James and Elizabeth listened to a talk given by philosopher Alan Watts entitled “What Do You Desire?” In it he says that he often asks his students “what would you do with your life if money were no object?” Elizabeth asked James to answer that question and here is his response. (A lot going on in that 15 year old head of his!)
IF MONEY WERE NO OBJECT, I WOULD JUST LIKE TO LEARN AS MUCH AS I COULD. THERE ARE SO MANY THINGS I WOULD LIKE TO KNOW ABOUT. MY MIND IS ALWAYS ASKING QUESTIONS. HERE ARE SOME THINGS I WANT TO KNOW. WHY IS THE WORLD IN SUCH A STATE OF CONFLICT? ARE HUMANS CAPABLE OF UNCONDITIONAL LOVE? BARRING A MIRACLE, WILL AUTISM EVER BE ACCEPTED AS A VARIATION IN THINKING INSTEAD OF A DISABILITY? HOW DOES ONE KILL ANOTHER PERSON? I DON’T UNDERSTAND HOW THAT EVEN WORKS! HOW CAN UNDERSTANDING DIFFERENT PRACTICES OF RELIGIONS LEAD TO GREATER TOLERANCE AND PATIENCE. CAN LIVING WITH LESS LEAD TO GREATER ECONOMIC RELIEF?
REALLY THERE IS NO END TO MY QUESTIONS. I WANT TO KNOW SO MANY THINGS. CAN YOU TEACH ME MORE? I FEEL LIKE MY THIRST FOR KNOWLEDGE IS ENDLESS.
James’ British Literature class read the classic book Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan. He had to write an essay in response to the book using something from his life. It is below:
Autism in a Speaking World
The allegory, The Pilgrim’s Progress, uses characters and places to tell two stories. The obvious story readers can find spelled out on the page, but the real story lives in the heart of each reader. Beelzebub, as the mayor of the merchant city, demonstrates the fear of change and how people can prioritize money over morality. He becomes hostile to Pilgrim and Faithful when they disrupt the town’s normal way of life. The calm demeanor and godly words of the pilgrims cause a catastrophe. Beelzebub condemns the pilgrims because their differences cause unrest and disorder.
Beelzebub forced me to live my worst memories. I recognize his fear and cruel reaction from people whom I have encountered. Yes, all people want their society to be clearly defined. I, however, challenge the idea of normal by looking different, and I bewilder their beliefs with my ability to think. My parents take me to public places and people act as if I am a child, playing peek-a-boo, or they act afraid, keeping away from me. In either situation I am the focus of attention because I am different.
As punishment for the pilgrims’ odd behavior, Beelzebub condemns them to a cage in the center of town. The cage in this story symbolizes how a community can punish thoughts that differ from the main beliefs and put them on display as an example. Some citizens of the Merchant City spoke out against the punishment and then Beelzebub scared them into submission. A literary example of public shame exists in The Scarlet Letter, with Hester Prynne. She remains scorned for adultery similar to the social ramifications for being termed a zealot.
Society still uses a version of cages for people who differ from the norm. My cage was special education, because autism makes me different. I do not often speak of my religion, as the pilgrims did, but I used to scream about my intelligence. The more fervently I screamed, the smaller my cage became and then the more I screamed. I was not a typical student and teachers thought I could not be intelligent. Some who tried to save people like me have been silenced from fear, just as the townspeople were silenced, but others succeeded. I broke out of my cage and now try to liberate others. In addition, I finally found a community that refuses cages and invites differences.
I have to apologize to our blog followers for the month long lag in posts! James continues to improve with his letter board spelling and he is working hard at getting faster and more fluent on the keyboard. We use a wireless keyboard that shows what he is typing on an ipad screen. His goal is to use the keyboard full time because it doesn’t require someone to write down what he is spelling and people who are talking with him can just read the screen rather than follow his letter pointing. Today he hung out with a friend from his homeschool group and they talked for an hour with the keyboard and ipad for James’ side of the discussion!
On the school side of things James and his teachers work hard on lots of different subjects but I thought I would share this lesson on the documentary Wasteland. (James is in caps)
WE ARE TALKING ABOUT A DOCUMENTARY CALLED WASTELAND. A DOCUMENTARY IS A FILM THAT TELLS A STORY ABOUT AN ISSUE WITH REAL PEOPLE NOT ACTORS. THIS DOCUMENTARY TELLS THE STORY OF VIK MUNIZ AN ARTIST WHO WENT TO HIS HOMELAND OF BRAZIL AND MADE ART FROM TRASH.
MUNIZ WORKS WITH CATADORES WHO ARE GARBAGE PICKERS. THEY ARE STIGMATIZED AS POOR AND LESS THAN. Can you relate? I THINK ALL AUTISTICS CAN RELATE TO BEING STIGMATIZED. WE ARE CONSIDERED LESS THAN IF WE CAN’T SPEAK.
THE CATADORES SIFT THROUGH THE TRASH TO PICK OUT TRASH TO RECYCLE FOR MONEY. THIS IS HOW THEY MAKE THEIR LIVING. THE CATADORES MAY BE LOOKED DOWN ON BUT THEY ARE MAKING AN HONEST LIVING FOR THEIR FAMILIES.
THE CATATORES FIND MUCH THAT OTHERS CONSIDER TRASH AND PUT IT TO GOOD USE. THEY HAVE CREATED A LIBRARY OF BOOKS THEY HAVE FOUND IN THE TRASHL. THEY HAVE FORMED A CO-OP OF PICKERS TO SELL THE RECYCLABLES AND SPLIT THE MONEY. TIAO, WHO FORMED THE CO-OP, WAS CRITICIZED AND DOUBTED BUT HE PERSEVERED. THIS IS WHA AUTISTICS MUST DO, PERSEVERE THROUGH THE DOUBTS OF OUR INTELLIGENCE.
MUNIZ ARTFULLY CREATED PORTRAITS FROM TRASH AND RECYCLABLES TO CAPTURE THE BEUATY AND GRACE OF THE CATADORES. I AM BLOWN AWAY BY THE BEAUTY OF MUNIZ’S ART MADE FROM GARBAGE. IT REALLY ILLUSTRATES THAT BEAUTY IS EVERYWHERE. MUNIZ GAVE THE PROFITS FROM HIS ART TO THE CATADORES WHO ARE USING THE MONEY TO IMPROVE THEIR LIVES.
THIS WAS AN INCREDIBLE LESSON. IT MAKES ME THINK ABOUT SO MANY THINGS. MY LIFE BY COMPARISON IS SO LUXURIOUS. I CAN RELATE TO THE FEELINGS OF STIGMA BUT THIS STORY INSPIRES ME TO PERSEVERE.