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It goes beyond awareness

I got involved in an autism discussion this morning and what a mistake that was.

I cannot believe how truly uniformed people are. I’m also a little shocked at how many people accused me of making the whole thing up “like you all do to get special attention”…

Autism is not like the flu and you can’t “catch” it from someone else.
It is not a “birth defect” nor am I “broken” in some way.
Vaccinations did not cause this.
No, they didn’t.
NO. They did not….
Yes, my parents loved me just fine.
No, I’m not lazy or making this up to get attention.
No, I’m not “intellectually underpowered”. I don’t even know what to say to that.
No, I’m not “retarded”.
And yes, I feel emotions “just like normal people do”, especially when people say shit like that to me…

 

I’m different. I accept that. I sure wish everyone else could.

I don’t care who you are, it’s hot.

I need to get this out right now because it’s already started and I’m already tired as fuck of it.

It’s in the mid to high 80’s in Seattle this week and it’s hot. Now, before you tell me where you live and how we don’t know what hot is, let me preface this by saying I grew up in the Central Valley of California during the drought of the 70’s. I not only know hot, I know Arizona meets Florida hot. I’m talking 112 degrees and 97% humidity. The kind of hot you can’t get cool or dry in because the air itself hangs on you like a wet sheet fresh out of the microwave. Don’t tell me I don’t know hot.

You know what I did about it? I moved to a cooler climate because I’m not a lizard.

I was in the Bahamas on my honeymoon several years ago and as beautiful as it was and as mild as it felt, I did suffer very minor heat stroke in weather that most of my family would have thought was fairly comfortable. You guys in Arizona wouldn’t have even blinked at it, yet it affected me to the point my health was threatened.

I have lived in Seattle since 1999 and I have re-acclimatized. I love the climate in the Northwest and the heat in my home town would likely kill me now even though I spent the first 25 years of my life slowly baking in that oven. Oddly enough the high 80’s is pretty damned hot to me now.

Now, let’s take into account the folks who have never experienced heat like you or I have known. Let’s take someone who has lived in Alaska all their lives; 85 would send them straight into heat stroke. It’s like that in Seattle. It doesn’t stay hot here for long, but when it does happen it’s intense and it hurts people because we’re not equipped for it.

Nobody has air conditioning; we have blue tarps, heaters and de-humidifiers. Oh year, did I mention the humidity is as high as anything you’ve seen? 85 with high humidity is enough to kill the elderly, and it does every single year.

So please, don’t tell me because you live in Arizona or Louisiana or some other God-forsaken towel dryer or convection oven that we don’t know what real heat is because some of us were smart enough to move away from it…..

I know it’s hot where you live… It’s hot where I live too.

Why does God allow evil?

It’s the morning after the horrific events of violence that occurred at the finish line of the Boston Marathon and although we are all still in shock, some people are beginning to ask the usual question.

“How can God allow such evil to occur?”

The answer is twofold:

First, free will. God has granted us all free will and as silly as it sounds to mention the movie Bruce Almighty in this sentence, Morgan Freeman explains to Jim Carrey that you can’t change free will. That would defeat the purpose of us making our own choices. God will not intervene as it is not God’s place to do so.

Second, God doesn’t “allow” evil; God created it so we may know goodness when it shows itself.

It’s easy, perhaps too easy, to allow ourselves to focus on the tragedy of this, and although I do not suggest we ignore it, we must not focus on it. In the midst all of the turmoil, panic and fear that was occurring some truly good and beautiful things were happening.

People rushed to give blood, to help people escape or get medical care, people offered their homes and meals to people who would otherwise be stranded or have nowhere else to go.

Through the explosions and smoke Boston shined yesterday, and THAT is what we should be focusing on.

Yes, we need to investigate and find the responsible person(s) and they need to be dealt with accordingly, but that isn’t the only thing that happened yesterday and we would all be better off if we could focus on the good.

God didn’t “allow” this to happen; man caused it. God did however give us the ability to rise above it and come together as people. Let’s get on that, shall we?

Gung Hay Fat Choy!

As most of you know, my wife is a Gnostic Pagan and when her religious holidays fall on or near Western holidays, she always has wonderful insight and information that she enjoys sharing to not only help others understand religious diversity but maybe teach you a little something along the way. Don’t tell her, but I always learn something from her.

As a Buddhist, in 6 minutes I will welcome the Year of the Dragon. Tomorrow is the first day where we welcome the Deities of Heaven and Earth. No meat for me on day one either; but most importantly, today we honor our elders.

Join me all in welcoming the new Lunar Year. Gung Hay Fat Choy!

It’s time to evolve.

Before I begin, I need to set the stage. And Mom, if any of this offends you, I apologize, but I think anyone who knows me will tell you, when something really ignites my passion, I say what’s on my mind. I’m not too concerned if I offend anyone else.

I was born into a Christian home and raised with Christian beliefs. However, at a very early age I began to question everything they were trying to teach me. Not because I didn’t believe; it was quite the contrary. I was so eager to believe that I needed to have explanations for the gaping holes in the stories they were telling me.

I didn’t know the term “allegorical” at the time, but now that I do, I recognize the Bible as an allegorical work. It’s not a history book; how could it be? It’s filled with passages that contradict each other. However, this isn’t the topic of this post. I merely wanted to explain the circumstances that would shape who I was to become.

Christians are taught many things, and told to accept the rest blindly as faith. I was able to wrap my mind around that because surely a being as great as God is said to be must surely be more than my tiny human brain can handle. Right?

Then why do we continually try to assign human emotions and failings to the Supreme Being of the Universe?

“God hates fags!” – We’ve all seen the signs from these horrible people of Westboro Baptist Church, but you can’t call those bottom-feeders a church. I barely recognize them as human. You see my friends, the God I was taught about is the God of Love and Peace. The God I was taught about told me that we should love each other and leave judgment up to Him. The God I was taught about told me I should accept and love my neighbor, love my enemy… basically to love everyone and everything. So I do.

At no point in time was I told to exclude any one person or group of people because they didn’t think or believe what I did. In fact, as I recall, the Bible is pretty clear about ACCEPTING and LOVING regardless..

So now we find ourselves on the verge of the 12th year of the 21st century and we’re still fighting over who’s right.

(hang on mom)

We all are right. Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, citizens of planet Earth… There is no one single God. There is one all-knowing and all-loving spirit that wants us to understand WE ARE ALL GOD. We are all one species, one people, one planet. And somehow we’ve become united under some egotistical belief that somehow we’ve managed to figure it all out and we’re the only ones going to Heaven.. It’s bullshit.

Many many years ago, our ancient predecessors lived in communities and villages. They hunted together, worked together; they lived and thrived together. When they had a successful hunt or bountiful harvest and these ancient people who in the truest form of thankfulness, awe and reverence looked up to the sky and proclaimed, “Thank you, whatever you are great spirit. Thank you for this bounty!” — There is absolutely no way that God looked at these people and said, “Nope, sorry. You didn’t say ‘in Jesus’ name’ so you are all heathens.”

God is a human concept. God is bigger than we can possibly imagine, and he’s bigger than any one religion can hold.

We are taught that “God created man in His image.” – Can you imagine what a miraculous and beautiful creature God must be if that is the case?

We are taught that He is everywhere and in everything, and that includes everything. Including homosexuals.

So to the point. There is absolutely no threat to your way of life if gays are allowed to get married. In fact, it seems absolutely ridiculous that the religious nut jobs in this are the first to say “My God is a loving god. He is a peaceful god. He is… FAGGOTS! BURN IN HELL!!!”

Think about this for a moment. If we took all the trillions of dollars that we’re spending right now setting brown people on fire because we’re scared they believe something we don’t and instead did something un-American like… oh, feeding, clothing and educating the poor of the planet, which that money would do MANY times over, we could usher in a new age of enlightenment and begin to work together as one planet and do something crazy like explore space or just live together as one in peace.

But no, we’d rather spend time and energy trying to convince everyone that the US is a Christian nation built on Christian beliefs, which is also complete bullshit. The founding fathers were Deists for the most part, and Andrew Jackson himself was quoted as saying, “Religion has no place in politics.” and it doesn’t. Your religion is not a platform for running for office. Religion is not a policy. Religion is personal, it’s yours. You’re free to choose the one that speaks to you, as long as it’s Christianity, right?

We seem to be forgetting that we left England because the Church of England was getting a little oppressive and uppity. Just like we’re seeing with religions in the US now. Freedom of religion. The absolute right to believe as you wish and worship in your own way. It is one of the guiding precepts of this country that we are quickly raping to death.

Now one religion is larger than the others so they claim they’re the ones that have it right. Dare I say this? If I were God, I  think you’d be the first I’d leave behind, because much of the responses I have seen have been exceptionally un-Christ-like.

Two people want to be together and love each other and raise a family. How is this bad? And don’t for a moment drop “It’s a sin” on me. You’re wrong. You’re positively, absolutely wrong. And even if it is, so what? What concern is it of yours if a bunch of fags go to Hell, right? That’s the Christian stance as I’ve heard it.

But Britney Spears can have a 72 hours marriage “for fun”. Cousins can get married in over half the states in this country. You can marry your own family, but you can’t marry the person you love if you happen to be the same sex. That’s positively ridiculous.

My real issue here, Christians, is I can’t see where any of this if your fucking business. You are not the morality compass for the world. if you are, we’re screwed.

No, your God, the God of love, tells you to love everyone, except those people who want to love each other? No, them… you have to take all their rights from them. Damned fags thinking they have the right to be happy.

I can’t even believe that we are days away from 2012 and we are all still being driven by a belief system that is designed to keep you afraid and ignorant. Now, if you’re reading this and you’re thinking I’m attacking your beliefs, go away. This isn’t about you. You’re the problem. Arrogance and self-righteous indignation. “I’m a Christian and I don’t like this so you have to make it illegal!”… Really? How about fuck you? This world wasn’t put here for your sole use and the sooner you start realizing that, the better. Now go crawl away and let me continue.

You know, the word “gay” does not mean “deviant” or whatever horrible thing you might think. In fact, it’s a ridiculous concept to try and label sexual preference anyway. If two people find they are attracted to each other and in love and want to get married, well I don’t even understand the lengths to which people will go to try and ruin love and happiness.

Folks say, “Well it’s unnatural! If it was natural you’d see it in nature!”. Guess what, we do. You know why we are the only species that has a problem with it? Because we have the big brain. We got smart and started questioning our instincts. We’ve been trying to kill each other ever since.

I was raised Christian. However I have been a Buddhist for 22 years. “Why?” you ask? Well, I tell people it’s because I was raised Christian, but that’s not entirely true.

The truth is, I can’t bring myself to believe in Christianity because it’s such a hateful religion. It’s hidden cleverly, but the subtext of the whole book is, “This man in the sky loves you and wants you to worship him, but if you don’t he’s going to throw you into a pit of fire UNTIL THE END OF TIME!!” – Seems excessive because I stole Showtime when I was 16 to watch a nudie movie and I say the “F” word sometimes.

No, Buddhism fit my view of the world we live in. Before I get into this, no, Buddhists do not think Buddha was God. Buddha was an enlightened teacher and taught a belief in God was a requirement to understand the nature of the universe. And not just any god. No, the God I continue to consult is the same God I was taught about as a child. I just have a different method of placing my calls now. I have always believed that the only way any one of us can get somewhere is if all of us work together. We are one people, we are all God.

You see my friends, I honestly and truly believe that we are the collective awareness of the universe attempting to understand itself. We are all one people. We all live on this tiny rock barreling through the universe, and we can’t go anywhere. We are in this together and we are destroying ourselves because of fear. And yet, we can’t let people be people because they don’t practice the same religion we do or because their skin is a different color.

And we certainly can’t attack people because they want to love each other. Just because you don’t understand what a homosexual goes through day to day doesn’t mean they’re wrong, but more importantly is doesn’t make you right.

I digress….

It is time to make a choice my friends. It it time for us to embrace love, and each other. For too long we have allowed hatred and fear cloud our minds and control our actions. The whole Patriot Act is about fear. Fear of an unknown in fact. We’re afraid of something, we don’t know what it is, so everybody is a suspect. It’s ludicrous and so un-American that I can’t even believe it got re-upped.

Gays should be allowed to get married. If you don’t believe that, you’re part of the problem.

I am pretty much of the opinion that if you can’t go to jail for it, like for being brown and praying to Allah instead of Jesus, or more to the point, being gay and wanting to have rights, then we probably shouldn’t be killing each other over it.

Please. Let go of your ignorance. Let go of your hate. Let go of your fear. Most of my friends are gay, and they are no different than you. Well, they have better taste in cheese and clothes, but everything else is pretty much the same.

Being gay isn’t a choice. Hatred is.

Awareness is the key…

I am almost 44 years old. I am male, married to a beautiful woman who loves all the silliness about me. I am a son, brother, uncle and father.

I also happen to process the world in a very different way. I have always known that I wasn’t seeing the same things everyone around me was; at least not in the same way and I have always been fascinated with my perception of everything. I sort of exist in a place where I’m aware that everything I see is not as it appears and I know it’s me at this point because I’ve been spinning on this rock long enough to recognize that I’m the one stumbling and not gliding with ease  through this obstacle course like you all seem to be; at least comparatively. I’m sure it doesn’t feel like gliding to you, but try doing it the way I do it and you might change your mind.

Asperger’s Syndrome is an autism spectrum disorder that is characterized by significant difficulties in social interaction, along with restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior and interests. It differs from other autism spectrum disorders by its relative preservation of linguistic and cognitive development. Although not required for diagnosis, physical clumsiness and atypical use of language are frequently reported.

Autism? Holy crap! As a child of the 60’s and 70’s we saw autistic kids on TV and all they could do is hit themselves and groan. Surely this couldn’t apply to me. Sure I was quiet and found rocking comforting and tended to tick and twitch, but I was just fidgeting, right? A “fussbudget” as my grandmother called me.

You know in the 70’s we didn’t even know what Asperger’s Syndrome was. Although Hans Asperger was on his way to understanding the disorder in the mid 1940’s, his work wasn’t translated into English until 1981 so I was a bit too late to have been diagnosed as a child as anything other than “hyper” or “disruptive”, or worse, “retarded”….

As it turns out I’m far from retarded. What I am, however, is an adult male with a high-level functional autism disorder. It means that while I was developing as a child certain pathways in my brain either did not form or formed differently. I feel emotions, I hear your words, I know what they mean. I am incapable of displaying anger, although I am not immune to the emotion. All I can do is smile, while inside I am screaming to be let out, sadly to no avail.

So rather than focus on the anger, I immediately go into a problem solver mode so I can resolve the issue and make my own anger and frustration go away. It makes me look like an emotionless robot, when in fact I’m feeling all of the stress, all of the pain, all of the anger that you are, but whereas you are capable of stomping and yelling and venting that off, I’m stuck like a little pressure cooker with a happy face drawn on it when in actuality, it’s moments away from exploding and leaving beef stew all over the ceiling.

My wife says I don’t have a filter when I speak and it’s true generally. I don’t know what is or isn’t appropriate to say because I’m not equipped to; or sometimes I say things that seem incredibly cruel or otherwise just horrible. I don’t say things to be hurtful but I don’t understand what is or isn’t appropriate. Sometimes I’m trying to express an emotion and the words that come out will be just horrible, but what I said conveys the feeling. Not a literal intent. If I say, “I hope he dies in a car fire.” it doesn’t mean that I literally want that to happen. It’s just the visual I see when I think of anger. I’m just trying to be a part of your world. I suck at it, but I’m trying.

Routine is comforting. I like things to be the same way all the time. It’s just easier for me to deal with the bigger things if the smaller things are attended to. You see, I don’t really know how to prioritize properly between “my arm is bleeding” and “I need to set the DVR”. They are both things I need to deal with; this brings me to the next thing.

I have been, and am, accident prone in a way that might make you think I’m just not paying attention. I am, and it’s difficult to explain because it’s all I know, but when I get hurt, and I get hurt a lot… you know, I’m just not thinking about my own safety as I go through life. I’m exploring, I’m learning and physical pain doesn’t have the same effect on me that it does you. I know, from observation, that when someone hurts themselves they remember that so as to keep it from happening again. Pain doesn’t embed itself in my memory the same way. I remember what I did to hurt myself, but it doesn’t register as something I shouldn’t do again. Even reading that, it sounds crazy…. but it’s how my mind works.

Having been bullied and beaten up regularly as a child, my resistance to physical pain became stronger. This made them want to hit me more. Let me try to be as clear as I can here….. Although I did not display outward signs of being hurt, I felt every single punch, kick, slap. Every time I was hit with a rock, belt buckle, stick, bat…. I felt every single impact. They hurt. I was incapable of displaying just how much. Think about that for a moment. Imagine being beaten and feeling the pain that comes with that while being totally unable to defend yourself, let alone just cry out in pain.

I couldn’t pay attention in class. It wasn’t because I couldn’t learn or didn’t apply myself, but because they weren’t able to teach me anything. I taught myself to read by the time I was two years old. I was already working on writing. Was there really anything I was going to pick up in first grade that I didn’t already know? I needed a very different kind of teacher.

I blame no one; let me be clear on that. Had my parents or teachers understood what I was going through I have no doubt they would have immediately gotten me the help I actually needed, but again, this was ten years before the work was even translated to English. They honestly didn’t know what was going on with me.

So I stumbled my way to adulthood learning along the way how to inflect my voice so it means more to you. Although I can generally hear the differences in your vocal stresses I don’t really understand why making your voice sound one way is more genuine than another. I hear the words and that’s what I process. The inflections are extraneous data that typically gets filtered out so I can focus on what you are saying, because I certainly don’t understand what you’re feeling. I learned how to look people in the eye, although it makes me unbelievably uncomfortable. I do this, because you expect me to look at you when I’m listening. Come inside my mind for a second.

The eyes are used to see and I don’t need to see you to hear you. I tend to divert my eyes down and tilt my head toward the speaker. In my world, I have just given you my ear. I am trying to show you that you have my full attention. My gaze is down so nothing can distract me, and my ear is pointed at you so I can hear you more clearly. The fact that this is seen as rude by most people is astounding to me because I can think of no higher compliment than to be shown that you are the sole focus of ones attention. So eye contact it is. Just know that I am hearing less when I look at you because my brain is now trying to block the visuals so I can still hear you without the distractions.

I search for patterns in all things; numerical, audible, visual. I find patterns in everything and they bring me great comfort. I prefer even numbers because they make sense to me. Equal halves of a whole. Odd numbers actually make me mad; so much so that I have found little tricks that help me deal with numbers or other amounts that might bring me anxiety. Sometimes it makes me look like I’m delaying or struggling to think of a lie but what I’m actually doing is trying to fit everything you’ve said into my brain and process it so I can understand your meaning fully. I am not ignoring you, and I am not distracted.

I love hockey as it appeals to my pattern-seeking nature. Players start out everywhere on the ice, then the plays start to form. The players move into different positions, passing the puck. I see images and patterns forming. Visually, it’s a very stimulating game anyway, but it’s also just an exciting sport.

I am unable to express my feelings with my mouth. I can’t. I try, and it makes me stutter and lock up, but I can write everything I feel because although the area of my brain responsible for saying the words doesn’t work, but the area that writes them is just fine. I find it troubling at times that I am capable of writing everything in my head, but I can’t say the words. This is viewed as cowardice. I am not a coward, I just can’t say it. Literally.

I have started writing music to express my emotion and have found a very effective outlet there. I can say things with my music that are too abstract to express with words. For instance, my father passed away in January of 2010. As much as I miss him and as lost as I feel without him, I am unable to mourn in a “normal” fashion. I wrote a song about it in January of 2011 to try and express the first year without him. When I hear it, I am able to cry and express the sense of loss I have been experiencing, but it’s also the only time, because that song speaks my language and I can examine the pain from a different perspective. I was also completely incapable of speaking at his funeral. This man, the man who raised me, stayed up with me all night when I had a concussion, woke me up every hour to ensure I could move my fingers when I broke my wrist; fed me, clothed me, taught me how to be a man…… I found myself completely unable to stand up and tell the people in that room that this man meant more to me than just about anything else in my life. I know he knew how I felt, but even now I feel like I failed at that moment because I couldn’t express myself.

Sometimes I appear angry or frustrated. I am not. I merely lack the skills needed to verbalize what is in my head. Please don’t tell me to calm down. What I need is someone to try and understand me. Ask me to write it down if I can’t say it. I will, and it will make more sense; and I will calm down.

Sometimes you will think I’m being argumentative or precocious, when all I’m actually trying to do is understand. Certain points of language and expression don’t make sense to me because I think and process very literally. Without the ability to truly discern emotion I am stuck processing you at your word, in all things. I am not dishonest because it confuses me. Truth is. Plain and simple. I do not like practical jokes; they are like lies to me. If I take you at your word in all things then you try to trick me, you will most likely lose all credibility with me. Please don’t do that. Also, please understand that April Fool’s Day is probably one of the worst things that could happen to me, ever.

When you see me and I’m obviously struggling to get something across to you, please try to understand me differently. I want to communicate with you, but sometimes I don’t know how. Please don’t ignore me or dismiss me. I’m pretty damn funny, if you can get to me, and I promise…. I want you to get to me. It’s lonely in here.

Sometimes I focus on something intently. I’m examining. Evaluating. Learning. I am also completely aware of things around me. If you’re talking to me, don’t think I’m not completely engaged in the conversation even if I’m staring at something else. I am strangely able to multitask and I can hear you, understand you and I will most likely respond to you. I am not trying to offend you, I’m just looking at this thing right now, but again, my eyes aren’t required to hear you and my brain is big enough to handle a few things at once.

Learning this about myself has made my childhood, in fact my whole life, suddenly make more sense. It’s one thing to know you’re the odd man out, but another entirely to understand why. For 44 years I’ve assumed that I was doing something wrong to make people dislike me but I couldn’t really figure out what because I have friends too, and they all seem to like me quite a bit.

I was always told growing up that I was no different than anyone else. That I was just like the other kids. Even then I knew I wasn’t but I tried to believe it, but that didn’t go so well. The thing you need to understand is, I was different and am different now. That doesn’t mean what it used to though. We used to think that being different was a bad thing. Truth is, difference is what makes this world so interesting. Even if I hadn’t been dismissed as merely hyperactive or disruptive, I still couldn’t have gotten the help I needed then.

I’m just like you in the sense that I have the same emotions, hopes, dreams and desires. I can’t express them the same way, so in that sense I’m not just like you. If I were, you would have never felt the need to tell me I was. I am different, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

It is important for your kids to know that difference is okay, and it can be a beautiful thing. I think had I known this as a child, I wouldn’t have had quite the trouble I had, but then, those experiences have led me to where I am today, and I can’t really complain.

I could go on for days, but I won’t and if you’ve read this far, I thank you for your time and apologize if I’ve rambled.

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