loving way. Knowledge of the Good may aid me in this, learning what others have found good and seeking in that what I find beautiful. The Archbishop of Canterbury summarises Robert and Edward Skidelsky in Prospect:

The good life is in some degree “contemplative”—that is, it requires the space in which I can scrutinise myself, learn something of self-criticism and thus, potentially, of irony. And for a habit of ironic self-awareness to be generated, we need some concept or image of what is normatively human that does not simply become an oppressive stereotype—a good myth, you might say; we need the saint or hero to illustrate what the well-lived life might look like. This in turn requires, as the authors indicate without too much elaborating the point, a doctrine of the cardinal virtues—another bit of revived Aristotelianism. What are the habits and practices that will educate our passions and allow us to shape a credible narrative of the self, understood against the backdrop of some idea of what the “excellence” of human nature might consist in?

How may I learn to be human, except from other humans? Then, how may I learn best how to be human?

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