Shaped By Audience

I was watching a few episodes from season 30 of Antiques Roadshow, noting how while the US version is centered on values — the valuation is shown on the screen after the appraisal — with the classic UK version is centered on sharing stories, telling the tales an object carries.  No banner with values in this edition.

Miz Ruby once told me that my blog showed me as a bit of an anglophile, with words she had to check to understand, as I used them in the English context, not the American.

While there are downsides to the UK, it is a country that values language, poetry, context, nuance, age and diversity in a different way than the US.  Idiosyncratic characters are valued, and eccentrics are taught about in schools where language is seen as a sacred heritage, rather than just a means to homogenize for the sake of commerce.

You create a different culture when people are trained to be an audience, to listen, engage and respond.  In that culture, people have more ownership of their own performance, melding regional characteristics with individual character, rather than trying to shorthand everything with quick summaries: What do you do, How much do you make, What can you do for me?

My adopted nephew was diagnosed with Aspergers, one of the classifications on what some call the Autism spectrum.  It is characterized by a mind that has deep internal focus, but challenges to social interaction, especially around non-verbal communications.

I started reading around it.  I have known my father to have some type of autism, dating from early days.  His mother spent cash, rare on a northern Alberta farm in the late 1920s, to have a doctor check his delayed or limited communication skills .  All the doctor could do was hold up a watch, ask if he heard it tick, and declare him OK.  My father didn’t like his mother wasting money on this test; he told her he was OK.

When I read about Aspergers, I had a name for what I saw now, for what my grandmother probably saw 80 years or so ago.

Nothing that can be done now, of course.  He has been a crackpot engineer for so long, with brilliant visualizations that he has trouble explaining to others, always an individual contributor, failing when they tried to shunt him into management, that his patterns are firmly developed and hard to change.

Those patterns, though, have shaped me a great deal.  My mother was lost in her own disappointments, and  I knew I didn’t want to be like her, so I tried to be more like my father.

Yes, that means I tried to act more like I had Aspergers.  Oy.

Beyond that, because he has issues with non-verbal communication, I realize how much I had to learn to be verbal in my expression.  He may have big limits in understanding that verbal  communication — I don’t think he can really understand how my mind works, that I actually have emotions and not just thoughts —  but verbal was my only chance to break through, to be understood.

My deep understanding of self is not verbal, it is deeper and more intense than that.  I am the shadows my words cast, not my words.  To my father, though, those shadows are invisible, and the claim of them is just confusing and disrupting to him

I have spent my life trying to engage someone with Aspergers, and that has defined me in many ways.

My audience shaped me, for good or for bad.  Just did.