Having spent the last two days at a NAPEG (http://www.napeg.nt.ca/) conference, I’ve heard some fairly inspiring, informative and motivating speeches and presentations. However, one particular sentence spoken by one presenter really got me thinking. Oddly, it had nothing to do with her presentation, and in fact was, in context, a largely meaningless phrase - “Otherwise it’ll just be normal, and normal is depressing.” Yes, this is one of those weird things that gets me thinking. In order to do a traditional thought analysis at this point, it would probably be advisable to get out a dictionary and define “normal”, as well as explore what depression is. However, I’m not a linguist, nor am I a doctor, so going into such activites would be largely pointless, since I aim to thoroughly ignore both definitions and research. (Facts? Pfft, you can use facts to prove anything!)
In a move thought of as nearly blasphemous to anyone with a dictionary, I’m going to define normal by saying: normal is what is normal. Like the concept of quality, it is inherently difficult to define, but is nonetheless a very simple and well-understood concept.
What struck me as initially odd about this sentence was how simply she said it. Since she was an experienced public speaker who had undoubtedly said it before, this makes sense. But to me, the novice and untrained ear, it did not land as simply as it was delivered. This concept struck me as strange initally, then flat out impossible, but I then began to realize what exactly it was she meant.
The strangeness of the sentence came to me since it was not something I had ever considered before - if we assume that the reason for a depression brought on by normalcy would be that “normal” is usually characterised as “boring” (another word I can’t be bothered to define), then what right and reason do we have to be depressed by it? If a meeting is boring, we sit through it. If a film is boring, we stop watching it. If a conversation is boring, we change it. Why can’t we simply sit through, or exit, or change the boring part of normal? I realize the obtuseness of this question in common life - a job, a house, a family, are all things that could prevent us from exiting or changing our lives, and sitting through it (since life is, from the perspective of life, infinite) would mean we may not have a chance to escape the normal. But are these any better a reason to keep living as we do, in a normal and depressed state, than the reason we have to escape this state? In my thinking, no, but I am by no means qualified nor educated enough to make such calls for other people.
Once this initial thought had passed, I briefly considered the impossibility of this statement (although I quickly reconsidered). Isn’t depression usually brought on by a change of state? Most common occurrences of depression occur after the death of a friend or family member, a change in job or social status, or a stock market crash. Perhaps the last example is a bit esoteric, but there is a common theme of change among all examples (trivia: the theme of the aforementioned NAPEG conference was in fact change, specifically “Professional Practice in Changing Environment”). In fact, the only counter example for which I could find depression related to lack of change was the specific case of lack of change. I realize it may sound repetitive, but what I am saying is that the only case for depression when it isn’t related to change is when the depression is brought on by lack of change - or “normalcy”. However, in being unable to really flesh out this idea beyond this inital observation, I realized that pursuing it further would therefore be pointless.
The realization of the true meaning of what she said didn’t come until much later in day, in fact several hours after the presentation. It wasn’t an obtuse statement, nor was an impossible statement. In fact, it was an accidental statement. Sure, it seems like a copout after having thought about it for several hours, but I genuinely believe it was an accident. Not to discredit the speaker - she was both informative and engaging, a welcome break from speakers who drone worse than an MQ-9 (look it up), and those who seem to think jumping around like children is somehow productive. However, with such a well-thought and clearly conveyed oration, it seems thoroughly unlikely that she would deliver such a heavy sentence in the midst of an otherwise unrelated and light-hearted subject.
Oh, and by the way she corrected herself afterward. I suppose that should have been a pretty good indication that it’s not what she meant to say, yeah.