So, here’s a thought that’s been on my mind lately. I know I’ll leave out some of the nuances and other angles from which this could be explored, but for now, this is just my take on an important matter: the matter of ‘normal’ versus the idea of being extraordinary.
We live in a country and a culture founded by people who were, in the nation they came from, extraordinary—even abnormal. They were dissenters; rabble-rousers. They were explorers—willing to take risks and shake up the status quo for the chance to make something new that would eclipse the grandeur of the old.
They were not by-the-numbers, by-the-book people. They didn’t stay in their houses and go along with things they didn’t like out of fear of what the neighbors would think. They didn’t stay where they were because a dream of going somewhere else was impractical.
They were not ‘normal.’ The word ‘normal’ derives from the mathematical ‘norm’, or statistically average or ordinary. The people we look to as the Founding Fathers (and, behind the scenes, Mothers) of our country—our way of life—were not normal. They were not average. They were extraordinary.
We live in a country and a culture founded on the idea of the extraordinary—and of the freedom to be extraordinary—or average, if that’s all we aspire to. But our country, our culture was established by people who wanted the freedom to stand out from the crowd without being beaten down for it.
We’re losing a lot of that, today.
We’re becoming a culture that privileges ignorance; that ridicules education. We’re becoming a nation where rumor too easily becomes fact, and where spiritual doctrines are confused with legal documents. We’re in danger of becoming a people who demonize difference out of fear.
I’m talking in general terms because I don’t want this to suddenly be about politics. I’d rather it be about ideas—even emotions. Politics differ from person to person, but everyone has dreams; everyone has goals—and everyone can relate to how it would be to live in a place where your dreams, your goals—even your own identity—were squelched and shut away because they were not normal, not average—in a word, because they were extraordinary.
Our nation, as a physical place, long ago ceased to have a frontier that was unexplored, in any real sense. Science fiction has imagined outer space, or even the depths beneath the sea, as a locale which could be thought of as the ‘final frontier.’ But I think the real ‘final frontier’ is elsewhere. I think it’s within all of us. The real final frontier is the limit of the human will; the limit of the imagination, and the drive and desire to achieve what we imagine—the drive and desire to be extraordinary.
Think about it.
If there were no people left who weren’t content to be ‘normal’, who didn’t dream of anything more than the ‘average’, we would have no new innovations; no new discoveries—no growth.
Every established idea we have was once an innovation. Every tradition was once a revelation.
The final frontier is freedom—the freedom to be different from the average; the freedom to be other than normal—the freedom to be extraordinary.
When we point at someone who stands out; when we ridicule someone whose ways are different from ours; when we laugh at someone who looks or sounds or thinks differently than we do, we begin to close a door on the very frontier that got us where we are in the first place.
I get it—the people who are different from us make us uncomfortable. They may even offend us. But if we had all always been the same, and stayed that way, the achievements of our history never would have happened.
The fact is, our culture needs both kinds of people—those who are the steady foundation, who keep traditions, preserve history, and provide the solid soil on which to build the future—as well as the people who climb above that ground, who build binoculars and telescopes to see the horizon, who invent airplanes and starships—and even books, music and films—to take them beyond those horizons.
The final frontier is a place where both kinds of people are free to be themselves, and where they cherish that freedom.
In your rush to hold on to the world as you know it, make sure you’re not helping to close the frontier of potential for another.
The world is preserved by the average and the normal. But it was built by the extraordinary.