Monday, 4 April 2011

A Gordian Knot and some initial caveats

A previous post described my manner of thinking as associative.  Another term that might work is 'mushrooming', in the sense that an individual mushroom sends off thousands of spores which generate a multitude of other mushrooms in a rapid and always more dense cycle of generation.  In other words, when I free-associate, each thought in that chain of ideas spins off ten other ideas in multiple directions in the mental space, which in turn engender their own ramifications, which then cross and interweave with previous ramifications.  When well-managed, this is a blessing in that I can spin out creative ideas relatively quickly.  The negative side is that these ever-expanding chains of ramifying ideas can, in a sense, plait together in my mind until my mental space becomes filled with matted-together ideas without outcome. I have heard it suggested that so-called 'low-functioning' autistic people are in fact generating new thoughts at such a rapid rate that it is difficult to extricate themselves from them to focus on such mundane matters as social mores.  When I reach such a state of cognitive kudzu-encrustation, the best way to extricate my thought-process is to temporarily halt the process, pray and meditate, and try to summon a sense of mental calm which will slice through this Gordian knot and enable my thought process to proceed onward.

In order to pre-empt these blockages, one lesson I have learned is that I need to stricly delimit the boundaries of projects before I begin them.  There have been many, many times in my school and academic career when I have not submitted an essay due to an over-abundance of ideas coming too thick and fast to make sense of them.  If each line of an essay generates ten ramifying ideas which beget ten more, by the time I am at the third line the mental idea-plaits have already begun to form.  Having made a habit of this form of personally-developed adaption, I will not setting down the boundaries of the project of an Autistic Spirituality Blog. 

N.B. the use of 'an', rather than 'the'.  Though this is the first blog on this general theme which I have come across, it may not be the first and if it is, I hope it is the first of many.  There are as many autistic spiritualities as there are autistic people, if one defines 'spirituality' as something along the lines of 'the many ways in which a being engages with that which is beyond itself.'  I am not hoping to define 'the' Autistic Spirituality or to in any way seek a monoglottal discussion on the subject, or even to work towards a future formulation of 'The Spirituality of Autism'.  In speaking of this term I am aware that it is a 'dialogic' term as Mikhail Bakhtin would say - many voices speaking through one utterance.  (Name-dropping theorists is one social skill I have learned is advantageous in a humanities department in higher education)

So, since part of the idea of this blog is to provide others with a view into one individual's non-neurotypical thought process, I will write through my thought process in choosing it.  

Many people on the autism spectrum tend to think in literal manners, so I thought a plain, literal title would work best.  As the British idiom goes, "it does what it says on the tin."  One of the running inconveniences and pet peeves of my life is when needed goods and services are defined in unnecessarily non-literal ways.  I am all for playful, symbolic language within the domains of literature and poetry.  But not when it comes to simple tasks, like buying shirts.  [Short excursus on a pet peeve to follow] 

It is frustrating that clothing stores do not have their contents in their titles.  This Aspie would like to set out shopping for clothes, look up a directory of stores, find a store called 'Joe's Affordable Men's Clothing' or something likewise obvious, get my clothes and get on with my day.  Instead, clothes stores have to have trendy names which do not indicate their content.  Take 'Burton'. What does Burton sell? What kind and style of clothing? How expensive are they?  How appropriate are they for my particular demographic?  I have no idea, and the only way to find out is to go through the tedious and time-wasting exercise of being up to date on fashion by reading magazines, observing subtle social cues for what is 'cool' to wear this week, or other activities to misuse my limited time on this particular plane of existence.  When trying to access information, literal is useful. [/excursus]

Other ideas for clearly articulating in the title that this was not the one possible narrative on the topic were also under consideration. My rhythmically-oriented mind likes alliteration - in fact I have studied Old Norse  poetry for which it is the key aesthetic feature - so I considered an alliterative title like 'Spirituality on the Spectrum', but dismissed the idea due to the non-literalism treated above. I considered putting the title in lower-case miniscules, or adding a plural prefix in parantheses, e.g. 'autistic spiritualit(ies)'.  On second thought, doing so would make this look too much like a dated mid-90's early post-modernist theoretical journal (e.g. Semiotext(e)) So rather than a quirky title, 'Autistic Spirituality' does what it says