Autistic Souls

Autism SpectrumAdam” is an excellent movie about the emotional life of a young man with Asperger syndrome (an Autism variant).  The movie blessed me with a warm, joyful smile for almost an hour and a half.  The ending is not what I expected.  If you saw the movie, tell me what you thought in the comments.  If you don’t want spoilers, don’t read the comments (just make them). 🙂

I have a good buddy who I hesitantly approached 3 years ago suggesting his child may possibly have Aspberger’s Syndrome.  I thought it was important to discuss.  But I failed.  I think it angered my friend and I think he avoided me for a long time after that.  But a year later, over a beer while re-cementing our relationship he wondered out-loud if indeed his son did fall close to the Aspberger classification.  That is one of my reasons for watching the movie.  The previews looked hopeful and I wanted to feel hopeful about my friend and his son.  He reads here occasionally, so this is an indirect recommendation — I don’t want to piss him off again.  For like Asperger adults, sometimes I can be a bit dull about how my words affect others.

Temple Grandin

Temple Grandin

But psychiatric classifications have an obvious artificial, limiting, medicalizing and social/political huge tainting to them that requires us to question them at all times. My friend was right to question them and to try a see his child as unique, well before viewing him as a simple “syndrome”.  I understand.

I am also reading “Thinking in Pictures: My Life with Autism” by Temple Grandin which is excellent to help me understand more of this variant of a mental life.  Her writing is refreshingly blunt — much like “Adam” was in the movie.  These help people see that we should not take for granted the inner life of others.  A deeply valuable lesson.  The bravery of these two people is amazing and inspiring.  Yes, yes, Temple Grandin is real and Adam is fictional — but then this site is about religion where fictional lives can still be inspiring! 😉

Cold SoulsLastly, I also just watched “Cold Souls” which is about a company which extracts peoples’ souls (leaving them, oddly enough, largely intact but different).  The company then markets these souls.  I thoroughly enjoyed the film.  First, the main character, Paul Giamatti, was superb.  He was in the mini-series John Adams where he was also excellent.  I am a Thomas Jefferson fan and never really liked John Adams, but the mini-series made John Adams fascinatingly alive — I felt his soul.  And “Adam” tells us that Jefferson was possibly an Aspie (a term Adam uses to describe fellow Aspergers as opposed to NTs [neurotypicals].

Cold Soul is reviewed as a comedy but oddly enough I did not laugh once.  It didn’t feel like a comedy to me but like a philosophical movie — I loved how it made me think.  I do not recommend this film for natural atheists but for those of us with active religious defects (said affectionately), you may enjoy the explorations of this film like I did.  I don’t think it is profound, but it left a residual healthy hum in my mind — as if I had borrowed a soul for a while.  (The movie will make this last sentence make sense)

Souls are viewed in many ways in religious traditions. Eternal vs. Transient; Existent vs. Non-Existent; Pre-birth vs. Post-birth creations;  Self-made vs. Other-made; Personality-equivalent vs. Beyond-personality;  and more.

I still use the word “Soul” no matter what religious connotations it has.  I like reclaiming religious words from the religious.  My version of “soul” has lots of thought-out qualifiers, of course.  Do any of my non-believer readers use the word?  What does it mean to you?

Hopefully, if you’ve read this far, you can see how all these movies and books tie together.  They did for me.  But then over-estimating connectedness is a classic symptom for the religiously-inclined.  That aside, for me, we are all different creatures — some of us are raccoons (an allusion to the film “Adam”) and some of us are cows (an allusion to Grandin’s book).  The word “person” or “human” disguises the uniqueness of our souls by making us often assume we have more in common with each other than we should.  Perhaps it is a good exercise to visualize each others as weird animals more than as people.  Ooops, there goes my delusional religious mind again ! 😉


Filed under Philosophy & Religion

8 responses to “Autistic Souls

  1. CRL

    Your connection between autism and soullessness is a tad insulting! We aspies lack a soul to the same degree as everyone else. 😀

  2. Oh I certainly would not want to deny you soullessness. 😆 For my favorite Lady of Emptiness pervades us all.

    So, are you really an aspie? Do share, please. Have you written on this already.

  3. CRL

    Yep, I’m a genuine aspie, and no, I have not written on the subject. Aspergers runs in my family, on my dad’s side (he has it as well.) I was diagnosed at some point during preschool, though my parents did not see fit to mention it to me until seventh or eighth grade.

    Asperger’s primary affect on my life has been social ostracization, through most of elementary school. This essentially faded as I entered high school.

    I also ( I don’t know if this is related) have a strange appreciation for patterns, coincidences, etc. For instance, I become very excited if i look down at my watch and see a time of 11:12:13, or something of the sort, strongly dislike prime numbers, find it funny when two people have the same last name (even though this does tend to happen a lot…).

  4. Fortunately my initial exposure to Asperger’s came through an online friend having it, so I had no stigma to attach to it. The current show Parenthood has done a nice job of dealing with one of their child characters having it.

  5. @ CRL
    Thanx, that is interesting. I love the pattern thing — that is fascinating. I am priviledge to have a chatty aspie on my site ! 🙂
    I’d love it if you could write on Aspie insights on your blog if you have time or inclination. And please, as always, keep me honest !

    @ Mike
    It is amazing how popular TV can really serve to help education when done right. Not seen the show, but sounds interesting.

  6. Earnest

    Hi Sabio! I recall those conversations. I initially cut you off out of feelings of genetic guilt. I know full well where the boy in question gets his checkered brilliance and his often annoying verbalizations from.

    I experienced a tidal wave of emotion when I realized that he was in for a life of being “different” because he was similar to me.

    So is this a disease, a syndrome, a variant, a polymorphism? There do seem to be some genes involved:

    Click to access SGL0016.pdf

    After a lifetime of wanting to be normal, I am left wondering what normal really is….

  7. @ Earnest

    I like the complex “abnormal” of all my friends. Too normal is just not very attractive! 🙂
    Thanks for stopping in Earnest. We must kayak soon.

  8. Andrew

    “I like reclaiming religious words from the religious.”

    A little derail from the conversation here, but I became fixated on this statement.

    The only way religious words make any sense to me at all is if I reclaim them, in the sense of redefining them. This kind of exercise is vastly underrated or ignored or something. When the religious awaken to this, that they do not own words or their definitions, that’s when the interesting discourse and growth comes along.

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