Are you living an unnatural, normal life?

Being normal may be socially desirable but it isn't necessarily natural

A bird sitting on the top on log

Wow! This is such an amazing planet. It is so alive, so vibrant. So much happening every moment, all by itself. When I look through the window, everything is such a visual delight. The sun is shining, the wind is blowing, the clouds are gently floating in the sky, the fruits are ripening, the flowers are blooming… and the birds, they are flying merrily, without any issues of self-esteem, anger, guilt and so on.

Inside my living room, it’s a different story; everything is man-made—the sofa, the table, the TV set, the stereo system, the refrigerator and its contents… almost everything. It’s a shock to notice that I am living in such artificial conditions, all made up. The beasts, on the other hand, are living without any of the contraptions I have become so dependent on.

An uncomfortable realisation arises—my living spaces reflect the state of my mind. I have filled it up with so much “stuff”—all unnatural, all typical of human behaviour, all… normal.

Normal—a word I have grown up listening to. It’s a way of living that has been projected almost as a virtue. All my life I have been taught to strive to be as ‘normal’ as possible.

Normal, not natural

The problem is, being normal is often confused with being natural, even though they mean very different things. Normal only means that which has come to mean socially acceptable and is followed by everyone who wishes to be part of the “civilised” world. In other words, it is a set of moral, ethical, social and cultural values superimposed upon our natural being.

Natural, on the other hand, means the way nature intended us to be. It’s behaviour by default, not by design. It’s spontaneous and doesn’t involve the thinking mind. I suspect that when our natural instincts are suppressed, they look for other outlets for expression—the massive violence in our world, for instance, is the result of suppression of our intrinsic nature.

It seems to me that being unhappy and stressed is a price one must pay to be human

Wars are now accepted as normal, but are they natural? Greed too is normal, but is it natural? Competition is natural when resources are scarce, as observed in the animal kingdom. But the kind of competition we humans indulge in is entirely self-created… it’s the emotion of greed that drives us to compete. Winning at all costs, wanting more, accepting stress as a way of life, all in the name of chasing more money and more stuff—a source of incredible misery. There’s nothing natural about it.

So when I observe nature and its intrinsic harmony, I feel increasingly uneasy about this madness that I have bought into. It seems to me that being unhappy and stressed is a price one must pay to be human. No wonder we humans justify our insanity, our need to hoard, our greed for more and even our anxieties under the cover of being normal—after all, everyone is doing it [As if that makes it OK!].

It’s time we reconnected

We seem to be so lost in the artificial, normal world we have created for ourselves, that we have become largely disconnected from nature and from ourselves, our being. We try to tame nature forgetting that we too are an inextricable part of it.

But all is not lost. There are a few among us who have recognised our monstrous folly and have begun to take some steps back to reconnect with nature. They are discarding normal and embracing natural. They are flowing with nature instead of trying to control it. They are the ones who practise and actively propagate ideas such as zero-waste living, minimalism, organic farming, recycling & reusing, eco-friendly homes and offices and many other ideas that reconnect us with Mother Nature and our own intrinsic being. Such individuals, though as of now only an infinitesimal proportion of the human population, are growing in number. I love them because they are leading me back to myself—and I am happily and readily following them. Being totally natural might seem like a far-fetched dream right now. But we are getting there, slowly and surely. Someday, when humanity will awaken from the nightmare of its own creation, normal and natural will become synonymous. Until then, I choose abnormality over unnaturalness. What about you?

A version of this column first appeared in the July 2015 issue of Complete Wellbeing.

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Manoj Khatri
Manoj Khatri has spent the last two decades learning, teaching and writing about wellbeing and mindful living. He has contributed over 1500 articles for several newspapers and magazines including The Times of India, The Economic Times, The Statesman, Mid-Day, Bombay Times, Femina, and more. He is a counseling therapist and the author of What a thought!, a critically acclaimed best-selling book on self-transformation. An award-winning editor, Manoj runs Complete Wellbeing and believes that "peace begins with me".



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