parallel embodiment

luncheon for one

luncheon for one

A surreal sort of day, with wet dreary cold air swirling around, seeming to disregard the bright, sunny skies. My lower limbs can detect wetness in the atmosphere, they begin to hurt when it is muggy. Lunch was a Mother’s Day gift to myself. I bought a small pack of lamb chops, cut away the bone, marinaded in black pepper and light soy sauce, lightly pan friend in olive oil, and served with rice, oven roasted capsicum, and a mandarin orange. Lucy chewed on one of the largest rib bones, but I took it away when she’d gnawed it down halfway. She is a good girl, she lets me take away her food, though I make sure I always offer her an exchange, to be fair. 🙂

I have been thinking about parallel embodiment and empathic mental states. What does this have to do with cooking and degustation? Food has so many parallels to the way we strategise life itself, because so much of our preconceptions and sensorial functioning is formed around our food! There is so much negativity connected to the prevalent perception of social empathy where autism is concerned. We endure bizarre Hollywood-style parodies in the popular media alongside biased ‘science’ based on a severely handicapped frame of reference restricted to archaic colonialistic attitudes towards the subject of study. Ignorance and intolerance is the result.

Whether this attitude is towards autism or any other differently abled among us, the way most people react to difference points toward one fundamental human trait – a lack of empathy. Humans lack empathy – unless they make an effort to empathise. That is the underlying root of the wider social conundrum.

This series of videos are a delightful set of public education clips aimed at encouraging social inclusivity, and showing people how to respond appropriately when meeting the physically different. Some people saw these as applicable only to the physically differently abled, but to me, I saw these videos as seeds of thought that lead one’s willing mind across modalities to apply the same spirit of inclusivity to every aspect of interactional and perspectival life.

Empathy is a tricky quality. From my observation of humans across varied spectrums of neurology, geographies, educational disciplines, financial statuses, social classes etc, empathic response has always depended on how much the individual has personally experienced, been exposed to, how openminded the person may be to new and different ideas or concepts, and how these have shaped the person’s thought life. Take for example, the mostly western social practice of looking people in the eyes, something considered not only polite, but also a means through which to glean subliminal information. Autistics are not comfortable with this practice, and we are often deemed rude, as a consequence when we prefer to stare at our feet. However, in Japan, this practice takes a very different tone and there are multidimensional layers in its proper social application.

How much do you think about empathy? How much do you muse on parallel existences, states of being, mental and physical functions, or challenges that others face and approach that are different from your own? There is no one sweeping general way to ‘be’ – is it not timely, then, that we learn to embrace a neurocosmopolitan mindset?

It’s dinner time now. Lucy wants to be fed. And I shall finish the rest of the lamb and red capsicum. I do love red capsicum, the sweetness is especially fragrant when baked with olive oil!


6 thoughts on “parallel embodiment

  1. Love this post! xx

    Interesting questions. I often think about empathy because it is something that is mostly a conscious, intentional act for me. Unless it is somebody I know very well, I have to make the effort to imagine their perspective. This is challenging when I have no personal experience of the circumstances and events that have shaped their mind state, but persistence and practise bring rewards.

    • Thanks, Alex! Yes, absolutely, our empathic range and depth hinges on personal experience and then on how much we are open to acquiring new perspectives, not on our innate neurological make up. The difference between autistic empathy and NT empathy is in the ways we express it, not in one being devoid of it. How right you are, “persistence and practice bring rewards!”

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