Vitruvian Lines – Part 4: Socialisation and Communication

Image result for vitruvian man

Time to look, I think, rather more closely at the Leonardo drawing I’ve been using as my analogy for the two ‘populations’ of humanity: The Vitruvian Man.

Fitting comfortably within the circle, legs and hands spread, stands the neurotypical – the type of person who might commonly be referred to as ‘well rounded’ or even ‘normal’, in that he represents the larger portion of humankind.   He also fits within the square, incidentally.  He looks exuberant, relaxed and in control of all he surveys.

Now turn your attention to the ‘square filler’.  He has a more formal stance – feet together, arms stretching out at right angles to his body and not quite able to reach to the edge of the circle.  In some way he is restricted, held back from fully accessing all parts of the circle.  He represents, in this analogy, the autist, the highly sensitive person, the one labelled by the experts as disordered or dys-something-or-the-other.  Before we dismiss this individual as a more limited version of the circle filler, though, take a look at his left foot.  This person has a toe-hold in a realm quite inaccessible to his companion. If we think of the circle as our familiar world view, notice that there is space not bounded by it that lies to left and right below its surface.  Our square filler can reach into that space and access areas invisible and inaccessible to the neurotypical population.  It is one of those areas I’d like to examine today.

Read any formal definition of autistic perception and phrases like ‘difficulties with socialisation and communication’ will predominate.  Can I challenge that?  Can I venture where my Vitruvian’s big toe is pointing and replace the word ‘difficulties’ with ‘differences’?

Children, Blue, Play, Background, GreenI first began to understand that there were different methods of communicating and socialising when I worked in special education.  I was at the classroom window watching several children aged between 5 and 7, all with some degree of autistic perception and virtually no intelligible spoken language.  Despite that, they were each taking roles within an imaginative game.  It had a definite storyline.  Each of them knew what to do – when it was time for one person to bring the tricycle taxi to the playhouse door, who was going to ride in it, where they were going and so forth.  I tried to figure out what was happening.  Was it that they had learned to understand each other’s spoken language?  No – there was virtually no speech – just laughter, shrieks and sound effects.  There was also a great deal of looking.  As they watched one another, I realised, they were communicating.  I was watching a bunch of little kids communicating telepathically with each other.  That realisation changed my life.

Having keenly watched the development of my grandchildren, I firmly believe that all infants begin life with considerable and wide-ranging telepathic skills.  This telepathy works both ways.  They can pick up the thoughts of others (not necessarily verbal thoughts alone, but states of mind, concepts and emotions) and can transmit their own to people with whom they have established a telepathic link.  Thus not everyone knows why a baby is crying, but the mother or sibling often will.  I believe the process of this ‘linking’ is in some way related to quantum entanglement, so that time and space are not relevant.

This is by no means the only example of alternative methods of communication and socialisation.  Last year I read an article about an isolated tribe who communicated via dreaming.  If a decision needed to be made, the tribal elder or shaman would ask the community to explore the issue in their dream state.  The next morning a consensus would have been reached as a shared dream had allowed them to come to a conclusion.  The anthropologist studying this group reported that shared dreaming was considered by the tribe to be a normal, important aspect of social life.

Buddha Statue, Stone Statues, SpeakNeither of these forms of communicating would be considered likely or legitimate by our mainstream culture.  We live in a society where spoken and written language has been the primary means of communication for many centuries.  The language we use in the West depends heavily upon taxonomy – classification.  Thus a child learns that a Great Dane, a dingo and a Jack Russell are all dogs, but a fox isn’t.  It’s far from straightforward.

It is said that if spelling were as fluid now as it was in Shakespeare’s time, dyslexia would be almost non-existent.  We only have dyslexic people because we have a rigidly structured written language.  We only have dysfluent people because we have a precisely articulated spoken language.  Square fillers generally have challenges coping with social communication via word-based language.

Circle fillers think in words.  Others, though, think in patterns, gestalts, pictures and concepts that have no direct linguistic equivalent.  For these thinkers, word-based language is a problem because of its limitations.

Just about every member of our population has at some point complained about the inadequacy of words to express subtle or complex ideas or concepts: ‘I can’t find the words to express…’  ‘Mere words cannot convey…’.  To make up for this, the circle fillers have added in a range of subtle verbal, facial and bodily expressions to augment the words they use.

By contrast, the square fillers find aspects of this system challenging.  They have a quite different way of communicating naturally, which would seem to involve thinking and telepathically sending or receiving gestalts, concepts, images, patterns or even colours.  They may have adopted word-thought and word-speech as a second language, but it is not one they find easy to use.

As we move into the next section, I’ll go deeper into autistic thinking and communication.

 

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Vitruvian Lines – Part 3

Image result for vitruvian manIn the previous post, I spoke of how well the role of an ‘outlier’ would suit those who fit within the square, rather than the circle of Leonardo’s Vitruvian Man – the sensitive people who are more comfortable on the fringes of a society.

It would seem highly likely that the ancient outliers held a position of very high status within nomadic or migrating groups, since they were responsible for everyone’s safety and the success of the journey.  What happened to them, though, when the travellers decided to settle and build permanent homes?  I suspect that they retained their revered status within the tribe.  There is a small but important piece of evidence for this.

Within the last year – so I learned from a recent BBC archaeology programme – it has been discovered that Avebury – the world’s largest stone circle – originally had a building at its centre, and that building (which predates the stones) was … a house.

Grass, Landscape, Outdoors, NatureAt first, this seems something of a let-down.  For years we have venerated and romanticised these stone structures as the site of religious rituals, meaningful astrological observation or sacrifice to pagan gods.  Are we now to believe that they went to the huge effort of building a stone circle, a series of elaborate avenues and other complex structures to honour a simple house?

I suspect that is exactly what they did.   The symbolic importance of the first settlers’ homes would have been immense.  This was the starting point for a new way of life – a new beginning for their society.  In myth, traditional stories and legend, the House of a clan, family or tribe is revered – not the building itself, so much as the dynasty it represents.

It’s hardly surprising, then, that our distant ancestors chose the site of that first home to build their stone circles as a gathering place.  The interesting thing about stone circles, though, is that they very often have outliers – stones placed at a distance from the main structure.  Often these stones mark a particular view, such as the only position from which a sunrise can be viewed in a gap between distant hills on the solstice.  They can also mark the beginning of a causeway or avenue leading to some other important place.  I think the idea of a central gathering place was hard-wired into these people, but so was the need and reverence for the outliers.

So does the structure of a settled society render outliers/ ‘square fillers’ obsolete?

Absolutely not.

In many primal societies people with this special skills-set – heightened senses, an ability to link telepathically to other times or places, other dimensions, even, and a degree of separation from the everyday life of the society – are appointed as shamans, healers and seers.  Their role can be to travel between worlds, to care for the psychological health of the group, to look into the future or past to provide the answers they need or to uncover the reasons for sickness or misfortune.  They are the psychic equivalent to the outlier – visiting regions the rest can’t reach and feeding back necessary information.

Humanity is always journeying forwards.  We have seen that these talented and unusual individuals are not particularly popular with leaders and experts in our society’s structure.  Some, though, manage to have a profound effect despite officialdom.  When they do, they are responsible for creating the huge shifts in perception that move society into new areas.  The Einsteins, the Teslas and the Newtons are able to access insights and understanding simply not available to the common man or woman.  These people work silently, compulsively, alone and – for reasons we’ll see later – are able to make huge leaps to a higher level of understanding of how the universe really works.

I’m fully aware that so far I’ve written well over 3000 words on this subject and not yet addressed the core issue I promised to discuss – an explanation of how autistic perception works.  Stay with me.  The first few sections were an overview, showing how our present Western society isn’t structured to encourage or promote autistic perception, while others apparently are or have been.  They have also demonstrated the persistence of autistic perception and touched on its value to society.

The next section will begin to look more closely at what it involves, while after that, I’ll attempt to draw in research from three very different disciplines so that we can finally examine what autistic perception is, how it works and the benefits for the population as a whole.

Vitruvian Lines – Part 2

Society, another way

I’m trying, in this series of posts, to identify the key differences between two aspects of the human population.  To avoid the usual derogatory associations that beset people who are medically or educationally labelled as different from the majority, I’ve borrowed Leonardo’s wonderful Vitruvian Man (which he borrowed from Vitruvius) and used the two overlying figures he depicts to represent these types of people.  Image result for vitruvian manThere are those who fit neatly into the circle.  They are those commonly called neurotypical.  Then there are the others – the people who, we are told by the experts, have differently wired brains.  These are those who fit the square.  There wouldn’t be a problem, unless someone tries to fit a square into a round hole.  In the previous post, I used that analogy to consider how our society is structured in such a way that it attempts to do exactly that.

Now, though, I’d like to consider other ways of structuring societies and see whether there could be a more comfortable space in them for our ‘square fillers’.

As I mentioned last week, a triangular power structure has held sway in the West since written records began.  Humanity is far older than writing, though, so by thinking back to a time before scribes and civil servants organised us all, we may find something different.

Despite the earnest efforts of social anthropologists, archaeologists and academics, very little is known, and far less understood, about our distant ancestors – the people who migrated vast distances across Africa, Europe and beyond.

For millennia, the hunter-gatherers moved gently across the landscape.  They would take refuge in caves or build temporary shelters, but they often needed to follow the food supply, so movement was their natural way of life.  A tribe which is constantly on the move and living a hand-to-mouth existence has no need of leaders or experts.  Consequently, I think it safe to assume that their society would have been structured very differently to ours.

In order to safeguard the youngest, oldest and otherwise vulnerable members of their group, they would have to form a protective framework as they moved. The pace of the group would, then, probably be slow and steady.

Mountains, Ridge, Climbing, Open SpaceCertainly there is safety in numbers and it isn’t hard to see the advantages to the group of travelling in this way.  Fairly obviously, though, there are certain shortcomings.  What this culture would need is for certain individuals to move slightly away from the central group and to perform a different function.  The hunter-gatherers would need outliers.

An outlier is someone with a relationship to the general group, but somewhat apart from it – on the periphery.

If you think, for example, of a herd of migrating animals, the general mass remains together in a central hub but certain individuals purposely take themselves to the edges and beyond.  Theirs is a more exposed and potentially dangerous situation, but they serve the valuable purpose of scouting for possible hazards or useful food sources that would be missed by the main group.  Without the outliers, the entire colony would stand less chance of survival.

If you think about it, the skills these outliers develop will be very different from those of the rest of the population.   Imagine a group of humans on a long journey, with most crowded into a central group and a few staying on the edges and heading off to scout around.  Who would have the highest levels of sensory stimulation – a member of the mass or an outlier?  Clearly it would be the outlier.  He or she would need highly developed senses of sight, smell, hearing and touch in order to be alert for danger or sanctuary, while members of the central group would have little sensory stimulation beyond the sound, smell and sight of their fellow travellers.

By contrast, an outlier would not need to be particularly involved in everyday, low-level interactions with others, since he or she is on the fringes of the group and only needs to communicate about matters of urgency.  The central group, on the other hand, would need the ability to engage in ‘small talk’ and general chatter to maintain a peaceful co-existence.

As will no doubt have already occurred to you, the characteristics of an outlier in a migratory group resemble some classic features of autistic perception – heightened senses, often to the point where they can be uncomfortable or even painful, and limited social and communication skills.  In other words, those with autistic perception could be ideally suited to the role of an outlier.

(I wonder whether the fascination so many ‘square fillers’ have with trains and other modes of transport is some deep ancestral memory of this role.  Fanciful, perhaps, but possible?)

Next time, I’ll consider the status of the outlier in those nomadic societies, and what might have happened to them when peoples began to settle.

 

Vitruvian Lines: Part 1

 The Structure of Society and Autistic Perception

Architecture, Modern ArchitectureWithout wishing to get political, Western Society and its offshoots around the world are structured in a particular way, and have been so in one form or another since the writing of records began.  It involves having leaders, supported and advised by a cluster of experts, who dominate, control and care for the masses of ordinary people.  It doesn’t matter, for the purposes of this argument, whether that structure is a nation, a city, a company or a school.  It doesn’t matter whether the leaders are elected, self-imposed, benign or despotic.  It doesn’t matter whether they are loved, loathed or feared by their people.  All that matters is that this is the structure we, and all those around us, were born and socialised into – so much so, that we the people find it difficult to visualise our way out of this system.

Think of the number of times – even in modern history – when a hated dictatorship has been overthrown, only to be replaced by a very similar system, because that is the only way people can imagine society working.

So what has this to do with autistic perception?  Well, such societies, with their triangular power system, rely on the few controlling the many.  Clearly, that has inherent challenges.  To maintain the structure successfully, the leaders and their enforcers must keep the masses as ‘mass-like’ as possible.  Through the ages, free-thinking, independent and unusual individuals or those showing abilities which might challenge the status quo have been punished, ostracised or supressed.  We have extreme examples of this scapegoating in witch-burning, religious persecution, homophobia etc.

‘Divide and Rule’ is a highly successful strategy for preserving power.  It is in the interest of leaders and experts to keep people from deviating too much from the norm.  ‘Norms’ are far easier to control than a diverse range of individuals.  Thus we have an education system which attempts to produce clones with just enough skills to be useful to society but not enough to allow them to question it.  We have a medical system that attempts to produce in everyone enough health – mental and physical – not to be a burden and to medicate anyone who shows features that don’t fit the norm.

In the Victorian era, being left-handed was considered threateningly deviant by the authorities.  Such children had their left hands strapped down and were forced to conform to ‘normal’ behaviour – using the right hand – which often resulted in stammering, nervous tics or other responses to this barbarity as their natural tendencies were supressed.

Today a so-called ‘savant’ – an individual who can perform superhuman feats, like playing a concerto after hearing it once, drawing an accurate representation of a scene after one glimpse or one who can perform incredible mental calculations – is somewhat feared by the experts.  They can’t account for that person’s abilities, so they go to great pains to emphasise the ‘negative’ aspects of such people, such as a perceived lack of self-care, social or inter-personal skills.  Such people are not, by and large, welcome in a society which seeks to reward complicity and punish autonomy.

Similarly, people with psychic skills are often treated with disdain, branded charlatans and fraudsters or laughingly marginalised as weird or eccentric.  Although the police, corporations and government intelligence systems utilise the skills of such people, this is kept very quiet.  Publicly, they are ostracised.

Da Vinci Vitruve Luc Viatour.jpg

So in our present society, ‘Square Fillers’ (see this post for an explanation of that term) are marginalised, put down and attempts are even made to ‘normalise’ them with drugs and psychiatric interventions.  Their non-typical way of interacting with others is often given as the justification for this.

Admittedly, as society’s reliance on computer technology increases and the natural ability of Square Fillers in this area becomes increasingly obvious, they are becoming rather more tolerated and even admired than was the case twenty years ago.  It’s something like the way in which the USA gradually began to appreciate and accept their black citizens as their skills at sport provided the nation with a kudos which couldn’t be reached by the white population alone.

I know I’ve laboured this point rather, but the attitude of the ‘experts’ rubs off not just on the typical members of society, but on those with autistic perception as well.  Like the little Victorian left-handers, they can easily see themselves as deviant and wrong, and embark on a tremendous, difficult and ultimately unwinnable battle to live up to society’s standards of normalcy in order to be accepted.

It is often, in my experience, this pressure to conform to patterns that don’t fit their natural way of being which cause the secondary problems that beset so many Square Fillers – anxiety, depression and other psychological difficulties.  These are NOT a symptom of autistic perception in themselves.

The Vitruvian Lines – Introduction

Da Vinci Vitruve Luc Viatour.jpg

Vitruvian Man by Leonardo Da Vinci

Here it is, finally.  Thank you, friends, for your patience.

This is my best attempt to answer the questions implied in an article my friend and confidant Will
wrote a while ago.  Some parts of what follows have already appeared in various blog posts I have written, however there is also much new information and it ideally needs to be read as a whole.

Because of its length, I’ll be serialising these ‘lines’ in my blog for many weeks to come. I personally find blog posts over 800 or so words hard to read, as I like to ‘dip into’ them and I’ve noticed I get more ‘hits’ on my shorter articles, so I assume others are like me in that respect.

Why Vitruvian?

Because the main thrust of these lines concerns the relationship between two different populations currently inhabiting our planet – those commonly described as ‘neurotypical’ (or, more chauvinistically, ‘normal’) and those who are often labelled as highly sensitive, disordered or possessing some form of dysfunction which renders them atypical – I wanted to find a neutral way of describing the two groups.  I adhere to my principle of refusing to refer to people on the autistic spectrum as ‘disordered’.  I refer to them as ‘people with autistic perception’ or ‘autists’, sometimes separating out those at the highest cognitive levels as Asperger’s (a term no longer current in medical and psychological circles, but still in common use) or ‘high-functioning autists’.   However Leonardo’s Vitruvian Man provides an interesting way to differentiate between the populations.

As you can see from the drawing, the physical human body will fit either into the square or the circle, but not both.  Of course, those divisions only exist in a geometrical sense, as does, for example, the equator.  For me, though, they will provide a useful analogy for the groups I want to discuss.  I will therefore describe the ‘neurotypical’ population as Circle Fillers and the ‘neuro-atypical’ group as Square Fillers.   Why that way round?  There is a reason, hidden in the geometry, which I’ll come to in a future section, but for now, perhaps the metaphor of square pegs having difficulty fitting into round holes will suffice to allow you to differentiate between them.

The Inspiration

“Autistic people are capable of communicating and socialising. They have a naturally different method of accomplishing this. What exactly that method is I don’t believe is fully understood at present by either autistics or non-autistics. I don’t believe the correct words have been attributed to autistic matters to describe or explain them properly. I suspect at some point this will be achieved and hopefully will allow autism to be harnessed to its full potential and remedy the blindness of so many.”

William Bales 2016

There is nothing I enjoy more than a good puzzle – especially one that could benefit everyone if it were solved.  The comments Will made there ticked all those boxes and more for me and I have been working away at uncovering the answer ever since he wrote them.  Some of that work has been conscious, some has been more-or-less subliminal; I’ve simply set my ‘self’ the task and waited to see what it comes up with and what synchronicities appear as a result.

Obviously, because I set the framework for solving the puzzle up in that way, the various pieces of information and insight have appeared in non-linear fashion, so are quite challenging to collate as continuous text.  I’ve set out the different strands under sub-headings, then attempted to draw them together at the end.

In my next post, I will begin to explain The Vitruvian Lines in terms of the structure of society.