Tuesday, January 02, 2007

What's Normal?

As I put butter on my pancakes, my daughter said eeeewww!!.


"You put butter on pancakes?"

"Um, yeah..."

Then I poured maple syrup on them

"Eeeewww, nobody puts syrup on pancakes, gross!"

I sigh, and say "honey, most people in this world eat their pancakes with butter and syrup. And most people eat them in the morning, not at night like this family does. And most people don't eat them with chocolate chips and color them green."

"Well," Ariel says triumphantly, "we do."

I blame my wife for training Ariel in such an obscure tradition as green chocolate chip pancakes at night. Linda eats them with whipped cream and peaches, which is a little more normal. But suggest that we have them with butter and syrup in the morning, and I just get these weird looks like I'm crazy.

It made me wonder at the human nature to decide something is normal and then feel compelled to try and pressure others to conform.

As another example, my father can't understand that I don't eat meat or drink alcohol, and whenever he visits he brings a bottle of wine. For a long time he used to "gently" suggest it wasn't healthy for me to skip meat.

At a Christmas party, my brother's girlfriend, who is also vegetarian, was telling me how my brother is the same way, always trying to "encourage" her to eat meat. Five minutes later my brother unwittingly demonstrated this for us when he asked her what kind of posole she wanted. She asked what was available, and he said, "well, there's the one with pork, which is really good, or the vegetarian..." She looked at me and said "see?"

I recently heard about an experiment where a subject and five "plants" were asked which line on the chalkboard was longest. Each of the five plants picked the wrong one, and the subject, befuddled, chose the wrong one too. But when at least one of the plants picked the right one, the subject would get his or her confidence back and insist on the right one.

With all this peer pressure and desire to conform, it makes me wonder how much of what we see, hear, understand and believe with complete conviction is actually confused groupthink and completely delusional.

In the Indian scriptures, actually, they say exactly this:

This world is an illusion; Brahman alone is real - the Upanishads

na shivam vidyate kvacit - nothing exists that is not Shiva -
Svacchanda Tantra

Whatever form He may assume, whatever costume He may wear, whatever shape He may take, it is God who has pervaded these infinite forms and costumes -
Tukaram Maharaj

These are like the one person in the room saying - "Hey! Wake up! That is the longest line!"

But most of us, under the sway of eons of delusional groupthink, say - "What? No way! You're crazy! Eeewww!"

So it's green pancakes with chocolate chips for dinner again...

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