30 to-day…

It’s my 30th birthday to-day. I don’t remember my 20th birthday at all but I remember that I was diagnosed with “Asperger syndrome” that year. I also remember reading Michael Davies in the waiting area of the Maudsley Hospital, and thinking that he was a visionary of unparalleled erudition. Looking back, it’s at once irritating to see how obsessed and naive I was, but also liberating in that the obsession paled away comparatively quickly, with sound company and a healthy thirst for true knowledge, unabridged by ideology, while in others they festered away (and perhaps still do). I suppose that nowadays I am less important to most people. If people remember me at all, it’s as that fiery youth, holding the establishment types to the honesty of what really happened, and how things should be, in the impetuosity of his wrath. How soon that fire smouldered! These days I look aghast at members of the old communion as I would at Jehovah’s Witnesses standing at railway stations, asking what the Bible really teaches (or what the prayer really says!) with that characteristically vacant, yet unflinchingly dogmatic, expression. A bit like Pilgrim looking back at the city of destruction, or the prodigal son at the swine. Would you go back to gnaw at yourself with resentful obsession if you had found the pearl of great price?

This is not esoteric. I am not an intellectual; I am just a neophyte who has nothing more, still less original, to say other than the words of the Fathers and of Scripture. Come and see! Or to-day, the Friday of the fourth week of Great Lent, I am reminded of God’s command to our father Abraham, The LORD had said unto Abraham: Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will show thee.

3 thoughts on “30 to-day…

  1. Many things happen in 10 years. I was your age in 1989, when I was at University and the Berlin Wall came down. It seemed to be surreal in my little Swiss enclave!

    I can thank you for something, the notion of Aspergers of which I knew nothing until I heard about it from you and John Beeler in America, and then I started researching it and myself got a diagnosis last December. On one side, it’s a word that gives an explanation to things we don’t understand about ourselves and to some extent gets us “off the hook” with parents, friends, etc. I went through more hell than I would have believed pursuing the priesthood. On the other hand, it makes “neurotypicals” express a condescending attitude in our regard as to someone with a disease or a handicap. I suppose we can’t have our cake and eat it in our corporate, collective and competitive world.

    There are some lovely expressions in what you have just written, like a “healthy thirst for true knowledge, unabridged by ideology”. I hope you are still interested in Tolkein, and you would do well to read more on early Idealism and Romanticism – which to me almost seem to be a “philosophical Aspergers” with concepts like Sehnsucht and Lebenschmerz. We turn our sadness and longing into a truly mystical life. Have you read any Nicholas Berdyaev? He was the philosopher who most introduced me to Idealism and got me out of the traditionalist Roman Catholic ideology. His language is quite accessible, even more so when you get something of the metaphysics and theory of knowledge from men like Fichte, Novalis, Schelling and Schliermacher. My big regret is having to read these men in English translation because I was too lazy to learn German when I was up at University!

    Be a philosopher, and this combined with your faith will make you a very interesting author to read when you are ready for it. God bless you.

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    • Thank you for your comment, Fr Anthony. Far be it from me to rethink all this Aspergers stuff but since you mention it, one debilitating aspect of it for me is the inability to actually become as well-read as other people. I used to be an assiduous reader, but only of a limited range of books. Most of the books in my library are still waiting to be read, or have only been read in part. Nowadays I find it hard to concentrate for long periods.

      It’s not all doom and gloom, though. Last year I got my driving license. You mention laziness at university (and of that I was assuredly guilty also); I too was lazy for many years and did nothing practical with my life. It was the same with me and driving. I still hate motorcars, and think it a sign of decadence that many people think it necessary to drive huge motorcars with 5 litre engines in suburban, intensely-farmed and flat landscapes, where I would be content with a Ford Fiesta to get me from A to B. But I also remember that it’s very impractical to be Orthodox in western Europe or the United States and be without a motorcar! I am also looking to do training to become a magistrate, which will no doubt open more fulfilling and profitable employment prospects. Soon I shall be more independent and, like Abraham, leave my father’s house to the country God will shew me!

      In terms of philosophy, I have read none of the authors you mention. I still have my interest in Tolkien but I have found that I am becoming more and more addicted to my iPhone and am having to download books onto it to read them, not having the patience and concentration to read a book made of paper. The same goes for music. I made a point of deleting all my iPhone music with a view to investing more in CDs. I have already deleted Facebook and Twitter. Will I also “delete” my mobile phone, and get a cheap one? I say that time and time again but I never seem to have the strength to do so. It’s another field of human activity in which I find myself increasingly isolated from my contemporaries, particularly work colleagues.

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  2. I often think of you and wonder how you are getting on. Both you and I have big efforts to make in widening our horizons. One big eye-opener was discovering Novalis and his circle of German Idealist friends. All of a sudden, I found a profound and strong motivation to get down to some work and find two other persons who want to help me with “The Blue Flower”. Romanticism is “philosophical Aspergers”, because psychiatry is such an approximate science that is often highly unscientific. The human condition is better described in terms of philosophy. Incidentally, the theme of Romanticism and Idealism can save Christianity from having to “adapt” to materialism and atheism!

    I often happens with reading as with writing. Sometimes it is just pure will-power to get down to work and concentrating. It helps to have a general theme to maintain motivation. Have you seen Temple Gradin on Youtube? She has done great videos, and she had a lot more difficulties with autism than you or I. She really had to fight, like her mother fought to keep her from being institutionalised. The formula is nothing more or less than hard work. Our lives could turn out to be shorter than we hoped. Novalis died at 29, leaving a lot of fragments and unfinished books. Fortunately his friend Schlegel sorted all that out and made Novalis’ name. I am very aware of “memento mori” and we have a lot of work to do before we get the privilege of a holy death.

    Bravo for the driving licence. Motor vehicles are for me too a necessary evil. I live in the country, so I have an old van. I sometimes have to open the bonnet and get my hands dirty to fix something I can fix and save costs of having it done at the garage! I really do prefer boats, though I am mechanically mided. I don’t suffer from dyspraxia. Perhaps you could find a Deux-Chevaux, but they are collectors’ items nowadays and expensive if they are running and not rusted through.

    Magistrate? I hardly imagine you as more suitable for doing law than banking, but you might surprise me. You will need judgement of characters that you may just not have being “aspie”. Think about it carefully and above all get advice. Do you need a degree in law? That’s a tall order. Do you have the social skills?

    I find it very practical to have Kindle books on my i-phone. You can take it anywhere and also read it in bed with the light off, so that you can be in the “Ungrund” of Jakob Böhme or the Night of Novalis. You can also use your i-phone to listen to poetry using YouTube, as I have done with Novalis’ Hymns to the Night. I don’t think it is necessary to get rid of modern technology as long as they are our tools and not our masters. Study the phenomenon of addiction so that you can fight against it from within. I used to smoke, so I know what it’s like. Keep your mp3’s, because they are a lot more practical than loading single CD’s, unless you are really finicky about sound quality and you have a high-status hi-fi rig. I think you will fint that Kindle books will help you back to paper books and a taste for reading and writing. You have a gift for writing – so get some books written before the Grim Reaper comes for you – “Ab subitanea et improvisa morte …” Find your vocation.

    I stress the need for philosophy and intellectual company. “Aspies” are not made for small talk and modern life. Find a Mystery School that isn’t incompatible with Orthodoxy or a philosophical circle open to true dialogue and debate – and not post-human ideology. That might be hard, but that is the kind of thing you need. Also, seek to help parents of autistic children who find it so difficult to understand what’s happening. You can be a living witness to hope and show that obstacles can be overcome even if you never fit into the mould.

    That’s my advice to you, now that I know more or less how you work and what makes you tick. Hard work, discipline and courage. There are no short cuts.

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