So my friend Jay had a really good thought on twitter the other day, and it really stimulated my brain:
The gist is that when people interact with the Phenomenas or abstract art, often what they’re trying to do is understand what they’re seeing in the context of a “normal” framework. This is a problem, because this framework limits our ability to understand before we even have the experience. I totally agree, and I think that this framework is often more wholistic for people.
Where I would expand Jay’s thought here is that this isn’t just a problem for individuals being able to experience art or ghosts or time loops. It also seems clear that this framework is a tool for perpetuating all sorts of social, political, and economic systems by making them normal, and thus rendering them invisible. As an example: in mainstream “normal” American society, it is “normal” that all people have either male or female gender. An overwhelming number of our social structures, from bathrooms to clothing to expectations around your career are guided by this supposed fact. Those structures are so hard coded, that as a society we totally ignore the existence of intersex and transgender people, and the concept of a society organized to accept multiple genders is really tough for many. Some may even argue that, because these pieces are so “normal,” that American society isn’t organized around gender; when confronted with the idea of a truly gender-neutral or gender-apathetic society, there’s a fight. Similar observations can be made about race, socio-economic status, religion, and a whole host of other social structures.
We also have these problems in our “communities” within occultims/high strangeness. Folks are often unable to look past whatever frameworks they have built up around what is and isn’t a ghost or magick or The Fundamental Nature of the Universe that they are unable, or worse yet unwilling, to synthesize situations that run counter to their frameworks. So rather than admit that it seems incoherent that the government is hiding the existence of aliens from us because They don’t want you to know aliens are real but we’re also THIS CLOSE to disclosure where that same government will spill every bean about what THEY don’t want you to know, more fictions get built up and nobody has to interrogate what they think.
That seems bad. I’d bet, dear reader, that this sounds like something you aren’t into either. So here’s what I’m thinking: I’m going to stop using the word “paranormal,” and do the work to decenter the concept of normality in my life. I’m not sure what the substitute is; the problem with terms like “paraweird” is that it continues centering a normal experience, even if that is for the purposes of opposition. And something like “parausual” or “paratypical” still feels like it’s creating a duality where some stuff is Normal and other things aren’t. So maybe the key is to not have a big overarching word to talk about ghosts and cryptids and UTs and time distortion and maybe sometimes magicks. Instead maybe I’m reverse engineering a rational for just talking about what I mean, and being specific.
I’m really interested in what others think here. Sound off in the comments, or hit me up on Twitter/Mastadon. ESPECIALLY if you think I’m fucking up.
Nick the Melaninated Magician
Nick AKA The Melaninated Magickian (They/Them) is a Thelemite and explorer of existence. They write observations about High Strangeness, Occultisms, and how those things intersect with race, gender, disability, and other social identities on their blog and on Twitter. In their normie work, they are a professional DEI practitioner, avid film watcher, and home cook.