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Hans Asperger's breakthrough insight was that genius might contain an autistic component.  In Wrong Planet chatrooms it is sometimes asked whether this or that prominent person might be or might have been autistic.  What about some of the great teachers?   Teaching does seem to be a preferred vocation of high functioning autists.  When a therapist suggested that teaching was an "overdetermined" career for me, she, perhaps, spoke more truly than she knew.

I have read, in translation, many of the world's spiritual and philosophical classics.  None have had the instantaneous, lasting, or complete appeal of the Taoist classics.  My "worldview" seems closer to that of Liberal Quakers, Unitarian-Universalists, or Mahayna Buddhists, but their writings do not grab me like the Chuang Tzu or the Tao Te Ching.  And though there are many chapters in the Tao Te Ching that are wiser. more beautiful, and more inspiring, i keep returning to Chapter 20 which i have nicknamed the Tao of Autism.

Is there a difference between yes and no?
Is there a difference between good and evil?
Must I fear what others fear?  What nonsense!
Other people are contented, enjoying the sacrificial feast of the ox.
In spring some go to the park and climb the terrace.
But i alone am drifting, not knowing where I am.
Like a newborn babe before it learns to smile,
I am alone, without a place to go.

Others have more than they need, but I alone have nothing.
I am a fool.  Oh, yes!  I am confused.
Other men are clear and bright,
But I alone am dim and weak.
Other men are sharp and clever.
But I alone am dull and stupid.
Oh, I drift like the waves of the sea,
Without direction, like the restless wind.

Everyone else is busy,
But I alone am aimless and depressed.
I am different.
I am nourished by the great mother.*

One can read this in many ways.  The best is to take the lead of the first three lines; thus the apparent negativity of such terms as drifting, confusion, dullness, stupidity, etc. disappears and they become simply descriptive terms for elusive and illusionary phenomena.  This is the uncomplicated, clear mind of the sage described in different words.

But sometimes i like to take the chapter at face value, reading the full negativity usually ascribed to terms like depressed and stupid and confused.  The author uses the phrase "I alone" on four, no, five different occasions, but clearly there are others like him or his words would not resonate with readers.  But "I alone" is a typical refrain of self centered individuals.  We autistic people lack a "theory of mind" that would allow us to see others as thinking and feeling like us.  We are alone, not only when we are by ourselves, but always.  At least that is what we think.

Yes, i am "different."  I do "feed at the breast" of the "great mother."  So does everyone.

* Gai-fu Feng and Jane English, Lao Tsu. Tao Te Ching 1972.  The first line: "Give up learning, and put and put an end to your troubles." clearly belongs with Chapter 19.  Earliest extant copies were not divided into chapters and scribes and translators had to decide how to chop it up.  The "great mother" is, of course, Tao.

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bobby1933
Jun. 22nd, 2014 07:54 pm (UTC)
Me too. This translation was my first exposure to the Tao Te Ching and it remains my favorite.
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