The “New Normal:” Everything Acting Strangely
You’ve probably all encountered the phrase “the New Normal” at one time or another. It’s a belated recognition that we’ve entered into some strange, unfamiliar world age once only anticipated in science fiction. Human beings acting strangely. Climate and weather acting strangely. Some will even tell you that the plants and animals are also acting strangely. Perhaps even you sense that you are acting strangely, too.
And in connection with all this strangeness that some call “New Normal” you have probably also heard the phrase “tipping point”, or similar phrases like “Omega Point” or “Singularity” and so on. This was the thing earlier anticipated, too, by Marshall Berman: “everything is pregnant with its opposite”.
Depending whether you are an optimist or a pessimist or (a “meliorist”) this “New Normal” (and its anticipated culmination in the Great Event or “Singularity”) is a bad thing, a good thing, or both a bad thing and a good thing (what Jean Gebser calls “the double-movement” or, others, “the crisis of paradox”). You can certainly find plenty of disagreement over why it has come about and what it all means, including in Adam Curtis’s term (and documentary film) “Hypernormalisation“. (Some of you, I am sure, are already familiar with the film).
Of course, all this strangeness that characterises the “New Normal”, which often also looks like madness and insanity, has been called by other terms — “chaotic transition” or “collapse of reality”, and so on. Most essentially, though, a phrase like “New Normal” acknowledges that something has changed radically in the once familiar “structure of things”, or what we call “order” or “reality”, and no one is quite certain what that is. As a result of this change in our old familiar structures, we are presently disoriented, perplexed, and confused about where we really are in spacetime, and in what we mean by “reality”.
Things acting strangely: and, as you are probably aware by now, very little in the way of agreement about the why, what, and how of it all, or even the “big picture view” or overview, and perhaps even little in the way also of truthful and honest efforts to come to terms with it. It’s much like the old parable of the five blind scholars and the elephant. The parable is, in effect, a description of what Gebser calls “the deficient mode” of the perspectival (or “mental-rational”) consciousness, no longer capable of transcending its narrowing “point-of-view” to a true holistic, integral, or “universal way of looking at things”, ie, the “overview”.
Well, things acting strangely (or “weirdness”) are called “anomalies”, and if you saw the movie The Matrix, they point to a glitch in the structure called “the Matrix”, or a restructuration of the Matrix. That’s an apt modern parable in itself. The philosopher and historian Thomas Kuhn became famous for his investigation of the role of such “anomalies” in the history of scientific revolutions, in his book called The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. The anomaly is the sudden intrusion into our reality and awareness of the strange, the weird, the unexpected, the unfamiliar which portends the breakdown and dysfunctionality of an old structure (or theory) but also a re-structuring.
In other words, if you are interested in Jean Gebser’s cultural philosophy, you pretty much will find it also reflected in Kuhn’s history of the scientific revolutions. Much of Gebser’s insightful history of human consciousness structures is corroborated in Kuhn’s book, and you can learn a great deal about the meaning of “chaotic transition” and Gebser’s “double-movement” from studying Kuhn’s history of the scientific revolutions.
The thing about “the New Normal”, though, is the sheer scale of it, and Gebser thought of it as nothing less than a total transformation of the structure of reality itself, which would, of course, be the same as a “New Age”, as William Blake once also foresaw it. And Blake’s Prophetic Books, too, are full of descriptions of the apocalyptic chaos and turbulence he foresaw as part of that total restructuration of reality and the birth of a new consciousness structure and corresponding reality — “fourfold vision”.
It seems rather uncanny, too, that things like “gender dsyphoria” should so closely resemble the condition of Gebser’s “double-movement” and “the crisis of paradox”, doesn’t it? Or that gender dysphoria should so uncannily resemble the archetype of the primordial “hermaphrodite” or Androgyne. It’s certainly an interesting phenomenon when one considers it within that context, perhaps considered as a symptom of something far more fundamental about the restructuration of reality.
There’s reason to believe that this is the case — that “something unknown is doing we know not what”, as Eddington once phrased it, but that it is also a complete and total restructuration of what we call “reality” and in which we are all implicated.
Such a mutation of metamorphosis of “reality” (not just our mental picture of it) would be quite incomprehensible to us, since it would implicate everything — effectively “a new Heaven and a new Earth”. Blake certainly felt that what we presently call “reality” wasn’t real at all, but was only camouflage for the real. He called it “Ulro” or “Vala” or a “cloak”. (Oddly enough the words “cloak” and “clock” are related — the idea of “time” or the clockwork universe). Of course, Eastern philosophies have also long used terms like “samsara” or “Maya” or “Lila” for the same understanding, and some Christian mystics called “reality” our “Cloud of Unknowing”.
We do sense that the Modern Mind is losing its bearings, and that this loss of bearings manifests in sometimes aberrant ways in the “New Normal” — the multiple duplicities of Double-Talk, Double-Think, Double-Standard, and Double-Bind, as I’ve termed those. But how much of this might actually be a symptom of the complete restructuration of reality which has not yet become fully conscious of itself? An underlying movement or mutation of the “real” of which we are not yet fully conscious, and to which we are responding very badly, in fact.
I tend to think that this is so. But it also presents enormous difficulties for what we call “mind” and language, (which may be one reason why Buddhists say, “just drop it”: no-mind, because “mind” is just part of the illusion — at least in the way we understand “mind”. That could even have survival value in such circumstances, since you can’t lose your mind if you don’t have one to lose. In Buddhism, Mind and Mara are pretty much the same thing.
Blake, of course, called mind “Urizen”, and Urizen he also called “Noboddady” — no one, nothing, empty. Blake dropped Mind and acquired “fourfold vision”. Most people thought he was actually insane for that, although those who knew Blake considered him the sanest man they had ever met.
It’s quite the paradox itself.