Sept. 22, 2012

Lola, my divine-diva computer teacher in Ojai, Ca., summer/fall 2012

It is so much fun learning computer skills with the bodacious Lola (a.k.a. Laureli). She’s a natural computer-genius type. I am learning a lot from Lola.

In a little over a week, I will buy my own computer. I am very excited about this! I plan to go to Best Buy and get an Acer.

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I think the fact that people with Asperger Syndrome are less sociable liberates us Aspies from over-extended contact with our own species and makes us more aware not only of inanimate objects, but also of other species. Thus, as humans become ever-more civilized, Aspies add the element of non-anthropomorphism.

Anthropomorphism or personification is any attribution of human characteristics (or characteristics assumed to belong only to humans) to other animals, non-living things, phenomena, material states, objects or abstract concepts, such as organizations, governments, spirits or deities. The term was coined in the mid 1700s.[1][2] Examples include animals and plants and forces of nature such as winds, rain or the sun depicted as creatures with human motivations, and/or the abilities to reason and converse.

Let’s look at anthropomorphism and Asperger Syndrome:

In the last decades, evolutionary psychologists have proposed that a propensity to believe in a supernatural power derives from something very fundamental: humans’ highly developed mentalizing abilities, which are part of our evolutionary heritage and are believed to have evolved to help us live in complex social groups. Mentalizing abilities include our frequent need to imagine what others’ are thinking, and our tendency to anthropomorphize. We may jump to conclusions such as believing that damage to our property was purposefully caused by that neighbor we’ve been arguing with, rather than thinking it was caused by some natural event or accident. Evolutionary psychologists such as Scott Atran, Justin Barrett, and Jesse Bering have proposed that believing that a supernatural being was active in events around us is only one step removed from this kind of daily inference about others’ motives.

But what does mentalizing have to do with Asperger’s syndrome? Neuropsychologist Simon Baron-Cohen* was among the first to popularize the notion that autistic individuals either have lower mentalizing abilities than neurotypical individuals, or are simply less interested in the drama of others’ internal beliefs and motivations. The inference is that if autistic individuals are less likely to mentalize and anthropomorphize, they may be less likely to believe in God.

(All underlines, bold type, italics, and the star are mine; *Simon is the cousin of Sacha Baron Cohen of Borat fame and the director of the  Autism Research Center at Great Britain’s University of Cambridge)

For me, I am “simply less interested in the drama of others’ internal beliefs and motivations.” It is a choice I make many times a day when people call for my response and attention and when social norms require that I respond to others of my species. I choose instead to focus on what I am thinking and feeling. NTs (Neuro-typicals or non-autistics) absolutely can not fathom this; they do not know what we are doing, and they don’t like this deviation from the norm.

Social norms are described by sociologists as being laws that govern society’s behaviors. Although these norms are not considered to be formal laws within society, they still work to promote a great deal of social control. Social norms can be enforced formally (e.g., through sanctions) or informally (e.g., through body language and non-verbal communication cues.) If people do not follow these norms then they become labeled as deviants and this can lead to them being considered the outcast of society. What is considered “normal” is relative to the location of the culture in which the social interaction is taking place. Norms in every culture create conformity that allows for people to become socialized to the culture in which they live.

(Note: “body language and non-verbal communication cues” are things we Aspies are not attuned to. I think this non-attunement is partly an intentional choice and partly a response that is required by our particular brain structure.)

It’s a very creative attribute to not need or desire to care about others ALL THE TIME and to not feel the need to conform to (or pretend to conform to) what Neuro-typicals demand. And I absolutely think that we Aspies, because we don’t constantly care about other humans and because we have these “primitive,” more animal brains, are much more attuned to other species. And I personally believe this is a much-needed and long absent quality in human beings.

When I was raising children, I didn’t know I was an Aspie. I didn’t have that justification for my need to be so different from the norm. In American society, being myself means being different from the majority of people. When my children turned about three-years-old, I began to turn away from them slightly; I noticed this enough to still remember it to this day. It bothered me because I didn’t understand it. Now I know it was because of my Aspergers: I was turning away from socializing to an extent with which I am uncomfortable. Children are very sociable and open at that age, and they were turned outward at the point where I turned naturally inward.

Another thing about Aspies is that we all are said to have “male brains.” This is why I am a great adventurer (much more than most women), and it explains why I have never known how to flirt and meet men for sex. Even the way I write about this (“meet men for sex”) reveals my uniquely Aspie approach to sex. On my Couchsurfing.org profile, I say: “I love sex! And I love sex with younger men. Older men are good for friendship; younger men are good for sex.” I don’t think most women would write something like this (although women are changing in this respect), but to me it is not only true, it’s natural. That’s how I am: and that’s why I had to resort to newspaper and Craigslist ads to meet men (which is how I eventually got into a position to investigate the field of prostitution).

Aspies also don’t like, follow or understand trends. A trendy car, for example, is a THING that has accrued a certain MEANING because of ways people in our culture THINK about that car. This is just too weird. It’s a big fake construct, to begin with.

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I saw two beautiful gray foxes in the early morning in the woods near Thacher School a few weeks ago. Catherine Reid in Coyote writes that gray foxes are more secretive than reds, and they can climb trees.

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Our society and our culture teach us how to SEE. People in some societies can literally see things we cannot because they were told these things (like ghosts or colors) are there.

We are told older men are and look “distinguished” and that older women have no sex appeal. So that’s what we see. And that’s how we age in a male-dominated society. If we were told that older women are very sexy (maybe based on physical appearance, but maybe also based on wisdom and experience, etc.), then THAT would be the nature of our reality. And then women would act and feel more beautiful and sexy and have tons of younger lovers to make them feel wonderful! Think about it.

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I am amazed that life is so good. Why didn’t anyone tell me I could camp in the woods for months at a time, being around the animals and birds and lizards for half the day and all night? Has anyone ever told you that you could do this (if you wanted to)? Probably not. Why not? Is this some kind of secret knowledge or something? Have I always been in social groups which ignored and spurned this kind of knowledge or something? I don’t understand why sleeping outdoors, on the ground, in the woods (not to mention being alone) is not talked about more. It’s such a radically wild and wonderful thing to do. Perhaps if I had hung out more with naturalists and outdoor people I would have heard of people doing it a lot more.

Yesterday a lizard came to watch me at camp. She stayed for about 20 minutes, then she jumped and ran from tree to tree to rocks and along the 60 or so feet of old branches that go around one and a half sides of the camp. These woody piles are where the dusky-footed woodrats live. I waited for an hour, watching for one to appear, until darkness took over. Perhaps the smell of my jar of coconut oil scared them. A couple of squirrels ran around, but it was the friendly, curious 5″ lizard that made me feel, for the first time at this camp, welcomed and befriended.

 

Below is a picture of my bed on the ground before I moved my bed about 15 feet forward to a lower spot where I am not as visible from the trail. In the middle of the left side of this photo can be seen the brush pile that extends around 1 1/2 sides of my camp.

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