speaking through the senses

I am a Foodie Aspie. However, not every autistic person enjoys food and the process of eating. Many of us have strong aversions to tastes and textures. Yet, others, like me, are strongly attracted to sensory stimulation associated with food. To me, my connection with food is an extension of my own sensory communication and communion with Self and Other. Food is also one of the channels through which I interact with Lucy, a tangible palpable yet mental space that I can share with Lucy, wherein semantic language is not necessary.

My search for perspectival clarity surrounding embodiment and my own existence began from the day I realised I was different in many ways from others around me. My official diagnosis in my early 40s opened the path towards perspicuity. I struggled with the Theory of Mind and empathy conundrum as put forth by Simon Baron-Cohen and those sharing his stance on the subject. A very early musing was written under my other pseudonym, Spunky Kitty, “Theory of Mind – whose?” and set the tone for my search thereafter. In 2012, I presented a paper entitled, “Thinking through the Body,” suggesting an approach to artistic research and praxis modeled on the autism experience of multimodal sensory-based detail focused perception, drawing away from the heavy reliance on intellectualism that is prevalent today. Last year, I explored the idea of autism as a neurological culture, rather than an anomaly or impairment, in my paper, “Reciprocity of Self and Other.”

Recently, I was alerted to the work of Ralph Savarese by my supervisor, and therein discovered a wonderfully empathic and insightful investigation and interpretation of the autistic mentalscape from the perspective of neurological culture. I read with delight and empathic sensory vibration his article, “Toward a Postcolonial Neurology,” and following that, the interview with autistic poet Tito Mukhopadhyay. The visual and theatrical sense I had, upon reading these articles, was as follows:

I am in a dark space, resolutely striking match after match to bring light to the yawning cavern. The sound of the matches echo loudly and reverberate so strongly that it hurts my head. The smell is choking, but I am determined. The sparks, the few seconds that the matches come alight, transferring its fiery force to the wick of the candle, the melting wax and then the smoldering remains of the flame being snuffed out trigger nausea. The desire for light, however, overtakes my sensory aversion. Sometimes, the light remains for longer, other times, there is only sound, smell and texture of my repeated actions. Then, suddenly, in the adjoining room, I hear a click, and someone has turned on the light! A brilliant, electric light, and it’s not fluorescent either!

Yes. So, this is why I have always veered towards poetry. I am most comfortable with poetic language. The fragmentation feels so much more fluent and cogent to my senses than flowing prose. When I read poetry, I understand the meanings immediately. When I read prose, I need to grasp for visual images to help me.

Today, I read this post by Aspie blogger Alex, “Light Show,” and I thought of Savarese’s description of the sensory language, the concept of linguistic expression stemming from alternative embodiment. I loved the way Alex ‘spoke’ so directly from out of the senses. I understood it easily – even though it was in prose and not poetry – because the voice came from the realm of the senses and evinced myriad visual images, sounds, smells, textures, and tastes. Beautiful. Thank you, Alex!

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4 thoughts on “speaking through the senses

  1. Thank you for the links. The interview with Tito Mukhopadhyay was especially fascinating for the insight into his thoughts. And your response has a striking immediacy that effortlessly evokes sensations and sights in my mind: a most pleasurable experience. xx

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