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.
[*Update: I realised that not everyone experiences autism the same way as I did, especially females. Some female autistics may already be in touch with Relational Meaning but encounter other fundamental differences that I have yet to properly understand. I have female friends on the spectrum who are caring and perceptive, quite different from my disconnected younger self.]
Why do NeuroTypicals like some types of useless and meaningless art but not other equally useless and meaningless art? Why are birthdays and anniversaries so important? 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 disabled people in sports? Why will a mother put herself in danger to try to save her child even though she knows both of them will likely die?
Because NeuroTypicals 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.
Observation and logical reasoning are insufficient to make the breakthrough; these can only create a poor imitation at best. Let’s say we ponder this koan: “What is the sound of one hand clapping?” It can take years of intense reflection as we struggle to make sense of it. The chain of logic holding us back suddenly breaks one day and we meet the Eternal Truth. The words all return to their point of origin, and so do we.
Likewise, we may ponder for decades about the mystery of the NeuroTypicals as well as how we are different from them. We try to reason about them but NTs never make sense and will never make sense. We may eventually find important axioms that can explain their behaviours, but it still remains a mystery why these axioms exist. The external world can only be experienced through simplified intermediates, not directly. One day, the wall separating the two universes shatters in an instant. We return to the point of origin which gave rise to NeuroTypicalism and Autism.
Back to before the divergence of consciousness lies the Eternal Truth of existence, the foundation upon which allows us to fully participate in dance of the Eternal Flow as a human being. We may then cross freely between the two worlds as an ambassador of peace and goodwill.
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 objective and 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 the dark triad personalities (of narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy) 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 completely 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.
You and I may just be two people out of billions
We will have no need for each other
But if you claim me, I will be your one and only
And if I claim you, you will be my one and only
We will think of each other
And feel for each other
Truly knowing each other
Being forever responsible for each other
Without understanding, people dismiss
Without patience, people exploit
Without knowing, people hurt
Forgetting their relationship with the World
Calculating value precisely, we misjudge
Searching for true happiness, we lose
Keeping within the narrow path, we stray
This wisdom can only be understood by the Heart
Goodness cannot be seen
Beauty cannot be touched
Meaning cannot be heard
These realities can only be felt by the Heart
Every light that appears on the Earth
Takes away a star in the Heavens
The stars have fallen silent to modern Humanity
Because only the Heart can hear the stars