The Advocate – Love and loneliness

The column for which I won second place for best personal experience story from the Columbia Scholastic Press Association in 2007.  A fact I am proud of.  The Advocate was the first weekly column in a campus newspaper, The Daily Titan, describing life with Asperger’s Syndrome.

Love is perhaps the most commonly discussed, pondered and philosophized subject in the world. For those involved with
the treatment of Asperger’s, as well as those who have it, love is still a topic for discussion and thought.
The city on a hill is the perfect metaphor to describe the Daily Titan newsroom. With its location on the sixth floor of College
Park, it is like that city ona hill where students, through hard work, can enjoy the fruits of their labor and all the academic and personal
successes. Yet it can definitely be lonely at the top. Success, in my estimation, is meaningless when there’s no one to appreciate it.
With Valentine’s Day coming up, love is on the minds of everyone.With Asperger’s, the discussion is less philosophical in nature. The conversation is more about “can we love?” as opposed to the very nature of love itself.

The question is irrelevant.

Can you breathe?

We are capable of love like any other human being. The ability to love by both Aspie, (adiminutive name for someone with Asperger’s) and non-autistic alike is what makes us human. Aspies such as myself choose to express love in a way that does not fit the ordinary definitions of love. Even those who are not autistic differ in the ways they express love and show affection, but it does not make the feelings less real or less wonderful and beautiful. Love created the universe, which is reflected in the eyes of those we love. Being a male student on a campus that is 64 percent female does have its advantages – to which the remaining 36 percent can attest – but on the other hand it has its disadvantages.

Let’s face it, most autistics are men and most men never really understand women, least of all autistics. I choose to express myself through words and actions, and I have found saying “I love you” is much more powerful than giving out candied hearts on Valentine’s. Words are more powerful than any gesture. Yet love is something that anyone wants and deserves. People assume that whenever a disabled person mentions the things they deserve, they often mistakenly assume that we deserve those things because we are disabled.

In contrast, it is not because we are disabled but because we are human.
As I spend my time in this city on a hill, the world seems that much bigger and just that much more isolated. Perhaps being such an extreme man has had a part in that. But that discussion will have to wait.

Autistic blogger writes from the heart The Orange County Register

This appeared in The Orange County Register today on A1.

Autistic blogger writes from the heart

By ROBERT MORAN / FOR THE REGISTER

We are not all the same.

The belief that all autistics are the same is still one of the biggest misconceptions that autistics have to deal with.

Now that the Centers for Disease Control has determined that the diagnosis rate of some level of autism is 1 in 88 people, the numbers may seem startling, but it just means that there are more accurate methods of diagnosing autism. Better and more accurate methods, in this case, are important because no two autistics exhibit the disorder in the same way.

The new diagnosis rate has indirectly shown the world that autistics are all different.

I am not Rain Man. I can’t count cards like that. Sometimes I wish I could do that though. But my only prodigal ability has been to put pen to paper, which I have been doing since I was 9 years old.

I am writing my blog, Welcome to Aspie Land, not for myself. I am doing this because I believe the perspective of an autistic adult is as just as important as the perspective of a parent of an autistic child.

Too often the discussion is one sided and autistics are often not included in it. I am writing this because I want to demonstrate the diversity community. We all come from various backgrounds. I am a Roman Catholic. I have some autistic friends who are atheists. I am of French, Irish and Mexican descent. I know a few autistics who are Asian and some who are African American. We are as diverse as humanity.

Yet some people still operate under the assumption that we are all the same.

I recently graduated from Cal State Fullerton with a degree in broadcast journalism. I work as desk assistant at ABC News at their LA bureau. I am one of the only people that I know of who is autistic and pursuing a career in journalism.

I am writing this blog to not only promote an understanding of the diversity of autism by promoting awareness, I am promoting acceptance.

Acceptance is what every human being looks for and autistics are no different in that end. I also want to inform people about autism, but not from the perspective of a parent or a psychologist or social worker, but from the perspective of a person who has it. The voices of the autism community should be as diverse as the community itself. I don’t pretend to be an expert but you can’t really understand autism unless you actually have it.

I often hear people asking why I am not like their son. Autism is a spectrum disorder. I am as different from Temple Grandin as she is from Vernon L. Smith who won the Nobel Prize for economics. For starters, I haven’t written any books like Grandin and I am not all that great with math like Smith, but I am comfortable with it. Many autistics are non-verbal. Others simply don’t know when to stop talking. Many are also blind. While others have synesthesia, which in some cases causes people to see letter and numbers as colors.

I should make it clear that I do not have synesthesia.

Not all autistics are men. Many are women. In fact, more and more women are being diagnosed with autism than ever before. Also, not all of us were diagnosed as children. I know a few who were diagnosed as adults. I was diagnosed as a teenager. I was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, a form of autism.

Aspies, as some of us like to refer to ourselves, often have difficulty interpreting social interactions. The degree to which this occurs varies from Aspie to Aspie. I remember, several years ago an Aspie friend, who shall remain nameless, came to visit me and my family after we had all gone out. He continued talking to us and sitting in the living room despite some of my families intimating that they were tired and going to bed. He even continued chatting with us from the living room after we had all gone to change to our pajamas. It was not until my mom told him we were going to bed and he needed to leave did he get the clue and leave.

I on the other hand am usually the first one to want to leave a friend’s house when it gets late.

Aspies can be clueless when it comes to social interactions, but we are also refreshingly honest. It’s not in our nature to act with guile or deception.

The Value of Time and Money

People often criticize me for not donating money. I see money as an object that has no value and can be replaced. I donate time. Time is more valuable to me than anything else. it can’t be bought or sold or traded. To me money is a material object and its rewards are only fleeting. When you spend time with someone the rewards last a lifetime. This may sound like a cliche but perhaps its something to ponder. Spending time doing something has the possibility to create lasting relationships and bonds that can’t be broken. What can money get you but the temporary satisfaction of something accomplished or done for someone? That moment is short lived and soon forgotten.  Time is the most valuable gift we as human beings have to give.  Don’t waste it. Once its gone you can never get it back.

Mihaylo Courtyard: for Comm 334

The light dancing off the windows gives off this joyful and majestic salute to those who happen to pass under the archway at the north end of the courtyard. Like the opening scenes of a grand ballet the archway increases in its majesty as one approaches it between the buildings on the north side of Steven G. Mihaylo Hall.

When one does enter the courtyard the grand opening of the ballet descends into the subtle and tranquil sounds of the second movement. A bronze statue of Mihaylo himself sits patiently on the as if waiting for more grandiosity to come from the Sun as it reflects off of the glass which covers most of the buildings. Or perhaps he is staring at his own reflection and admiring the modern architecture with its large window that seem to welcome anyone into the building.

Or maybe he is waiting for the year-old tree in the courtyard to grow slowly and spread its branches like the knowledge of the students who pass by the courtyard and glance at the statue as if to say thank you.

Still, the moderness of the buildings is as inviting as its windows are large with its fresh paint that has not turned a beige color with the test of time.

Staring at the entrance to the southern building, the north building and the south building can be seen reflecting in the glass. Perhaps due to the oval curvature of the buildings which create the semi-circle in which the courtyard lays. As one walks around the building one cannot help but feel surrounded or better yet protected by the buildings until one leaves and with one last look watches as the archway slowly shrinks in the distance.

Langston Hughes: The Slave of Modernism

 

Langston Hughes was the slave of Modernism. The works of Hughes’ were in stark contrast ot that of other Modernist writers such as Ezra Pound. Hughes had more in common stylistically with the Realist style of writing that could be found in the slave narratives of the nineteenth century, while he had much in common with their writings there were some differences as well. Hughes wrote about issues that he faced and dealt with on a regular basis which is more in tune with the precepts of thought that governed Realism.

Still much of Hughes’ work does bear the mark of Modernism in the way that it puts into question the ideas of equality and freedom, ideas that this country holds in high esteem perhaps somewhat naively and as such it can be said that since Hughes was writing when he did he was in a sense shackled by the constraints placed upon him by Modernism. It must be pointed out that Hughes was black, and the other Modernist writers were not, so their perspectives may have been influenced by their race, but that is not an easy argument to make. In order to fully understand the differences and the similarities that Hughes shared with both the Realists and the Modernists an in depth analysis of one of his poems that speaks about the reality of the world he wrote about and put into question the ideals that the world at that time held high.

The first line in the poem “I, Too” harkens back to Walt Whitman’s somewhat self-indulgent if not racially naïve poem “I Hear America Singing.” While some might debate whether or not Whitman can be classified as a Realist is moot in the terms of this discussion, since Hughes’ poem from the very onset is a reaction to Whitman’s poem as evidenced from the very title of Hughes poem. The phrasing “I too,” in the title denotes a reaction to declarative statement in the opening lines of Whitman’s poem.

Hughes writes the poem from the narrative perspective of a single voice with the declarative statement in the first line of the poem, but it in the second stanza the poem shifts from Realism to Modernism through its use of metaphors, which is used to described an abstract idea, but at the same time the stanza includes a differentiation from Modernist writers as well.

I am the darker brother.

They send me to eat in the kitchen

When company comes

But I laugh

And I eat well and grow strong”

(lines 3-7)

It must be noted this poem was written in 1929 and then reprinted in 1959 at time when the nation still practiced the doctrine of “separate but equal” which the poem alludes to in this stanza when the speaker says that he has to eat in the kitchen but still is able eat well and grow strong. This allusion points to the reality of the time, but at the same time begins to challenge the long held, yet abstract, ideal of equality.

As the poem progresses the challenge becomes more blatant, and causes the reader to question the ideal of equality which is more in tune with Modernism and its tendency to call things into question and often express their disillusionment with such things, while the Modernists achieve the goal of expressing their disillusionment through the use of abstract thought, Hughes approach in this poem is much more direct.

Still, unlike Modernist works such as T.S Eliot’s “The Wasteland” which by its very title sets the stage for a work of disillusionment, there is a sense of hope in “I, Too.”

Tomorrow,

I’ll be at the table

When company comes

Nobody’ll dare say to me

Eat in the kitchen”

Then.”

(lines 8-14)

This hope that the voice feels contrasts with the disillusionment many Modernists expressed in their work, and can be seen as a challenge to the very real doctrine of “separate but equal” and the abstract idea of equality. Despite the contrasts with Modernism, the shackles of Modernism have bound this poem stylistically. The poem repeats phrases in the second and third stanzas. In fact the second and third stanzas as well as the first and last lines are almost mirror images of each other. For instance the first line of the poem “I. too, sing America” is almost identical to the last line of the poem “I, too, am America. Both are almost are almost identical in phrasingand are both declarative statements. The only difference between the two lines is the substation for “sing” with “am” in the last line. Still even such a minute substitution speaks of inequality. The fact that while there is repetition throughout the poem is not always exactly alike each time that a phrase is repeated suggests that while Hughes wrote in the style of the Modernists he used that style to speak of reality as opposed to abstract ideas.

The unequal repetition in the second and third stanza only serve to further the themes of inequality that become apparent with not only the usage of the Biblical metaphor of a family eating at the table in the first stanza and how the speaker is then asked to leave the table. While the third stanza talks about “the darker brother,” a phrase (keyword: “darker”), which alludes to race if one was to put it in the context of the aforementioned metaphor. It also talks about how the darker brother will be eating at the table the very next day.

The fourth stanza also adds to the inequalities in the poem structurally and realistically. If one was to write the poem down on a sheet of paper and fold it in half, the poem would not be symmetrical. Also the stanza increases the poem from four to five stanzas, four being an even number that can be equally divided into two parts. Also the fact that the poem has 18 lines as opposed to 19 is equally important because 18 like four is an even number and the fact that it has an even number of lines and an odd number of stanzas cause to the poem to structurally become a statement of the incongruities between equality and the doctrine of “separate but equal.”

Yet even more structural differences in the poem also highlight these incongruities. The first and last stanzas are of equal length, being that of one line each. The second and third stanzas in the poem are also equal length, being that of six lines each. The already incronguous, for the aforementioned reasons, is only three lines in length and is unequal in length to any of the other stanzas in the poem.

The fifth stanza itself also differs from Modernism by further imbuing the reader with a sense of hope that is very much instilled with anger. “Besides,/They shall see how beautiful I am/and be ashamed—”. Modernists would not have made such a statement of hope. The last stanza speaks of tomorrow and the perhaps a possibility of change in the future.

The usage of the Biblical metaphor is important to note because of its abstractness, and thus is a representation of the idea of equality. But as line by line the poem progresses the idea begins to diminish through the references of the darker brother and the idea that soon people will be shamed. Even through the shackles of Modernism, Hughes was able to effectively paint a picture of reality albeit in a very abstract way through his use of metaphor. Yet slaves can often bear the mark of their masters, and despite the shackles placed upon them find a measure of freedom to escape those shackles and become free of them. If Realism was the Promised Land Hughes poetry as evidenced by “I, Too” would safely and securely be there.