Recently I read “The Coming Revolution Inside of Mormonism” by Greg Trimble and it gave me a lot of thoughts about what matters and what doesn’t matter. Humans in general seem to have very strange ways of judging people. In Todd Rose’s “The end of average” an old study of averages is explained. The study was to contribute the dimensions necessary to make the perfect cockpit for US war planes. Scientists would take the measurements of all the pilots and find the average of all their sizes but in the late 1940s it became apparent that the pilots could not control their planes.
No-one could figure out what was wrong until they hired Lieutenant Gilbert S. Daniels, who’s job was to measure pilots’ limbs with a tape measure and finding out the average otherwise known as “typing”.
“For example, many physical anthropologists believed a short and heavy body was indicative of a merry and fun-loving personality, while receding hairlines and fleshy lips reflected a “criminal type”.”
However, Daniels had already done this kind of research before and did not care for it. Daniels’ undergraduate thesis consisted of the comparison of the shape of 250 male Harvard students’ hands.
“The students Daniels examined were from very similar ethnic and sociocultural backgrounds (namely, white and wealthy), but, unexpectedly, their hands were not similar at all. Even more surprising, when Daniels averaged all his data, the average hand did not resemble any individual’s measurements. There was no such thing as the average hand size.”
This same discovery was what lead Daniels to discovering the secret to making the perfect cockpit for all the militaries pilots.
“Using size data he had gathered from 4,063 pilots, Daniels calculated the average of the ten physical dimensions believed to be most relevant for design, including height, chest circumference, and sleeve length. These formed the dimensions of the “average pilot”… Before he crunched his numbers, the consensus among his fellow air force researchers was that the vast majority of pilots would be within the average range on most dimensions. After all, these pilots had already been preselected because they appeared to be average sized. … The scientists also expected that a sizeable number of pilots would be within the average range on all ten dimensions. But even Daniels was stunned when he tabulated the actual number. Zero. Out of 4,063 pilots, not a single airman fit within the average range on all ten dimensions.”
Daniels findings finally brought to light that “If you’ve designed a cockpit to fit the average pilot, you’ve actually designed it to fit no one.”
This story was really interesting to me as it illustrates how we judge people in todays society. We judge based on our imaginings of the “ideal human.” I say imaginings because an ideal, average, normal human being doesn’t exist and it never will. No one can live up to the whole worlds expectations of “normal.”
In his blogpost, Greg Trimble states how he envisions Mormonism in the future. One of these things is “this revolution will produce a people who don’t make a checklist of things they can and cannot do on the sabbath… and then hold others to their own standard and checklist.” We are constantly comparing people to ourselves or others. Why didn’t Daniels’ discovery make us think differently about people?
“The end of Average” talks of another study, one who’s results turned into a new gruesome method of judgement which still exists today. This study was designed to find out the average size of a woman. A sculpture had been made by gynaecologist, Dr. Robert L. Dickinson and Abram Belskie representing the size data collected from fifteen thousand young adult women which they named “Norma”. Norma brought about the same discovery as Daniels made about pilots; that no woman alive could match Norma’s “average” size. However, this didn’t mean that we thought about the individual rather than the masses, it meant that we thought something was wrong and began to pressure the masses to change themselves to look more like Norma, aka. the average woman.
This judgement falls upon us all. Men, Women, teenagers, even babies. A baby will constantly be compared to the average to make sure it’s development is “normal”. But of course, no-one can be normal because there is no normal. From the discoveries humanity has made over the years, the word “normal” shouldn’t even be in the dictionary any more as far as humans are concerned.
This phenomenon of averages can be found everywhere. But the place were I see it most is inside my church. An LDS church should be the last place to find judgements but sadly, it’s usually the first. At School and work, my differences -religiously or not- have usually been widely accepted. The only time they have not been accepted was at school because some of my peers knew that I was ashamed of some of my differences. However, when I learned to accept myself, I was accepted by others. Only in the church have I seen a difference.
We seem to be obsessed with “typing”, putting people into categories. The gay one, the one who didn’t serve a mission, the one who was ex-communicated, the one who used to smoke, the one who can’t get over her addiction to coffee. Why do these things matter? Trimble wishes us to be more accepting. ““Who are you now?!” is what we’ll ask. Not “who were you then?””. Past failures, be they five years ago, five months ago, five days ago or five minutes ago shouldn’t matter. We should see that person coming out to church every week and accept them for being who they are at. That. Moment.
They are trying. Just like we are trying. Just like our President or Bishop is trying. Just like our prophet, President Monson is trying. Why should we cast stones at them when they could just as easily cast stones at us? We only think they are different from us because we haven’t bothered to learn more about them. My church has accepted me despite my flaws but only because I was born and raised into that church. They knew me already and were comfortable with me. Why isn’t it the same for visitors, new members or for people who have gone and come back? Let us stop typing and start getting to know people for who they really are.