navigating a world which feels like gravity is working in reverse

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  • my dad says part 2

    One of the things my dad used to say is, “it’s only money”.  Basically we have always been poor (at least for Americans) and so much of what one needs to advance in life requires significant financial outlay.  For example going to school to get another degree or even getting a therapist that specializes with adults on the spectrum.  I was also thinking about this today because there is a great recipe API I could use to make a site for people with food allergies but its cost structure is such that I could never make the site free.



    The second had to do with actively verses passively failing.  Basically existentially trying and failing feels worse than not trying at all.  People talk about taking “social risks” and such but they don’t often speak of the emotional fallout of repeated failure.  It took me seven years to find friends here and some of those years I just quit trying.  It was just luck, not effort, that brought me the few friends I do have.  Getting back to the point people romanticizing trying often gloss over the fact that some people (especially as you get closer to the bottom) are going to fail so much that for them it would have better if they hadn’t tried at all.  Not something I’d put on a motivation poster but true.

  • Shaming Unworking Men

    NYTimes article on men not working:

    Mr. Eberstadt would also like to intensify social pressure on the cadre of men who have stopped looking for work. “Why haven’t we had the same sort of conversation about stigmatizing or shaming unworking men that we had 20 years ago about mothers on welfare?” he said. “They were not idle; they had little kids.”

    Hahahahahahaha!  As a man without a real job I get shamed all the time.  I’ve been called a charity case by my brother and law and my closest friend from college dropped out of my life because I’m low status.  One of the conservative tropes I do think is relevant is “culture of work”.  My family and friends have a huge culture of work.  If I was in a different situation where few people worked perhaps I wouldn’t feel so bad.

  • ArtPrize Piece


    Amazing ArtPrize piece taking up a whole wall of Monroe Community Church on Congolese orphans.

    ArtPrize has had a lot of pleasant surprises this year.  For colorist fiends like me Fifth Third Bank, Park Congregational Church, and The Waters Center were great.  For more introspective stuff Monroe Community Church, Fountain Street Church, the City Water Building, and Western Michigan University (by the bus station) were good.  And I hear there are many more good venues I haven’t visited.

  • Close Call

    Just had a close call with a tornado warning.  A strong system was headed towards us but luckily it didn’t touch down in the city proper.

    We had to go in the basement and the only thing I took from my upstairs room was my medication.  Not my journals, diaries, computers, or letters.  I guess I’m not really attached to anything besides what sustains my sanity.


  • Guilt Drowned Out By Shame

    I think I have a poor capacity to process negative emotions.  For example most of my life my radar has been jammed by shame (for looking/being different, not having a job, a place, and SO, etc..).  This has drowned out the guilt I’m supposed to feel that would goad me towards Christianity.  The Christian message, at least in the traditions I’ve been in has gone something like this:

    • You aren’t perfect and should feel guilty about this
    • Luckily our religion will wash away your guilt with Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross
    • Well not really, we were kidding about that.  Guilt is the lever we’ll use to keep you in line (because you’re still not perfect and you still should feel guilty about this fact).

    (Christian traditions vary mainly by how disingenuous they are about the facts above)

    The problem with this whole thing (at least for me and I suspect a lot of people) is that our negative emotion “radio” is not well developed enough.  Shame comes in on the same channel as guilt and drowns the guilt right out (because, at least in my case, the shame is felt much stronger).  I suspect that in earlier times when Christian mores were more prevalent, shame was used a lot more in keeping people away from things like fornication and alcoholism.  However that’s receded, now shame is pegged to mostly consumeristic metrics like money, status, pleasure, etc…

  • distracted

    Though I’m pretty godless I still pray once in a while (because I’ve experienced too much of the spiritual world to be an atheist).  I find now that I’m more distracted with my eyes closed than open (because my mind is in overdrive).  So I pray with my eyes open.

  • the system is no longer just

    Comment I posted on Reddit thread how millennials are checked out of work:

    People are just wising up. In America religion was a catalyst to getting employees to put their nose down and work hard and employers (at their best) would agree to treat their employees justly. But in the last 40 years employers have tried to milk this for all it’s worth without holding up their end of the bargain. It worked for a while but eventually employees wised up and started working like they were disposable. And more recently the younger generation is dropping out of religion like flies because for them there has never been a time where the social contract was more than a piece of paper.

    People seem to forget that you only reap what you sow.

    The system will bend over backwards to get us to believe it is just.  This is because if we believe the system is just then we’ll feel a lot worse when we go up against it.  I was brought up Christian and to believe the system was just.  And it was more just when my parents were growing up, in the early 80’s a church my dad worked at even paid international airfare to get my eyes checked every six months while they were in Honduras.  But my experience after 2000 is the Christian and secular system is no longer just.  But because I was brought up to believe the system was just I feel worse going up against it than I probably should.  I know the upcoming generation won’t and I’m happy for them.

  • Testing

    So I found out today it’s $800-$1,200 to get tested to see whether I’m on the spectrum (they don’t take any of the insurance I have).  I’ve been told I have some traits of people on the spectrum by psychiatrists but never got formal testing done.  Part of the reason I don’t have that kind of money is because of disability based prejudice partially due to things that look an awful lot like autism symptoms.

  • signs I was on the spectrum

    My parents and others are still in denial about me being on the spectrum.  Since I was born blind and had poor vision as a baby they pin all my abnormal behavior on the visual impairment.

    I was always bad with eye contact from my birth to this day.  I was better at it when I wore contacts and looked normal because looking normal made people treat me a lot better so there was a positive feedback loop that went on there.  This could be blamed on my poor vision which a good portion of it probably was.

    At the age of two I would bang my head on the tile floor of our house on Honduras (my dad was a pastor of an expat church in the capital there).  I also held in my stool when I was potty training so when it finally had to come out it was painful.  My first memories were of nightmares.  I don’t know what they were about, I just know the feeling was so intense it stuck with me. When I napped I always needed a specific set of toys with me including a light box which allowed me to count in binary (my dad’s friend was an engineering genius I guess and helped make it for me).  I was very good at the memory card game played before naps which surprises me because I’m terrible at it now.  I attacked certain toys like biting the forehead of my big sister’s doll and a ripping into a stuffed monkey I hated with uncommon passion.

    I started talking late and before being able to speak I had echolalia, where my mother would say, “say goodbye Matthew”, and I’d say “say goodbye Matthew”.  By now we had moved back to the states, I had a speech pathologist and instructions like “take your jacket off” had to be turned into rules in order for me to follow them.  Our family was strict by today’s standards, siblings tell me I got spanked the most but it wasn’t that often as the threat of it kept us in line.  As a preschooler I liked to count steps up the porch to our house.

    We were definitely free range kids.  At five years old I was permitted to climb trees in the back forest of my grandma’s house, I’d get almost a hundred feet up.  It’s one of my best memories.

    At age seven I couldn’t think of a person (I ended up making up for this later in life when obsessive thoughts of people almost thought themselves).  I know this because my mom would sing me this 70’s one hit wonder song, “Matthew Matthew Matthew are you thinking of me”.  And I would always say no and it would puzzle her.  At age 10 I always wanted to watch the Weather Channel much to the chagrin of my siblings.  I still have journals from when I was that age and it’s amazing how social I was as a kid.  I wrote about and interacted with people normally without a second thought.  Of course this was before junior high when people’s standards for interacting with people become more stringent.

    In junior high I got bullied by a teacher and some students.  I was pushed in a urinal a couple times and got my lunch thrown away some but talking to others on the internet with my pathologies this was very mild compared to what they went through.  At home I would complain incessantly about things like supper time.

    Late junior high and high school I wasted a lot of time on the computer, so much so that one of the only girls I was ever friends with came up I was too busy making a level of a game to hang out with her (at the time I didn’t know how hard it would be for me to find female friends).  I was raised Evangelical Christian but got a hold of my brother’s copy of Nine Inch Nails’ Pretty Hate Machine and those songs resonated with me more deeply than anything coming from church.  Freshman year I said my big brother was a virgin in a packed lunch room and everybody laughed.  I wasn’t socially aware enough to know that there was anything wrong with that and my big brother didn’t like me tagging along with him after that.

    High school was the time of my life where I was the most attractive (I had contacts by now so my eyes looked normal) so that helped make up for my social awkwardness.  I looked up girls’ numbers in the phone book instead of asking them for them because I didn’t know that social convention.  What made high school OK is most of the people were lower income and less obsessed with social conventions.  When I went to Wheaton I noticed an uptick of maltreatment while at the same time finding some awesome people.  Freshman year I would run to class and do other weird stuff.

    My sophomore year of college was the time of my life I made the biggest commitment to be normal.  I stopped my primary stimming (wagging my head back and fourth, something they say blind people do too) and started putting energy into being socially aware.  There was payoff because that was the year in my life I had the most friends.  Eventually everything went downhill as my eyes dried out so I couldn’t use my contacts anymore which resulted in social interactions being more full of negative feedback loops.

    I didn’t find out I was somewhat on the spectrum until 2004 when I went to a psychiatrist to treat my depression.  He said I exhibited some Asperger symptoms.  To this day no one has given me a written test to ascertain whether I’m on the spectrum and I know if they do they’ll find out I am because I score deeply in autism territory on those tests.

  • suffering and character

    life rarely decrements gently
    you usually lose a lot of things at once

    I don’t see anything redemptive in any of my suffering, at least not in any way shape or form that offers any benefit to me.  As one of my poems suggest, suffering may build character in one’s life but it definitely removes characters from one’s life!  “God’s plan” is complete red herring because people will let you know your life isn’t going according to it by treating you like you’re invisible.  Very little of what I write is redemptive because very little of what I experience is redemptive.  And the rare times I do experience things that are redemptive I chalk them up to dumb luck because they happen so seldom.

    Keep in mind all my poetry and all my writing (especially writing on religion) is a waste product of my mind.  I don’t regard it as anything above that.  The programming I do and the music I (rarely) write is the non waste product I produce (admittedly I produce less of this than the waste).