Thursday, August 28, 2008

I had a chance to do some poking around online on the subject of Asperger’s syndrome. It gets more and more interesting. I’m becoming convinced that I have it based on the descriptions I’ve read. I also took an online test that said it was very likely I have it.

I don’t believe it’s a disorder though and I resent the medicalizing of personality. To not conform with the norm is, I believe, a very good thing. One website pondered what the world would look like if all of the Aspies (that’s what they’re called) through the ages never existed. So many of our great inventors and visionary thinkers are suspected of having had Asperger’s syndrome. Another website suggested that if the world were populated by Aspies there would probably be no war. It’s all such fascinating stuff. Aspies aren’t oriented to the group. Without group identification there’s little room for conflict.

I’m beginning to think this is an evolutionary adaptation, preparing us for a new age--a new, post-consumer, post-ego, internal locus of control, adult age. It seems to be an extension of the individuation process. We went from unconscious and tribal to conscious, egoic, isolated dots. Maybe supraconsciousness involves the final severing of our tribal identities, which as egoic beings we still carry with us. Much of the conflict in our world comes from our vestigial tribal needs-- to belong to a group, to fear the “Other”, “us” being better than “them”, there being safety in following the herd and conforming.

To still be identifying with the group is the true dysfunction. To me it seems like we’re evolving to be little gods. When we were unconscious and fully tribal, we were fused with the Divine but unaware. Then we separated from the Divine and could see it personified “out there”. Now we’re coming full circle. We individuate, separate from the group, and eventually become enlightened enough so we can see we’re not separate at all. We return to a sense of oneness, but it is so different from the tribal concept of oneness. I can be the individual, the dot, and I can also be the collective. The tribal stuff now seems like a clumsy and misguided stage but of course it was necessary. It was our infancy and the glimmer of memory we carry from those times does contain TRUTH. But it is only in our enlightenment that we can fully grasp that truth.

To not identify with the group of course does not mean that we’re antisocial. I care deeply, probably too deeply, for humanity and I also care deeply for individuals. But from where I’m at with my semi-supraconscious vision I have what appears to others to be too much detachment and aloofness. It looks as if I’m cold and uncaring, when the truth is I have an extremely high degree of caring. It’s just not bogged down by the egoic need to belong.

I’m struck by the foreshadowing in my dream last month about my eye and ear problems. A big aspect of Asperger’s syndrome is problems with sensory processing. I figured out yesterday that my difficulties with night driving are probably a result of the syndrome. I have a tendency to hallucinate when driving at night and I think it’s because my mind has a hard time processing what I’m seeing. It can’t figure out what a dark shadow by the side of the road is so it starts filling in details. I end up seeing it as a black bear that’s about the lumber out into my path. I see Pennsylvania hills when I drive on flat I-76 at night. I see the road curving one way until I get right on top of that spot and then I can see it curves the other way.

My mystical, visionary side probably also results from the syndrome. My mind is so visual, and fluidly makes visual associations. Like Temple Grandin with animals, I have a fluid visual way of seeing reality that totally bypasses logical, rational thought. This is an incredible gift!

In her book she kept mentioning how autistics have trouble with accessing or using their frontal lobes. I suspect the frontal lobes are tied to our egoic phase of evolution, our separating phase. The fact that there’s a problem accessing the frontal lobes is not necessarily a problem in my eyes. Maybe they’ve been just a crutch, something we temporarily needed. Maybe as supraconscious beings who live much more fluidly they won’t be so vital.

There’s so much food for thought here. I’m so excited by all of this!

Oh-- back to the dream--it’s funny that I was so bothered when the doctor implied my problems were psychological. I find it appalling that there are people who believe those with Asperger’s syndrome need to be cured. Severe autism that is being unnaturally induced by whatever, be it vaccines, chemical exposure, radiation--who knows--that warrants a search for a cure (or more likely a means of prevention). But try to cure Aspies! That would be unconscionable.

Well, I have a lot more research and thinking to do on this.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

I’ve been having a crazy time of it here for the past week and a half. When I woke up on Saturday the 16th, Little was missing. This was disastrous in itself, but made all the worse by the fact that she left behind six kittens who weren’t eating solid food yet. By late in the afternoon I had to run out to the store to buy bottles and kitten formula because the babies were starving and distraught.

The first couple of days were very distressing and exhausting. There was a learning curve with the bottles and I worried that they weren’t getting enough to eat or were getting dehydrated. And I was distressed about Little. With no body to bury there’s no easy closure. Was she locked in someone’s shed somewhere, frantically trying to get back to her babies?

Anyway, things have been gradually settling down as we get into a routine and the kittens start to eat some solid foods. I’m not making up quite as many bottles now. They’re almost five weeks old now, so I could just force the issue, but since they’ve already endured one trauma, I’ll let them continue to have the bottle a little bit still.

My main theory about what happened to Little is that an owl got her. Two mornings after she vanished, when Collin and I pulled out of the driveway at 6 am, we saw a great horned owl sweep down out of a tree towards a cat on the street, but with our car coming it flew right back up into the tree. A few days earlier I had heard an owl in the night and thought it was neat since you don’t often hear owls in town. And I had seen a strange animal dropping in the yard (with fur in it) that may have come from an owl flying over.

Little was such an awesome cat. I really miss her. I think maybe it was just her time to go though. I was going to have her spayed this fall, once the kittens were weaned (even though technically she isn’t my cat), but I couldn’t help thinking she might turn into a very depressed and miserable cat once she was fixed. Motherhood gave her life such incredible purpose. She was a fierce protector and an incredible provider. (I’ll never forget the whole episode with the mice earlier in the summer; for several weeks before she got too pregnant with this litter she was bringing multiple mice home nightly for her last litter…into the house, alive, of course.) I had a hard time picturing Little as a contented house cat.

This whole experience of living in a town overrun by unneutered cats has been eye-opening. Of course the cat issues here are a real problem, especially when you have people who put food out for the cats (like the old guy across the alley) but take no further responsibility for them, such as having them neutered or taking them to the vet when they’re injured or ill. So the food encourages a bigger population, but the crowding leads to vicious fighting and terrible injuries among the toms, and disease is the main way population is kept in check. It’s not good.

But, I’ve come to believe, neither is the unnatural lives we force our house cats to lead, particularly the strictly indoor ones. To take away their ability to reproduce (which of course is necessary if we’re to keep them as pets) takes away the primary purpose and meaning in their lives. (Imagine if most of us humans were spayed or neutered before puberty!) It robs them of a major component of their natural selves. And indoor cats are so often left alone, without the company of others of their own kind. To have had the opportunity to see a cat colony in action has been really something! The relationships and pecking orders, the fathers playing with their offspring--all of it is so beautiful to watch. It makes me sad for the house cats (Khatru) who never got to experience that. I’ll never forget when we first moved here and I let Greta outside. After a while I went looking for her and found her in the dappled shade in the backyard, lounging very amiably with two other very elderly cats. For all those years I’d deprived her of true community with her own kind (well, I guess Khatru counts for something) and finally she got to enjoy it. And sunshine--indoor cats miss out on the healthful benefits of sunshine. And getting to supplement their diet with grasses and herbs and grasshoppers and mice.

I’m now at the point of thinking it’s irresponsible to have pet cats (and it’s also irresponsible to feed feral ones). In a book I read recently, The World Without Us (Alan Weisman), the author suggested that of all the domesticated animals on earth, the cat is the only one who would be likely to survive if humans were gone. The best solution is probably to let all cats return to their wild state.

But then I think about co-evolution and how all the cats I’ve known seem to relish their association with humans. With Little I often got the feeling that she recognized us as partners in kitten-rearing, like co-parents. And it certainly was a great arrangement for her to rear her kittens in the shelter of my house and get fed delicious treats all the time.

In The Botany of Desire, Michael Pollan talked about how perhaps corn and potatoes use humans to help propagate themselves, and the same may be true for cats. It may be a strategic move to associate themselves with humans.

I guess I don’t really know what I believe now. I used to rigidly believe the whole responsible pet ownership spiel: spay or neuter and keep the cat safely indoors. Now at least I understand the issues isn’t black and white. Yes, spayed and neutered and kept indoors makes sense for us, but we play God when we do that and I’m not sure that’s entirely right.

It has been so gratifying to witness the natural lives of cats here. I’m so glad I’ve had the chance to do that.

Besides being consumed by cat issues lately, the other thing I’ve been thinking a lot about is, of all things, autism. We’ve had a huge increase in cases of autism and vaccines are strongly suspected to be a prime cause, especially in a lot of severe cases.

But what I’m interested in now are the milder cases and the more high-functioning cases, especially those with Asperger’s syndrome. I’ll admit I know next to nothing about this. I’m just starting to focus on for the first time.

The thing that got my attention was a woman on the comment board on an alternative health website I frequent. She often participates and her comments are fascinating because she has autism. Something she said recently jolted me because it made me think maybe I have a very mild version of autism!

There are certain things that really fit. My sensitivity to sound for one thing. My relative insensitivity to pain compared to other people’s. My highly visual nature. And language--this is interesting. I’m extremely verbal and can often express myself very eloquently in one-on-one situations, but in groups of more than a few people it has often felt to me like a switch literally switches off and I can barely speak. The other time that happened (and the most dramatic time of all) was when I was in labor. I was rendered almost mute. It felt like my access to language almost shut down. Trying to find words was like swimming through some murky world.

See this is so interesting because it’s all about framing. Until now I’ve chosen to consider myself highly-sensitive, which to me has a sort of positive spin to it. To switch to a label such as autism, a disorder or syndrome gives it all a very negative spin. There’s the implication of being deficient, of something being wrong. I don’t like that concept.

One website listed all of these famous accomplished people, like Einstein, who are now suspected of having been autistic. I think that kind of labeling is detrimental. To label highly accomplished people as having a disorder; that seems off-base. They may differ from the norm, but whats to say the norm is an optimal state? The fact that these highly accomplished people accomplished what they did, doesn’t that indicate some sort of higher functioning over the “normal” people who accomplished no great things?

At the library last week I took out a book by an autistic woman, Temple Grandin. Her autism led her to some profound insights into animal behavior. It’s all so interesting. Basically she sees autistic people as being somewhere between animals and “normal” people, perceptually, cognitively, emotionally.

There’s a lot of food for thought here. Someone on the comment board on the website suggested maybe autism is some sort of evolutionary adaptation. For the profoundly autistic, I would have to say no way. But, hm, this sets me off thinking about the higher functioning cases as it pertains to our current global predicament. Maybe their ability to “see” almost more primordially or holistically is an advantage. Maybe they have really valuable gifts that will help us transition into a sustainable world. I need to spend more time exploring this. It’s awfully interesting stuff.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Collin goes back to school tomorrow already! I don’t know how that can be possible. So it will be my crazy life of commuting back and forth all the time again. It seems so ridiculous.

We’re getting a slight drizzle as I sit here now and I was just thinking about how much I love the smell of damp earth—I was thinking damp Pennsylvanian earth, since it has such richness—not damp Coloradan earth. But then I remembered something. At John’s the summer, pulling weeds after a rain, you could just smell ocean. It was so strong coming up from the sandy soil. I often forget this was once a shallow sea, yet the sea lives on here and is part of the energy of this place. I get stuck in my impressions of this place as always having been arid. I dislike the dryness so much. And yet sea is part of the personality of this place too—an ancient part yet still so strongly held here I’m able to smell it, to breathe that old identity in, right here in this time.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

I did a search online last night for Ellsworth Huntington and learned that I should be able to borrow most of his books through interlibrary loan. Most of them are held in university collections (I should have figured) and quite a few of those are in offsite annexes. BUT, they are still available! I was a bit disturbed to see that he had written a book on eugenics. Yikes! Aside from that little tidbit, he seemed to have been a very well-respected Yale scientist.

Somewhere in my search last night I came across a brief bio of Huntington that someone had posted. It was very bare bones, hardly informative, and at the bottom summed up his work in one sentence that basically said he preached environmental determinism, which has subsequently been totally disproven. Bah!

Jared Diamond, I remember, in Guns, Germs, and Steel seemed very worried that he would be accused of environmental determinism. I think he really has continued the work of Huntington, and yeah, maybe you could label it all determinism, but I tend to think of it as potentialities and propensities held in climate and locale. To me, it feels like there’s truth hidden here. When school starts again I will start to borrow these books and have a look myself.

If you take a cactus and put it in a pot with a well-drained sandy mix, give it lots of sun and not a lot of water, that cactus will express itself quite differently than if you put it in a rich potting mix, set it in the shade, misted it and watered it frequently. Is that determinism? I guess so.

A prickly pear growing on rangeland behind Snyder here is an expression of this place. It obviously cannot express itself in the misty, shady hills of Pennsylvania.

Is it too far of a stretch then to say that humans express themselves differently in different locales and climates? And that we thrive better into certain locales than in others?

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Last night I had a bout of sleeplessness in the wee hours. When I was first awakened I saw this aerial image of forested Pennsylvanian hills and valleys, with mist rising up from the valleys. Then I saw an aerial image of the plains of Colorado, flat and dry.

With the Pennsylvania image I had the impression of respiration. I sensed the living trees transpiring and the interaction of shade, sun, moist humus, cool valleys, mists and air currents. It was a very active, alive place. Colorado by contrast didn’t have a lot going on. There wasn’t much moisture, so not hardly any transpiration going on. Not much vegetation. Air currents seemed higher--like something separate, not really born of the confluence of earth and sky the way it was in the Pennsylvania image. It was as if the air rode in from other places and was just passing through, not being birthed by the local conditions.

Why does this feel important? What can I learn from this?

I need to get ahold of Ellsworth Huntington’s books. I feel like there might be something there that would be of use to me. I will have to do a search online.

I’m thinking again about the man calling up the weather. Standing in that dry scrubland, making the clouds build and roil--wasn’t he somehow, through his own body, creating a link between earth and sky that hadn’t existed before? Without him, the air currents would ride over, remaining separate from the dry earth. But he created the confluence that could bring rain.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Collin went to P’s house Wednesday evening, so I am starting my two week stretch of solitude. Yesterday didn’t really count because I spent a large part of the day at John’s watering the lawn and garden (and feeding the cats) since he’s still camping in the mountains with his family. He gets back today, so I don’t need to go back over there.

There have been some fleeting thoughts while Collin was here that I haven’t had time to explore. Something about cucurbits for one thing, though I know how goofy that must sound.

It’s just that I’ve planted so many of them this year: zucchini, butternut squash, pickling cucumbers, watermelon, and cantaloupe. And especially with these ridiculous cucu-melons growing…I just see more clearly than ever how all of these different fruits are really the same, just choosing to manifest with slight variations. They evolved in specific locales orginally, developing their variations based on those local conditions and qualities. But they really are more or less the same thing manifesting. Just with a twist.

Okay, I know this is nothing profound--or it doesn’t sound profound. It just builds on everything I’ve been learning somehow. People are like cucurbits--the same phenomenon around the world, blossoming forth but with regional variations based on conditions and qualities held in the land and environment. We interact with the land and rise from it in unique expressions. “What wants to manifest here?” has to be one of the most vital questions we could ever ponder.