One of the passages that reached out to ‘grab’ me was this:
How is it that my son — who delights in finding corners of the universe invisible to the rest of us, and who can literally hear what is scientifically defined as silence — how is it that he is diagnosed with an “inability to connect with the world”? Isn’t he connecting in ways that the rest of us, being so disconnected, don’t even understand?
Indeed. I have recently been grappling with a few similar trajectories. Connection. Connectedness. Communication. Reciprocity. And the ‘Us vs. Them’ conundrum.
The problem here is that of confusing heterogeneity of expression and expressivity. Just as neurotypical individuals possess myriad different styles of communicating and expressing themselves, so do autistics and other-minded folks. Granted, I may be slightly slower, in a somewhat delay-mode, where it comes to spontaneous interpersonal repartee. However, there are people I encounter on social media via the written word, whose pontifications completely escape my mental capacity to grasp. Semantic meanings are not absolute in intent, delivery and reception. Something happens in between, the agency is of great import, yet the agency itself can so often be flawed and dependent on a plethora of edifices. What is the native language of the communicator? What kind of education has this person received? What level of education? (Kind and level are two different categories here.) What is the sub-culture that influences linguistic style? Other superficial yet essential factors come into play – grammar, spelling, clarity of thought etc. Then there is the reception end of the convoluted process. The same questions apply. A tangled web indeed. The ability to express oneself semantically is highly subjective and erratic. While your best friends, belonging to the same sub-culture, may easily comprehend your utterances (written and spoken), another person may be utterly confounded.
Roast Pork is cooked in myriad ways too. How to achieve the perfect crackle? The solutions come from many different cultural, perspectival and experiential vantage points. I am at present exploring a traditional Chinese methodology, however, no approach is categorically accurate, and I am not a strict adherer of the manual. I am adding my own little dashes to the marinade, experimenting with temperatures and timings etc. On one hand, variety is the spice of life. On the other hand, too many orbits may result in a cosmic crash. Today’s attempt at crackling the crackle was not quite successful. Impatience and too much honey perhaps?
What are we saying? How do we know the Other has grasped some of our intended meanings?
At the end of the day, our abilities and inabilities are appraised according to the socio-cultural-mental constructs of the assessor. Take the word “passion,” for example. A common word, well worn and often misused. In reality, passion is not easily recognised because very few possess this ability. It can be said that I am now pursuing my passion. Yet, the connotation is somewhat dangerously 19th century. There is, in practice, nothing romantic about this. To me, it is the only comfortable and hence ‘normal’ way to exist, yet, so many people view it with a whimsical, stylised perception – regardless of whether they are autistic or not.
This trajectory brings me to yet another statement in the blog post that grabbed my mind in a ticklish kind of wrestling action:
Meanwhile, those of us who’ve perfected the art of Control, cajole ourselves by tossing around the word ‘passion’ with careless ease, e.g., “I am passionate about golf.” As far as I’m concerned, this is an oxymoron. Until they write poetry about golf, it does not qualify as passion. There is such a profound difference between really liking something, and being passionate about it, but our culture has all but erased that line. And I think it’s because we are fundamentally uneasy with true passion — because true passion does not allow you to have control. It takes control of you.
That passage unceremoniously tossed me back in time, to a vivid memory, frozen and preserved in my brain for posterity, whether I like it or not. I shall not regale you with the visual description, nor the other sensory memories, but just the situational irony. In a brief but sad paradoxical moment, the very people who claimed to care deeply for me, and who verbally encouraged me to pursue the meaning of my existence, compared my existential compulsion (referred to as “passion” in the article quoted above) to her liking for horse-riding.
Complete breakdown of communication. Conclusive absence of empathy.
The impasse can happen between any minds. I often have trouble understanding fellow autistics too. Why? Yet why not?
I understand that they may have a different set of communicative tools and different abilities to wield these. I understand the basic neurological functionings. However, it is impossible to grasp what is completely alien – the infinite permutations and combinations of human minds. Sometimes we ‘get it,’ sometimes we just do not, but most often we merely bumble along and get by.
Similarly, sometimes we enjoy our own gastronomic offerings at the end of experimentation, sometimes we tip it into the bin, but mostly we just eat the stuff so as not to waste.
By the way, the pork roast today was tastier than it looked. 🙂