It’s better to feel normal about being abnormal

I like Henry Miller’s mind. I’ve written about it before. He expresses without apology. His writing just…goes there; it cuts through and doesn’t pause to deliberate fruitlessly. It feels like freedom to just read his work.

Image by Jody Rogac
Image by Jody Rogac

I came across these Henry Miller quotes just now. It’s from an essay he wrote on the musings of psychoanalyst E. Graham Howe. Miller dissects some of Rowe’s thoughts on normality, and surrender, that I rather like:

“‘Normality,’ says Howe, ‘is the paradise of escapologists, for it is a fixation concept, pure and simple.’ ‘It is better, if we can,’ he asserts, ‘to stand alone and to feel quite normal about our abnormality, doing nothing whatever about it, except what needs to be done in order to be oneself.’

Yes, we must stand alone in order to be ourselves. And, yes, it’s the most challenging thing in the world to do. It’s my greatest ambition… to be truly, bravely myself.

As Miller goes on, a little aloofly:

It is just this ability to stand alone, and not feel guilty or harassed about it, of which the average person is incapable. The desire for a lasting external security is uppermost, revealing itself in the endless pursuit of health, happiness, possessions an so on, defense of what has been acquired being the obsessive idea, and yet no real defense being possible, because one cannot defend what is undefendable. All that can be defended are imaginary, illusory, protective devices.

Indeed, pursuing stability via external cues (like health, hello!) is just a way of side-stepping the awkward unanchoredness of our abnormality.To be cool with our individual abnormality is to be brave and present. Miller writes:

For the awakened individual, however, life begins now, at any and every moment; it begins at the moment when he realizes that he is part of a great whole, and in the realization becomes himself whole. In the knowledge of limits and relationships he discovers the eternal self, thenceforth to move with obedience and discipline in full freedom.

Yes. Full freedom. Plus one more comforting truth:

Life, as we all know, is conflict, and man, being part of life, is himself an expression of conflict. If he recognizes the fact and accepts it, he is apt, despite the conflict, to know peace and to enjoy it. But to arrive at this end, which is only a beginning (for we haven’t begun to live yet!), a man has got to learn the doctrine of acceptance, that is, of unconditional surrender, which is love.

Surrender is the only way. And it tastes like love when you can actually get your hunger around it. So I accept surrender is love. I also accept love is all there is…what about you?

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