The Broad Way is Safer

By Opeyemi Ige. Opeyemi, 19, is a student at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria.

“Nobody realises that some people expend tremendous energy merely to be normal.” – Camus.

Nothing messes with the mind like filling some forms. You are having a swell time navigating from one column to the other, deftly putting your familiar details in the required areas until you reach the part marked ‘Religion’. There are options for Christian, Muslim, Traditional Religion, Atheist, or others. It so happens that you are in an environment where people are mostly either Christians or Muslims, and worshipping idols (traditional) and being an atheist are eyebrow-raisers.

So who are these ‘Others’? What do you mean? Do you mean a free-thinker? Hey, no one is a free-thinker here. It is not normal.

We are usually emotional when it comes to things like this. While some will be angrily surprised that someone had the guts to go against the grain and say that she or he is a free-thinker, others will want people to stop deciding what is normal. While no one can successfully tell who is right between the former and the later groups of critics, nobody realizes that some people expend tremendous energy merely to be normal when they do not have to. There is no need for that at all.

What is normal is what is normal. The things that are done comfortably by the majority are what we consider ‘normal. In other words, things that do not put the members of the larger society through cognitive dissonance or any need to rationalize, make a case, or be stuck between tough options and conclusions. Normal is the broad way, spacious in the freedom it brings, and full of friends because you do not become lonely from travelling on it, a fate that you would meet if you take the road less travelled by, the path that is not normal. Really, normal is safer.

It is easier to be normal than to be otherwise. Why should anyone begin to waste time pondering on the energy that it will require to remain in a safer zone, to be where things are easier for you? Are you an African man? Have you decided to do something as harmless as piercing your nose, eyebrows, ears, even lips and tongues? Are you not supposed to be ready to accept the amused or angry stares and remarks of people in your street or village? Are you not supposed to know that there will be an abundance of such reactions to your actions which are not normal to your environment? Do you need to be told that civilization has not been successful enough in changing people and their age-long perceptions? You see, no one cares or wants to realize how tough it is for abnormal people to strive to be normal because no one has actually found it hard to be normal. Is it not easier to be an African man with very little or even no piercings than to choose to bring unnecessary attention to yourself? Now, that is even a simple illustration. You should begin to imagine the extent of disorientation that you will be in if your actions make you stand out in a way that is not normal.

Never expect people to know the internal turmoil that you have had to experience while trying to do what is normal. This is because, as the saying goes, “you cannot give what you do not have”. You cannot empathize with people that expend tremendous energy while trying to do or be normal if you cannot understand, explain, or feel being abnormal. And it would be unrealistic to expect anyone to truly understand what people go through while working hard to be normal because being selfish is the most evident basic human instinct. Selfishness is a major basis upon which most human behaviours, positions, and perceptions are formed and held. If Ben thinks that bathing twice a day is normal, his foremost consideration for self and what self stands for will allow him to see your desire not to bath at all as inexcusable or abnormal. So, in a situation where there are so many Ben’s, do you think that they can or should understand or make room in their hearts for your not being normal? Have you forgotten that they have defined normal – bathing twice a day- and expect their normal to remain normal just as you expect your normal – not bathing at all- to remain how it is? Can you see the staccato presentation of this argument? Would we be engaged in this palaver if you chose to be normal? Does it not tell you that being normal is easier? Now, do you still wonder why nobody realizes that some people expend tremendous energy merely to be normal?

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