Change: There is no normal

“Going back to normal”1, and “the new normal”, are phrases that have been bothering me. There is no such thing as normal, and if there was, we still don’t have a time machine to go back to it.

One of the basic facts of existence noted in Buddhism is anicca, which means impermanence. By meditating one can observe thoughts and sensations arising and passing away. This really extends to everything.

Everything is always changing. The idea that there is normal is an illusion; a trick people play on themselves to deny and repress the fear of the unknown. You can’t read the same river’s blog twice.2

People tend to not notice change, especially when it is incremental. What you call a phone is actually a pocket computer and camera mostly used for messaging and sharing photos and videos. You might not even use it to make phone calls. A phone used to be a speaker and microphone attached to some copper wires in your house.3

Conservatism is a fear of change. It is denial of reality. Strategies which worked before don’t work now. You can’t live the way your parents did. Maybe if you are rich you can force an approximation for generations, but not forever.

As I was searching for something else, I came across an article in a 19084 edition of the BMJ5. The author was talking about the growing numbers of cars in town, and how they were unpleasant, the exhaust smelled, and speculated about the danger to health from the fumes. This was only 100 years ago. Cars are not normal! They are a new, and hopefully brief, blight on the planet. When people say they can’t live without them, remember that homo sapiens have existed for about 300,000 years.6


1. I had the thought after writing this that maybe normal here could be interpreted in the sense of normative, that is a desirable state, rather than a typical one. In that case, I wish that people realise that the world can be better than it was two year ago.

2. Heraclitus -

3. This particular example stolen from Vinay Gupta, but I can’t remember from exactly where.

4. 1908 is the year production started of the Ford Model T.

5. POISONOUS MOTORS, in Br Med J: first published as 10.1136/bmj.2.2495.1302 on 24 October 1908.

Also of interest in the same edition, “ROAD MAKING”, talks about the new requirements placed on road design and signage by motor vehicles, and “STORAGE OF GLYCERINATED CALF LYMPH” is interesting to compare to mRNA freezers.

6. I am aware disabled people exist, and technology can help. This is not why most people use cars.