Author Archive | Jim

They’ll Know He’s a Phony

Robert Preston and Julie Andrews in Victor Victoria

Robert Preston and Julie Andrews in Victor Victoria

If you’re autistic, talking to humans is a bit of a magic trick.

When I was a child, I had yet to learn that trick. In fact, I didn’t yet know that I was autistic. Talking to humans was a mystery to me, as was so much else in life. I was a frustrated quiet child.

If I needed to something to drink, I didn’t know how to ask for it. So I remained silent and thirsty. If I was lucky, my younger brother was with me. He would know what I needed and ask for me.

When I was sick during the night, I knew I needed help from my mother. I went to my parents’ closed bedroom door and froze. I didn’t know what the next step was. I tried every few minutes to knock, or to speak, each time backing off. Tired and sick, I collapsed to the floor and slept the rest of the night curled up at the foot of the door.

Boundary Issues

I study humans as a matter of survival. I need to understand how humans work, because I live in a world full of them. I notice things about them that they don’t recognize themselves. For example, humans define boundaries. It’s how they make sense of the world, how they organize it, how they pigeonhole all of its myriad bits.

A boundary surrounds a concept. What’s included is different in kind from everything beyond it. Without boundaries, the universe would be an indistinct blur, lacking mental handholds. Boundaries are clumsy organizational tools, though. They are seldom as well-defined as you might assume. The closer you look at the boundary, the more difficult it is to fix. As essential as boundaries are, they tend to be imprecise.

Consider the concept of North America. Anyone (I hope) can look at a map of the world and instantly point to that continent. When I start asking questions, though, the concept of North America, and the borders that define it, becomes murky. 

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