What is Normal?

A report in late 2000 in the Canadian Journal of Medicine finds that several A. A. Milne characters, such as Winnie the Pooh, suffer from various psychological ailments and disorders, such as gender misidentification, food fixation resulting in obesity, and many others. They intimate that the use of psychoanalysis and drugs like valium and prozac would ameliorate problems like this. Some psychologists think everyone should be ‘normal.’ Many times they assume themselves to be in the position of God in society, and recommend the use of psychotherapy and drugs to return people to ‘normal.’ Although these remedial measures undoubtedly have some utility, they are limited by whatever definition of normal is taken. Some professionals in the field carry the ‘cure’ idea too far, identifying religious zealotry as a sign of madness. Psychologists have even testified in courts of law against devotees, declaring them to be unfit and dangerous elements in society because of their ‘extreme’ religious convictions and activities. Not only Milne’s storybook characters for children, but those of “Alice in Wonderland,” “Lord of the Rings,” and the “Harry Potter” series (what to speak of William Shakespeare’s many ‘odd’ characters, and protagonists of hundreds of award-winning novels) could be perceived as ‘unstable’ and therefore dangerous models for readers to look up to. And closer to home, we see what a field day the psychologists would have with some personalities in the Srimad Bhagavatam! Devotees are considered ‘crazy’ at times, and even Srila Prabhupada himself implies this, tongue in cheek. This idea is based on the fact that devotees don’t accept death and suffering to be evil, or even ‘normal.’ They know there is another way of seeing things. One of Sanatana Goswami’s first representations to Lord Caitanya was that human life must be more than one lifetime of uncertainty and suffering. (Caitanya Caritamrta Madhya 20.102)