symbol

It has never happened before, and I was thus unprepared. When I saw it, I was hit instantly by a nauseous feeling in my core; it was a dull thud rather than a sharp piercing, as if a large, round and smooth stone had collided forcefully with my diaphragm, the shock waves travelling all the way into the centre of my Being. However, in true autistic manner, it took weeks and weeks of rumination, literally chewing and gnashing over this, before I could formulate a cohesive set of worded expression to talk about it at all. I exist mostly in a sensorial realm, and despite the normative world thinking that I am clever with words, I really cannot react as spontaneously with the worded domain as when in my senses, and the meanings that exist inside the sensorial realm will not make sense to the worded world. So I appear to only be ‘reacting’ now and not immediately then, because nobody was there inside my senses but myself when it happened. I needed a lot of time to translate those sensations into words.

The thing:

My profile photograph was cropped and cut up by an event organiser and published in their publicity materials. Lucy was sliced away, even though her face was touching mine. Nobody consulted or informed me beforehand.

Basic manners 101: When I send my profile photo to an event organiser, I entrust this image to them, to deal with respectfully. If it is deemed unsuitable for reasons like sizing, resolution or shape, the event organiser should get in touch with me and discuss this or ask for another one that fits their requirements. That is the standard reasoning, is it not? But I’m not a standard-issue human. To be honest, I’m generally not fussy about photographs of me because I don’t think I ever look great in them anyway. I am now an old lady with a too-fat face, bloated as a result of the medications I have to take, and wearing a buzz cut because I cannot be bothered with long hair anymore. It really isn’t an issue of vanity. So, why am I so upset now?

Ah… you see… It isn’t the act of cropping that offended me. It was who they cut away that threw me off kilter and sparked my ire. They removed Lucy.

I want to make it clear that this has nothing to do with anthropomorphism. I don’t want to pretend she is a human being. Yes, I know, many pet owners do this. That is one of the many human traits that I find quite bizarre, though I don’t tell them so, because I know they will be very hurt, and why would I wish to hurt anyone who loves their pets? In all seriousness, why should I want another human (with fur and four legs – how awful) in my life? I am not fond of humans. Lucy is a dog. I relate with her as a human would, with all my own speckled humanity, to a dog, canis lupus familiaris, in all her canid glory.

I use this profile photograph as my official one because, to me, Lucy is everything that I am, here and now. I would not even be alive today, were it not for Lucy, who actively intervened twice to save me, in a way no human ever could do. I owe her my life.

It is not a frivolous thing, I don’t say it for drama, it is just the simple truth. And there is more. Lucy was a crucial part of my PhD journey in such a way that no words could do justice to. I wrote about this phenomenon in my PhD dissertation, but no matter how beautiful my writing may have been at the time, human words as they are cannot describe the wealth of meaning that exists in our shared ecology of parallel embodiments within Clement Space. So, I do it with a visual image: this photograph of us both, taken in 2012, when Lucy first entered my life. It is a symbol of our joint existence. It speaks what words cannot.

When the event people cropped Lucy out, they not only stuck a visually awkward and aesthetically distorted photograph onto their publicity material – a too huge headshot and a cut up dog’s face, how visually pleasing can that be? – but more importantly, at a fundamental level, they violated Lucy.

Removed her image from beside me.

Forcefully separated us.

Disfigured my expression of Being, and dismembered the rich tapestry of my journey to where I am now.

“She’s just a dog.” I hear these words a lot. Humans either anthropomorphise their pets or they consider animals beneath them. Yes, I know. That is reality. I am not living in Disneyland. I do not expect these people to understand and say otherwise.

Oh, but, hey, wait: I am not a dog! I was the one who submitted this photograph, I placed it in their hands. So, even if they don’t like dogs, would they not at least treat my choice with the respect that a fellow human being ought to have in this human-centric world?

Discombobulation. I do not understand it. The fact that it has never happened before in the last 8 years at numerous events in different countries makes this even more mysterious. Is this a cultural quirk that I never knew existed in my own homeland? Or just one random scissor-happy, dog-hating human?

Irony? They – the event organiser – would not even have heard about me, nor invited me to their event, were it not for Lucy Like-a-Charm. A quiet, unassuming, undemanding Greyhound, rescued from a former life of torture and abuse at the hands of greedy, barbaric humans in the dog racing industry. She has lived with poise and grace, despite her past, surpassing most of the pet dogs I have ever met in her dignity, quiet confidence and forbearance. I have had pet dogs before. All my life, in fact. I loved them all. As pet dogs. But Lucy is not a pet dog. Nor is she only an assistance dog that can be replaced once she is past her usefulness. There is only one Lucy Like-a-Charm to whom I owe my presence in this world of the living, and my life’s greatest joys and achievements. There would have been no Dr. Dawn-joy Leong were it not for Lucy Like-a-Charm. I don’t say this with frivolity. It is humbling, yes, that a dog could do this, but this human has learned from this very unique dog what it means to humble my navel-gazing human-centricity and appreciate lessons from an entity that is not of my own specie.

So, if you are reading this as an event organiser, even if you do not quite understand all the above, even if it is just nonsensical drivel to you, just remember this one point then: if I ever hand you this photograph, please make sure you ask me before you defile Lucy’s image. And if you think a photograph of a dog is inappropriate to feature in your ‘serious’ event, then I want nothing to do with your event. I don’t need you. But I need Lucy and I wish to remain faithful to all she is to me.

Thank you.

What’s the fuss about animals and autism?

It’s been more than a month since I wrote my response to the terribly biased and poorly researched article in Spectrum on autistic researchers. Since then, I’ve not stopped ‘going on’ about the subject because I feel a gross injustice has been done – in fact it is a multidimensional injustice. But I’ve been told to stop, even by autistic people, because I am passionate about a topic that most people do not understand and/or abuse, a subject that has been shamelessly mistreated and exploited, resulting in a great deal of hurt and damage to autistic people, as well as to autistic researchers who are actually researching this connection. Yes, I am talking about Animals and Autism. I already know one autistic researcher who has been deeply wounded by this article. The root of the problem is ignorance. This topic has been hijacked by shameless ignoramus, and the majority of those who are offended in the process are reacting also out of ignorance, and the proverbial baby gets thrown out with the dirty bath water. It is an important ‘baby’, and one that I firmly believe will shed even more stunning brilliance to autism research, if only it were more understood and pursued further.

I am no expert myself. I wish I could be. If I had time and finances on my side, I would embark on another PhD in this area. Sadly (for me), all I do have now is this little tiny glimpse. Nevertheless, I will not stop saying what I am compelled to say. I will continue to encourage young autistic researchers who are interested to pursue their dreams in this field. If you have seen something so amazingly exquisite, something that has changed you from the very core, then you will not cease to speak about it. Someday, the world may see what we see. For now, it is a lonely thing to be a minority within a minority. The passage below is taken from my PhD dissertation, and can be found in the chapter Space of Mind.

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ache of simplicity

分分鐘需要你 – George Lam. When I first heard this song, ages ago way back when I was a wee li’l teenager, I liked it very much. It’s a ridiculously simple melody, with almost goofy-tacky words. The sonic clarity appealed to me, but the meaning of the lyrics never hit home in this resonant way until I found Lucy. Throughout my life, I had been ‘programmed’ by people who ‘knew better’ than me, about love, relationships, what to do, what not to do, what I should look for, and how to get what I ought to get. Some were well-meaning, they genuinely wanted me to be happy, and others were, well, manipulative with various levels of artistry, if you can call that an art. They were all horribly wrong. That was because none of them understood, ME. I didn’t even understand me, until I began to discover the light, when I was officially diagnosed as proudly Autistic. But even then, it took a few more years for my brainwashed mind to rid itself of all the rubbish that was stuffed into this gullible Autistic Bunny’s limited brain. When Lucy entered my life, she brought along with her a knowing-ness, and I finally began to become Me, the person that resided in my faraway most primal origins, the person who survived the deluge of terror and still remained hidden, deeply embedded, confused and afraid to emerge. Lucy gave me Life, as I had never known before. And I finally understood why my young soul was so drawn to this almost infantile love song. That is because this is what Lucy has taught me. Love in its purest, unsullied, uncrowded and most powerfully fulfilling. Lucy is the love of my life, and ours is a symbiosis that people mistake as anthropomorphism. They think I am making Lucy a human so we can be close. I don’t blame these people, they only understand human love, even most autistic people will find it hard to grasp, because most of us have grown up brainwashed by ABA or other familial and societal pressures to become human-centric in all our foci – be they work, personal, mental, physical or emotional. But I do know some people understand this. And I am writing for those who do, as well as those who want to see.

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meds & bets

Growing up, I always had doctors come to the house – we called them ‘Uncle’ because they were dad’s close friends. Nowadays, each time I go to see my favourite GP, I miss those days when doctors did house visits. It’s a literal nightmare at the clinic, teeming with germy humans (well, ok, why else would they be there, right?), many have no idea how to keep their juices to themselves. There was one lady today coughing and hacking and making all the noises appropriate for whatever she was suffering from. Horrifying, even without a global pandemic hovering above, but in the context of COVID19, I shuddered. Thank goodness our government has made wearing masks mandatory, with strict penalties for non-compliance. One occasion where I am glad compliance was enforced without exceptions, even though I am not keen on compliance much, this is imperative. Throughout my adult life – as soon as the ‘Uncle’ doctors retired and no longer came to our house with their little black leather bag of mysterious potions and sharp needles – I have dreaded going to the GP’s clinic. I cringe and agonise about what horrible stuff I could catch there, even if I didn’t present with that particular kind of ‘sick’ at the beginning. It is almost without exception a chaotic mess of humans in various states of un-wellness with human droplets and other infection carrying fluids being happily and sometimes lavishly shared, like a twisted, eerie unholy communion.

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nefelibata

Cloud walker.

Dreamer.

Othered.

Living on the peripherals, meandering in and out… falling up and rising down…

Damned human-centric consciousness… burnt out, imploding, imploring.

The price to pay is small, this detachment, I am not lonely, not even alone – because the universe holds such infinity in its richly textured, fragrant and abundantly threaded tapestry. Always connected, always embraced.

But this human shell… this navel-gazing, glazed, muffled, bleary-eyed sightedness.

What tyranny.

What irony.

Such exquisite pain. Excruciating beauty. Always just out of reach.

Incarcerated by my humanity.

Lowest of life forms – barbaric viciousness, swirling toxicity.

Our blood runs thick with evil.

Yet, she waits for me.

Patiently.

Unspoken wisdom of ancient sentience.

What manner of creature is this?

Such grandeur enwrapped gently in humility.

Angel in my bed.

Cloud walkers. Together.

fan boy

Lucy has a Fan Boy. His name is Maxi. He is a ten year old Shitzu, completely blind but full of vim and vigour, and he loves stalking of her. He follows Lucy wherever she goes, and he has a cute ‘bump-bump’ game where he’ll bump into her on purpose (he can smell her) and she’ll let out a squeal or yelp to tell him to back off, then he’ll meander away for awhile, before making his way back to lie down quietly beside her. Maxi belongs to my sister’s best friend, and he comes over for playdates and staycations quite often. He brings a lot of jolliness to sleepy lazy old Lucy. They’re not exactly a ‘loving’ pair, but they’re full of surprises, and such a joy to just observe. If only I could fathom the mind of a dog, it’d answer so many questions about my own humanity that no human can answer satisfactorily. No human is able to bring such unadulterated joy to my heart. How can humans still insist they must be the superior specie?

human

Who was it who said that Autistic people have poor global comprehension and can only perform detail-focused processing? (OK, I know who, but I am trying to be wryly humorous, here, so humour me being humouring ok?)

I’ve been noticing far too many of those teeny-weeny-wriggly-squiggly details lately, what with COVID19 kicking the entire world into massive turmoil and showing humanity and our systems up in its truest, clearest, worst possible light, compounded with yet more and more revelations (as if I didn’t already know) of massive calculated cruelty towards innocent animals – the internet is an amazing thing, really, it throws up so many details for detail-focused folks to devour, analyse, recognise all the threads and patterns, feel the vibrating rhythms of the cosmic swirl that is wailing in concentric circles round and round, through and above and under the Grand Human Circus – such an indescribable massive, overwhelming deluge – that I am spent. Exhausted. Burnt out. Shrivelled up. Ashamed and disgusted at my being a member of the evil human specie. Crushed because I know I am powerless to end all this suffering. And I don’t mean human suffering – I mean the suffering of the truly innocent among us. The non-human world that we have colonised.

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empathy impaired

Screenshot 2020-04-05

I watched a couple of videos circulating around Facebook earlier this evening, horrified and almost unable to breathe: a beautiful white horse was running along a busy road, not far from where I live. People who captured the video were laughing and giggling, “Oh my gawwwd! Why lie-dat?”, (Singlish speak for “why like that”) which made me feel sick to the core, a low out-of-tune bassoon vibrating underneath my diaphragm, while white searing high-pitched screams pierced my headspace as my heart tried to break out of my rib cage.

Screenshot 2020-04-05 Title

And here is the write up on “MustShareNews”. Apart from sloppy writing, it’s another attempt at humour that falls flat in the stinking bog, as far as I am concerned. Oh wow, look, it’s tagged “INSPIRATION” and “HUMOUR” !!!???!!!???!!!??? Continue reading

penguins win

Something cute for those overwhelmed by the not-cute. Animals always make me smile when they are happy. But the way us humans treat them is gut wrenchingly horrifying. Well, these penguins are having a grand time, it seems. Lovely!