Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Make your own tree

I was thinking about Naughtyman and how he was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome. It was a bad diagnosis because he meets few of the criteria. Of course there's something up with him but it's precisely that he's Naughtyman, not that he's something simply categorised with a list of symptoms (B's dad, who is a psychologist, says that Naughtyman certainly does not have Asperger's because he is very social; although he has some anxiety around new people and situations, he doesn't avoid social contact--he will look you in the eye when you talk to him, and he's a loving and giving boy). He's like me in that. Mrs Zen used to google Asperger's because I was writing a character with it, and she thought I must have it because I lack empathy. But the truth is, I don't. I lack empathy. It's not a part of a broader picture. It's just something about me.

One criterion for Asperger's is an inability to understand figurative language. Of course I understand figurative language very well, but I don't like it. I don't enjoy simple metaphors in writing and what is more, I don't enjoy descriptive writing much either. I don't enjoy reading it and I don't indulge in it. I was talking to B and I said, Aspies don't understand things like "my heart was racing like a steam train" because hearts are nothing like steam trains. My objection is that I prefer to say "my heart beat fast" and you can decide what that's like. I like to write in extended metaphors, which are built from blocks of concrete language. I do not say "there were great oaks that spread their branches like a giant's clothed limbs, cloaked in the luxuriant russets of their autumn foliage". I say "there were trees". In my writing, you make your own tree.

Once I wrote a post in which I suggested that women think I should be a pond, in which they could see themselves reflected, but I am more like the sea, where all you can see is shards of reflection, which you must form for yourself into a picture that makes sense. And I think that captures well what is good about how I write: I do not describe the world you live in for you; I do not reflect it back to you; instead I give you pieces of understanding about it, which you must fashion into your own picture. I think it seems I am more generous, when really I am willing to give you much less than it seems. Literary types use artifice to make a world for you to enter, enslaving you to their vision. I offer you freedom, but if the metaphor I have built is clever enough, I enslave you in a more subtle way. You think the shards are reflections of a truth, and they are, but you are led to believe it is a truth we share, because you must construct it. Yet ultimately it is the truth as I see it. It doesn't always work, and failure is much more common than success if I'm honest, but there is no limitation on how many blog posts you can experiment in, and anyway, I am always and forever only talking to myself, seeing my own reflection. What else could I do, lacking any way to understand who you are?

5 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I was writing a character with it, and she thought I must have it because I lack empathy. But the truth is, I don't. I lack empathy. It's not a part of a broader picture. It's just something about me."

Not quite making sense here?

January 5, 2012 at 2:03 AM  
Blogger Don said...

I revel in simple metaphors. I surrender gladly to the artist's vision. Of course, I laugh at bad metaphors and throw the book away if there are too many to laugh at.

I discussed Asperger's recently, exploring the possibility for myself. There are a few signs. But they are weak, and by now I have built so many coping mechanisms it hardly matters.

January 5, 2012 at 2:34 AM  
Blogger Dr Zen said...

Anonymous, yes sorry that was ambiguous. Shouldn't write drunk obv. It could have read:

I was writing a character with Asperger's, and she thought I must have it because I lack empathy. But the truth is, I don't have Asperger's. I do lack empathy. But it's not a part of a broader picture. It's just something about me.

January 5, 2012 at 7:08 AM  
Blogger AJ said...

I wish I could write as well sober as you do drunk. I've really enjoyed these latest posts.

January 5, 2012 at 12:53 PM  
Anonymous Looney said...

I have to agree - I wish I could write sober half as well as you do drunk.

You know my son, Evan, whom you met when you stayed with us - the last screening he had by the SPED department at our district scored him as borderline Aspberger's - but while he certainly has some similarities, he lacks some important indicators that would confirm that. We have found the condition that (almost exactly) fits him is hyperlexia. The inability to infer and the lack of social awareness is a part of this condition as well. I'd be very curious about what sort of symptoms Naughtyman exhibits - Rigidity? Dietary issues? Anyway, best of luck with him. Don't let them pigeonhole him too tightly. Our district SPED person has encouraged us to not have too narrow a diagnosis, because it keeps more resource options open for him, and he's done pretty well.

Cheers :)

January 5, 2012 at 4:15 PM  

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