The human heart is a metaphor for an invisible web of intentional meaning relationships. This web extends to everything, beyond people into the entire world/life/existence/being. It is a hidden dimension of our consciousness – a ghost that cannot be seen or measured. Only those who have experienced it will truly know what it means, and why it is precious. However, it makes no sense to those which it does not exist.
This is the singular core feature of autism – everything else follows from it. On the morning of 12 June 2018, it was as if I saw color for the first time while having lived my entire life seeing only black, grey and white. The people I encountered became “fully human”. As I walked around the crowded bus stop, their thoughts, emotions and desires seeped into my mind. I sensed that all of us are connected with each other in the web of Life.
Relational Meaning is more than semantics; it is about an intangible and invisible aspect of experiencing that comes naturally to Neurotypicals. Friend, mother, pet, happiness, charity, marriage, love. There is a hidden layer behind these words. When this layer is stripped off, then the words are nothing more than dictionary definitions, their social roles are nothing more than rituals, and their reality nothing more than abstractions.
Why do NeuroTypicals like some types of useless and meaningless art but not other equally useless and meaningless art? What is so interesting about watching people dancing in semi-regular patterns? Why do restaurants spend so much money on useless decor and keep creating exotic dishes? What do people really mean when they say a kitten is cute but a lizard is disgusting? Why are there stories about non-disabled people purposely losing to special needs people in sports?
Because NeuroTyoicals live in a parallel universe where Relational Meaning exists, while autistics live in a universe where it is unthinkable. It is no wonder that autistics feel that they are pretending to fit in when being with NeuroTypical peers. It is like telling a completely color-blind person that roses are red and oceans are blue; these words of color are meaningless but autistics have to pretend otherwise in order to be part of NeuroTypical society. Life then becomes a performance where autistics are forced to put on an act all the time.
This Great Misunderstanding has created much unhappiness and suffering, including to the author of heartlessaspergers.com. Instead of dismissing the website as a product of spite and hatred, I assumed that it provided an accurate perspective. Its detailed description of the autistic lovers’ characteristics, coupled with my own experience of NeuroTypical lovers’ characteristics, eventually pointed me to this breakthrough. Now that I can cross between the two universes, I wish to dispel this Great Misunderstanding to facilitate forgiveness and peace between the NeuroTypicals and the autistics.
In the NeuroTypical Universe, the social rules and cultural norms are perceived as fixed like the laws of physics – it makes no sense to question laws that we have no control over and no reason to fight against a force we will surely lose to. Hence, the unquestioning conformity that many autistics find frustrating, and the stubbornness that Neurotypicals find equally frustrating.
I also saw with fresh eyes my own situation that I have inherited from my past self’s neglect of:
- Taking good care of my body
- Developing meaningful relationships with the people around me
- Developing my career (e.g. obtaining necessary skills, qualifications, and connections)
- Acquiring useful life skills (such as self-defense and cooking)
- Having ‘fun’ (i.e. doing things that make me happy and feeling fulfilled)
It will take time to fix all these and figure out how to best work with my unique situation. After that, I will develop a way that can help interested autistic explorers enter the NeuroTypical parallel universe too.
The idea that autistics are unable to understand that other people have thoughts, feelings, and perspectives different from their own (i.e. the Theory of Mind) is superficial, misleading and demeaning.
Sufficiently intelligent autistics with enough experience are capable of understanding that difference through logical reasoning. Sufficiently sensitive autistics are also able to sense obvious emotions in other people. However, they still have no clue or direction regarding how to relate to these differences. The difficulty also extends beyond relating to people to include relating to time, space, the physical body, experienced events, perception and more.
Unlike psychopaths who purposely choose to torment others with the knowledge that they will cause suffering, autistics generally care about others and try to do the right thing when they have self-control. The lack of the special relationship between family members and friends simply means that autistics will treat them just like any stranger according to their moral code, rather than that they do not care.
Simplifying social skills to teach autistics about relationships is like simplifying color theory to teach color-blind people about color – the best result we will get is a human robot that memorizes all previously encountered situations, tries very hard to pretend to fit in with all the memorized rules but has no idea what to do when faced with something new. It is time for NeuroTypicals to stop training autistics become better actors and instead share about the human heart. It is also time for autistics to accept that entering the NeuroTypical Universe can be enriching for themselves too.