spectating participant

May 1, 2004

buggin’ out

Filed under: unlisted — suzanne henderson @ 9:23 pm

It’s started, the first mosquito of the season nipped me. Now he has gone and told the millions of others back in the hood, that there’s one fine tastin’ chick living in the house on the corner. And even better than that, she’s one of those outdoor loving chicks that is almost always outside, nose distracted in a book, and casually offering arms and bare feet for the bitin’. I’m safe now, at least until they realize I still live with my screenless windows open.

Today was uber productive. I got an amazing amount of stuff completed at work. To the point that, other than the never ending voice mails, I’m completely caught up. Wow, it feels so cool, Monday I will walk to my desk and it will be CLEAN CLEAN, and not just the mess moved into new piles and stacked a little neater, this is full on, new organizational filing system and a place for everything clean. Yay!

I finished the last essay in [An Anthropologist on Mars], “A Surgeon’s Life”. This one was on a man with [Tourette’s syndrome] who was also a surgeon. On the surface that is pretty amazing, but overall the essay was quite dull. It really seemed to focus on the awe that this man could do it, but without [Oliver Sacks]’ deeply analytical observations and comparisons I’ve come to expect.

However, the essay I read before that, “An Anthropologist on Mars” was one of the most interesting just in the parallels that I can draw in my own life. This was essay focusing on an person with high-achieving autism. She had Phd. and was quite distinguished in her field. However, again I was not so impressed with the general “wow, look at what she has achieved” air of the story. Instead, I found the way she processed information to be quite intriguing.

She is a visual thinker and commented on how she draws out, builds, and runs through entire processes visually in her mind. It’s not a string of words and sentences and statements, but pictures, drawings, and images. Sacks mentioned that visual thinking isn’t abnormal and that many non-autisitc people do that, include my favorite scientist [Nikola Tesla]. It reminded me of the nights of frantic thinking and imagining, where I would build art projects and costumes all through a visual process. I’d walk myself through the store buying everything, transporting it home, organizing it, working on it until it was complete and I was admiring it and showing it to others. So fascinating to find that other people use this mental process. So many times, I get stuck in conversations and with problems I want to discuss, but I can’t pull it out of image form and into words. If only we could just transmit images to each other, life would be so much easier.

Another interesting thing about this woman was her creation of a ’squeeze machine’. Being autistic, she found it overwhelming to be hugged by a person, but still found the physical pressure of a hug to be very calming. So she designed a machine that she could get into and give herself a mechanical hug. I strongly relate to this too. Instead of a squeeze machine, I retreat to small dark spaces, like closets, when I need to calm down or to relax a little. Often times the world gets very overwhelming for me, I get over stimulated, and I just need a break. I’ve been working on plans to build myself a box that I can crawl into and close the lid on. I feel that it would be much more relieving that a closet, which still has too much open space around me. Plus, I have no closets to run to where I am living now, a box would be a useful compromise.

In addition the visual thinking and squeeze machine, I could relate to her comments of being over-sensitive to sounds, touch, and smells. This week has been difficult since I’ve been extra or hyper sensitive to those different stimulants, and reading about someone who lives with it all the time with little relief, made my sensitivity seem a little more manageable.

“An Anthropologist on Mars” was a well written essay with so many opportunities to think about the processed of emotion and reaction. I don’t want to really go into it deeply, but I did find it fascinating that this woman was not able to see or recognize someone else’s jealousy by emotion or sensing. Instead, it was a mathematical or scientific process that she would compare the current situation to past situations to determine that someone was acting in an emotional way. Now, wether or not she could see this in the same way a non-autistic person could, doesn’t change the fact that she could see it. Perhaps, instead of autism removing the emotional or ’sense of self and others’, perhaps autism has just dulled or slowed the scientific process the rest of us go through. Maybe none of us react truly emotionally to anything, instead, the scientific process of comparing past events with current events is so developed that it happens naturally without thought to consideration and to the point that it seems like a ‘feeling’. Just a thought.

… oh all this brain thinking and philosophy of thought makes my mind hurt. it puts me back in my philosophy class, asking my professor “what does it mean when I don’t believe anything exists, not even myself?” For now, I will just consider the continued existence of the mosquito that has found my open window, guess the word got out sooner than I thought …