“When you were a child, did you play alone a lot?” asked Colleen, the aspiring teacher I dated freshman year.
As we were both taking Childhood Development 101, it was an obvious observation.
The answer, of course, is yes. I always played alone. Name the year, I played alone. I still do.
I have a rich, deep and fulfilling conversation with myself.
This doesn’t mean that I am isolated. I soak up other people’s voices like a sponge, absorbing and integrating what they have to share. I listen, to media, to those few around me, to history books read through my headphones, to the noise of the world.
I just don’t need others to have a conversation about what I hear. My own threads, grounded in that “Jonathan Winters Energy” I have had forever, keep the discussion going in my head, always searching for connections which offer insight and understanding.
Chatting with others is a way I offer service, listening and mirroring, being present, but those interactions almost never reach down far enough to stimulate and satisfy my mental, emotional and spiritual engagement.
The tag line for this blog has been the same for well over a decade, reflecting how much people value it when I enter their world but how hard they find it to enter mine. Most of the time, they just assume my mind is in the same space that theirs is, that whatever their conventions, that’s where other people exist. They not only don’t get my joke, they don’t even get that I offer jokes.
I really like the series filmed at the Bronx Zoo because it combines the best of NYC and of nature. The team knows what it means to be smart and value diversity, being there to help other creatures, be those zoo animals, visitors or staff who range from PhDs to carpenters. They work together for best case outcomes.
Growing up with Aspergers parents, I have intense experience with those whose brain falls into ruts, who go back time and time again to their own hobby horses. They like what they know they know..
This makes it very difficult for them to evaluate the situation, understand and keep moving forward. It’s very hard to build change when the agreements keep slipping backwards, lost in the conventions, rituals and habits built to keep lives stable in an fast intense, crazy and challenging world.
I don’t just experience this rutted pattern with those who are obviously on the spectrum, I feel it in almost all of my interactions with others. They are mostly tourists, looking for sensation, affirmation and routines, rather than travellers, searching for the sharpness of transformation driven by divine surprises, by the miracle of seeing anew.
Entitlement is always blithe, putting your assumptions, expectations and desires above others, just going for what you want because that’s the right way. Blithe entitlement allows you to know that it is people like you who can save society, that you are a natural aristocrat, gifted with the proper world view and the correct answers.
Society likes patterns. It keeps people in control, manageable and manipulable. Propagandists know that giving people stories that reinforce what they already believe, what they expect to hear, is the easiest way to get them to make controlled choices. Living in the moment between stimulus and response means making aware choices, not just following the rules.
My voice is too queer, as I keep getting told. And the solution for that is to throttle back, play small, get along, police myself to fit in, at least to those who are resisting their own queerness, suppressing their own challenging voice to fit in with the crowd.
Instead, I engage with the person who has always been there for me, who listens and understands. Me. I am a visionary rather than a missionary, a theologian rather than an evangelist, a broadcaster rather than an actor. The meta has always been my salvation, understanding those around me, rather than just saying what I know they are ready & able to hear.
I know the limits of that approach. No matter how much I channel other voices, speaking encouragement, I am bound by the limits of my own energy. I don’t get feedback loops that “pump me up.” And my own views always have to be questioned, so I over limit myself to stay away from the trap of arrogance & entitlement.
I stand no chance of having my ego run away with me, not anymore.
This habit of solo conversation is reflected in the current paucity of this blog. I have plenty of notes, observations, connections, but I end up just sharing them with myself. This blog, as opposed to my decade of political writing, has always been about expression and reflection, about the process of coming to internal understanding, more than it has been about building an audience, meeting people where they are, trying to start a conversation.
I have always played alone.
Does that mean that I don’t have human needs and desires, like the desire for understanding, for touch, for just having someone smile at me like I light up their world? Hell no. Wounded healers may need to stay in the healing, but those deep wounds are always there, like the wounds of a child who has to put aside their emotional needs to stay protected in the deep internal cerebral conversation which was their only means of self care.
I know what people want from me. They want me to say what they need to hear in the world, want me to serve their current issues with my intense, witty smarts.
What I want from them, though, is something I have learned not to dream about.
It’s very much a solo conversation when I play alone.