A Year Ago at Shift Journal

Nut grafs or otherwise relevant excerpts from entries which appeared last year at this time.


•  Neurodiversity Deep Sea Diving

We live in a society that believes that it is pragmatic to presuppose that consciousness is contingent upon evolutionary conditions that led to its emergence. Self awareness occurred by chance. Academics, of course, embrace the claim that consciousness is unique. But because it is not measurable and seems connected to humans only, it has been concluded in many sciences that it can be usefully ignored. The autistic provide an ability to notice.

Piaget studied children. Baron-Cohen studies the autistic. Let’s consider exploring autism as a condition that can make far clearer the features of consciousness as we study in detail those that wrestle in every moment with those things that the split conscious has a difficult time even noticing.

The autistic are our deep-sea divers, our journeyers into the dark. We need to rediscover how to think like the autistic think. Then maybe we can understand who and what we are.

•  Rush to the Beginning

It has been observed that a human baby displays many of the characteristics of an embryo in the womb. The infant is unable to slumber longer in the dark or he or she would not be able to depart. Their head would become bigger than the doorway. So, aspects of womb life are prolonged into infanthood. This process is neoteny in action. Earlier stages of ontogeny are prolonged into later stages over time.

We might consider where this process is headed.

The acceleration that we are in the midst of has most of us astonished by how fast things are changing. Little noticed is how we as a species are changing physically, dispositionally, integrally. Autism, an evolutionary condition, is blossoming across contemporary society. Social structure is radically adjusting to place woman in positions of authority, allowing them to choose their own mate, abort and compete with men. In just 100 years, we are taller, our brains are bigger (after a 25,000-year period of size decrease) and we as a species are becoming more gracile, fragile and vulnerable.

•  Neurodiversity’s Neighboring Conditions

I’m re-orienting psychodynamic theory to accommodate evolutionary theory. Understanding ourselves outside the context of our evolution is a little like conducting psychotherapy without exploring a person’s personal past. Our evolutionary origins are integral to understanding our personal journeys. As we walk a person back through childhood to re-engage the resources left behind, we must also be cognizant of the resources natural to their social structure inclinations. Bridging a client to health involves knowledge of what health looks like for that particular person. A domineering, commanding female may fit all the criteria for matrifocal matriarch. Interpreting her behavior as borderline personality disorder may make less sense than seeking a context where her behavior complements her experience. It might be easier for a narcissistic male to achieve a less self-centered, more compassionate perspective if his experience is contextualized by an understanding of his evolutionary origins and an understanding that, for him, the narcissism is natural, not a defect.

Note that personal trauma compelling the freezing of assets in developmental states also manifests features of the correlated evolutionary stages in the behavior of adults. The thawing of the assets may release attachment to those evolutionary stages. In other words, the manifestations of evolutionary conditions may be contingent upon contemporary influences. That being the case, psychotherapeutic intervention might result in a radical shift equivalent to a 50,000-year jump in evolution–psychotherapy as time machine.

We need diagnostics able to parse out when a person is experiencing mostly an evolutionary condition in a society uncomplimentary to his or her neurology vs. a person suffering from an inability to ontologically progress because of threats in childhood. There are those that suffer both.

•  Autistic Genius: Real or Imaginary?

This all is obvious enough of course, but I don’t think its big-picture consequences—as they come into play across billions of individual lives spanning hundreds and thousands of generations—are at all so commonly understood.  A population that harbors a phenotype which brings a fresh eye, every generation, to every human situation is going to be significantly more likely, it seems to me, to create new possibilities for itself (domesticated fire, migration, dance, music, art, agriculture, writing, democracy, technology, etc.) than one that does not.  We might consider that disability, in the long history of autism, is an extremely recent word.

Keep in mind too that for all we can debate the semantics of who “is” and “is not” certifiably autistic, the autistic traits themselves are present across the population in varying degrees, working their effects regardless. Cultural evolution happens—so long as we stay clear of eugenics—with limited influence from how we classify those who make it happen. When we do focus on individuals—whether it’s Jefferson, Einstein, and Gates, or our own lives—we miss that forest for those trees.  Those who are diagnosably autistic might be thought of as a reservoir of autistic traits for the population as a whole; rumor has it they breed with that population and actually raise their mixed-brain children within it.  Those children in turn breed further, producing even more offspring who view and influence the world from an autistic perspective—all while they lack official diagnostic validation.

I suggest, with tongue still only partially in cheek, that an autistic perspective is at work any time someone fails to comprehend that “because we’ve always done it this way” is a good-enough reason.  The autistic, as I’ve written elsewhere, are those who lack the common sense, who fail to receive the received wisdom, who don’t pick up on “how things are done.”  If we are condemned to re-invent the wheel, to for example learn social interaction as a foreign language, to tediously back-engineer it by observing how other folks interact, then we possess a skill set and a perennially fresh, outsider’s perspective which are chronically lacking in others.

on 11/15/10 in Art/Play/Myth, featured | No Comments | Read More

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