This is a philosophical statement. It is intended to spark thinking and examining.
One of the novels we read in high school as Maria Chapdelaine.* My memory of the novel is pretty slim, but one chapter in particular stood out to me, a chapter that described an entire summer. Actually, truth be told, I don’t remember much about the chapter either, but the sentiment expressed within has stayed with me ever since. It all revolves around the family members saying to each other “I sure hope it’s going to be a usual summer!”
Except the question that arises as the summer proceeds is, what constitutes a “normal/usual/average” summer?
Maria, as the chapter progresses, muses at how the family takes whatever end up being the ‘best’ moments of a summer and turns that into what they expect summer should be. If one year, there is little rain and the crops do well, that’s “normal.” On another year, there are few mosquitoes, and that’s now “normal.” Still a third year produces no illness or injuries, just as it “should be”. A fourth finds new friends, and everyone “knows” you find new friends in summer. Remember that time a decade ago when we had those gorgeous clear nights full of stars? That’s what a “real summer” is. And so on, until this idealized perfect yet seemingly ordinary (because it’s what’s supposed to be average/normal) summer is what gets locked into the mind.
It’s funny, now, thinking back that of all the things that happened in the novel and all the things that the novel was about, this is what stuck with me.
But it’s a great thing to be stuck with.
So much of our reactions, or reactivity, or upset, or frustrations, or cursings, are born out of things deviating from “the norm.” When things are not going the way they “should” be. When they don’t meet our view of a proper object/person/event/sequence/occurrence/happening/trip/season/weather…
Except the question can arise, where did we get this view? And did we construct it accurately?
What I get from this remembered passage is that we and our views can easily be seduced by some ideal assemblage of parts, constructed over time, pulling from different sources and, of course, filtered by our existing views. Leading us along and, in the end, to having some rather unusual ideas about what’s supposedly so around us.
That’s not to say we may not want it to be another way – that’s a whole other conversation. But when we get attached to this constructed ideal, which ultimately contains a lot of fantasy, we can get hooked when things don’t measure up. We get pulled out of the moment and we’re apt to fall into the dumpster of resentment, railing against what’s actually so and robbing us of experiencing the moment (and the joy that might be found) while quite possibly thwarting us from getting what we truly want.
Just as Maria’s family, at the end of the chapter and at the end of that summer, proclaimed exasperatedly, “If only it had been a normal summer!”
* Any of my classmates remember reading this??