Sunday, December 30, 2012

My personal views on autism

Ok, so this is not a subject that I usually talk a lot about, but in all honesty it really should be. It's always been sort of something that unless you're someone I'm fairly close to, you're not likely to even know about me. For the most part I have come to grips with it years ago, but there are still issues that I have and will in all likelihood always have. What I'm talking about is autism. I was diagnosed as being a high functioning autistic when I was 12 years old, What is now referred to as Aspergers syndrome.

If you ask the professionals what this means, they will tell you that it's a neurological disorder that can affect emotional development  motor skills, learning ability, and a host of other things affected by brain development  There are a host of studies and papers on the subject, and if you would like to read more, let me know and I'll do what I can to get that info to you.

This however is what autism means to me. I won't be giving you scientific stats or big psychological explanations about autism, I will just be telling you how it affects my life as I see it.

First off, I am honestly one of the most intelligent people I know. Now I don't say this to brag, as there are plenty of downside issues that counterbalance this. One of those counterbalances is the fact that I'm also one of the gullible people I know. I've gotten better about it as I've gotten older, but I still fall for some stupid shit sometimes. These things would seem to not go together, but in my world, it's just a part of life.

Subtlety and abstract ideas more or less elude me. I really need structure and order to truly feel comfortable. Open ended questions send my mind into over drive as my mind tries to evaluate all possible answers Even a simple question like "what would you like for dinner?" can send my mind into cartwheels. For me, a much better question would be, "would you like beef or pork for dinner?". It sets parameters that limit the number of answers that my brain has to deal with. I tend to take things literally, I have to constantly catch myself on this one. So many people speak figuratively these days, that it can be maddening. I do much better, and I'm much happier, when someone tells me in no uncertain terms what they want, or what is expected of me, or if they keep their questions to ones that can be easily interpreted in only a very narrow way.

My brain does not have a built in off switch. It's constantly going a million miles a minute. Most of the time I just can't keep up with it. It's not like a.d.d. or a.d.h.d. where you're constantly off on a different tangent, it's more  like a though just keeps expanding into new and limitless possibilities  all springing from a single initial idea. My mind wants to explore every idea to it's very end which can be good and bad. The good side of this is that if I am studying something, or trying to learn something new, I can and do focus like a laser on whatever subject has my attention. So if something truly interests me,  I almost become obsessive over learning about it. On the down side, I can and do quite easily become so focused  as to exclude everything else around me. I get so bad that I forget to do other things that are important, or that I have already planned. I've gotten so obsessed about things that I forget to sleep or eat, and even bathe at times. It's as if I've become stuck and can't break away from whatever my brain is working on at the time. Even when I do break away, if my brain doesn't feel as if it's finished, it will constantly be going back to that one thought.

Something that goes along with not getting subtlety and abstracts, is that I have a really hard time picking up on body language. Most people learn to understand body language naturally as they grow older, it just comes naturally to them. Not so for me, I had to actually take a psychology class on the subject, and then spend years studying it to be able to pick up on body language that most people don't even think about. Even with all that, most body language is subtle and passes right over my head. It's sort of like being in a foreign country where you only speak a few words and phrases and no one else speaks your language at all. It really makes you feel like an outsider.

This has always made meeting someone and dating very difficult as most flirting is pure body language and most of it just doesn't even register with me. The times that I have been involved with someone, it can be even worse. Imagine being at home alone with your significant other, you're feeling romantic, and you try to make it known without being blatantly obvious about it, but you can't tell if your being well received or not because  you aren't able to pick up on the subtle body language that most people wouldn't even think about. Does she want to cuddle up and maybe have a little fun? is she blowing me off? I can't tell, it all looks the same to me. Or worse, your significant other is flirting with you and in the mood, but you don't even realize it. It can make for a mad lover who doesn't understand why you have shunned their advancements. Even when I explain my problem to some people, they just don't seem to understand  how I can be with someone and not know when they want attention. It can be horribly frustrating, and has been the reason for more than one relationship ending.

Another issue that sort of dovetails in with this is the fact that I am very uncomfortable being touched by people I don't know. I honestly can't explain why, but it can be a very traumatic thing for me sometimes. It took me years to even feel ok with a hand shake. I really need to get to know someone for a bit before I can feel right with even a hug or simple contact. Having said that, I also love physical human contact, even crave it at most times, but I have to know a person and feel comfortable with them before I can really feel ok with it. Things like a pat on the back, someone touching my arm to get my attention, or other such casual contact can sometimes really freak me out. As much as I try to get over this I just can't.

I also have a hard time making eye contact with people I don't know. I have the same kind of reaction to this as I do to physical contact. I have worked hard on this for years, and I can do it, but it makes me feel horribly exposed.

I have a hard time dealing with stress. Most people, from what I understand, shed stress as they move away from it. So as a stressful situation relaxes, so do the people involved. I don't work that way. As I build up stress, it just builds, it doesn't reduce as the stressful situation fade. So if I go through a stressful situation, I hold that stress even after the situation is long over. Each new stressful situation just adds to the already existing stress and just becomes worse and worse until I can go someplace quiet and and alone and work my way through each item that has piled up. It can sometimes take me a while because my mind has to go through everything and be able to set it aside.

If I can't get away from everything for a day or two every few weeks, I can actually get to a point that I just shut down. Basically my mind just says fuck it and just quits functioning altogether. I more or less go on autopilot, I do what absolutely has to be done, and beyond that just nothing. I can't think, I can't feel, my mind retreats into itself, and I just can't do much more than exist until I get a chance to break the chain.

I've basically felt like an outsider my entire life. To most people I just seem like a bit of a nerd or geek, or that awkward guy that is really nice, but... My life has been a constant struggle to try to fit in and not quite succeeding. I'm not complaining, not anymore, in the last few years, I've pretty much learned to accept me for me, and embraced my unique weirdness.

One thing that has made a big difference for me is the internet. On the internet I am at an advantage to most people. A lot of people have a very hard time interpreting intent and emotional content of other online. This is something I have dealt with my whole life in reality, so I'm used to wandering a world where misinterpretation is just a normal part of daily existence. I already know how to diffuse a touchy situation due to a misunderstanding. I've had to be ready to do so as long as I can remember. It's much easier for me to be myself online than it is in real life because my mind works well with out the nonverbal ques that most people have become dependent on. I don't need to see the body language of other to guide me as to what someone is trying to express. It's actually been a bit liberating to finally have someplace where I have a slight advantage over so many others.

There is a lot more to it like the fact that I am naturally very detail oriented. Where most people can't see the trees for the forest, I have a hard time seeing the forest for the trees. I have a hard time seeing the whole picture and tend to get lost in the details. I don't tend to be very time conscious, I have to constantly check the time or I will completely loose track of when it is. I'm absent minded, my short and midterm memory suck, but my long term memory is outstanding. I don't like large groups or crowds, they make me uncomfortable. I don't adapt well to changes in routine, but I love discovering new things.

I'm sure there is more that I should be including in this, but right at this moment I can't think of anything. It's weird to me, because I know what most of my issues are (I'm sure I have some I'm not aware of), and I understand most of my issues, but I am not capable of  correcting them. My brain just does not work the same way as a neurologically normal persons does, so I will never be able to react or behave like a neurologically normal person.

I hope this helps some of y'all understand me, and a little about autism from the perspective of someone  who deals with it personally. I'm sure others who deal with being autistic will see things differently, but this is how they are for me. If you have any questions I'll be happy to do what I can to answer them, or try to direct you to someplace or someone who might have answers for you. Thanks for taking the time to read my thoughts.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Dictators Killing in the Name of Atheism? I Think Not.

I see theists referring to people like Stalin, Lenin, Polpot and Mau-mau as having killed thousands or even millions of people in the name of atheism. Then they ask the same old question. How can you defend those atheist for their crimes? Wouldn't they have been better off with the calming hand of God on their hearts? These and others like them are at best a poor argument for a God. They prove nothing, and really have nothing to do with whether atheism in itself is inherently good or bad. There are several reasons that this is true.

the most compelling argument for me is this. All the cases mentioned above, the motivation of eliminating religion had much more to do with consolidation of power into the hands of a dictatorial government than it ever did with atheism itself. The church, any church or religion, is a threat to that consolidation of power, therefore it has to be done away with.

In a dictatorship,or really any type of government where power is held by a very small group of people, there either has to be no religion, or the government must be a theocracy in and of itself. There may be some slight tolerance for other religions in a theocracy, but the laws of the land so to speak are laid down by the ruling theology.

Stalin, Lenin, Polpot and Mau-mau are examples of governments or dictators who felt religion was not needed to control the people, where violence could do as good a job by itself. Governments like those in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria and the government people like Rick Santorum and Sarah Palin would like to see the U.S. become, are examples of governments which prefer religious oppression and violence to control the people.

In a very few cases, the government is truly trying to make things better for their people, but in most cases, both scenarios above are primarily a method of control of the masses. In some extreme cases such as North Korea, you have a dictator who considers himself to not only be the leader of his people, but literally the god of his people entitled to the same worship and praise as any "God".

Therefore to claim that atheism was a driving force to any of these people is a nonstarter. Atheism was at best a byproduct of removing the threat to power. So yes there have been atheist who have killed many many people, but they did not kill in the name of atheism, but in the name of power. I personally cannot condone the actions of these people, but I also can't see how it has anything to do with why I or anyone should believe in a god.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

8) Smile, it doesn't hurt 8)

Someone recently asked me why I so often include this symbol 8) on my tweets and online writing. They told me they had done some searching online for the meaning of this symbol and had no luck in finding anything. I was kind of shocked for two reasons. One; that there is nothing online about this symbol(or related symbols) and two; that there was someone out there who didn't inherently understand the meaning of it.

We discussed it for a bit and I jokingly stated that maybe I should wiki it since I'm really the only person I know of that uses this particular version of the symbol on a regular basis. She thought it was a great idea and I countered with deciding to do a short blog on it instead....for now any ways.

So here it is, for those that don't already understand the deep and unfathomable meaning of this symbol 8) it's just a smile. Just turn it 90 degrees to the right and you see it immediately. A lot of people use the old standard smiley face :) which is also very nice, but I found that it was too impersonal. I also see people using =) for a smiley face and this also is a fine example of the art. I've just always(since getting online) preferred the 8) smiley because it just seemed more open. I mean look at the eyes 8. two open circles eyes wide open to what is to come. Of course the fact that you can see what life is and can be good or bad and still smile is very important.

So for me this symbol 8) is my simple way to send a smile along to those I interact with online. I can't always(in fact seldom am I able to) send a smile directly, so this lets me at least send the thought of a smile along. Better yet, it's a smile with eyes wide open to the hope and despair, the love and hate, the joy and pain we all go through. It's a reminder that as long as you can still smile, there will always be that hope over despair, that love over hatred, and that joy over pain to keep you going.

It may be sappy or silly to a lot of people, but I like to try and bring some glimmer of hope or goodness to those I have the privilege of meeting. That is why I try to send smiley faces when ever appropriate and sometimes when not quite so appropriate. I think if we could all smile at each other a little more often, it could make a difference. At the very least it couldn't hurt. So if you get a tweet or something scribbled on your wall and there is a smiley at the end, even though it isn't a huge effort, it is still someone wanting to put that little extra into the world. Take it for what it is and maybe pass it along to the next person you type at 8)

A couple examples of why I'm an atheist

I have certain irreconcilable (for me) problems with the Judeo/Christin religions, that will always be the core of why I am an atheist. I won't even go into how the universe came into being, there are much more serious issues that bother me. I will try to lay them out in this post so that anyone can see what I'm talking about.

First we have to define God. According to the bible God is an all knowing, all powerful perfect being who created the heavens and earth and everything within them. He commands the sun to rise and set, he placed the stars in the sky, and everything happens by his will. I think this is a fairly accurate description according to biblical text.

Now here are my problems with this. First; if God created everything he also must have created evil and the bible even supports this. God created the "heavenly host" all the angels which are supposed to be too numerous to count. Angels are supposed to be perfect beings modeled directly from god. Yet. when God created Adam and Eve and gave them dominion over all the animals he also set the angels to serve them. This upset Satan and caused him to oppose God. God then cast Satan out of heaven and one third of the heavenly host followed Satan. How could a perfect all knowing all powerful being first create a supposed perfect being that would turn out so imperfect as Satan is supposed to have been? Also How could an all knowing God not have seen it coming?

Second; God put Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden and then put temptation in the form of the tree of knowledge of good and evil right smack in the middle of the garden and with no explanation told Adam and Eve not to eat of it. So if Adam and Eve had no knowledge of good and evil, how were they to know that it was evil to disobey God until/unless they actually ate the fruit? Also Why would God put such temptation there in the first place if he did not expect them to eat of it? Don't forget this is supposed to be an all knowing being. Did he set them up to fail?

Just these two examples are enough to cause me to have serious doubts about God. Either God is not all knowing, or he knowingly let his angels be corrupted. Either he did not think Adam and Eve would eat of the forbidden fruit, or he knowingly placed temptation as the center of Edan so that Adam and Eve would be forced to sin. Either God is not all knowing and hence can not be the God of the bible, or he is malignant and is not worthy of worship.

Until someone can come up with a real explanation for these and many other examples, then I can not worship nor believe in such a deity.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Progressives need to work together

"President Obama caved to the republicans once again." "He hasn't kept any of his promises." "He's to weak to stand up to the tea party and fight for our progressive future." You hear this a lot today in our main stream media. It's the big meme of the day for "hard core" progressives, or the "pro left pundits" It's like a mantra and the thing about it is that it's total hogwash.

President Obama has gotten more accomplished against greater odds than any other progressive president in my life time. Lets take a look at some of the things he has done.

He has passed a health care bill, something that even Clinton couldn't do. It may not be perfect, In fact there are a lot of things that need to be improved upon, but it does help the average citizen tremendously. Included are fixing the pre-existing condition clause, expanded access to health care and subsidies to help those who can't afford it, free wellness check ups for seniors, and cut over payments to insurance companies by Medicare among other things.

He got "don't ask don't tell repealed in our military so that any American with a desire to serve our country is now (as of this Tuesday) able to do so without compromising themselves.

He has overhauled the credit card industry and put limits on the fees that can be charged to consumers.

Obama got the Dodd-Frank bill passed. Even though it doesn't go far enough in many peoples view, it is a definite start to re-regulating the financial system that caused the 2007 meltdown.

He fought for and got help for our 9 11 first responders who risked their lives for our fellow country men. This is something that should never have been a fight, but our dear friends the conservatives felt that the first responders apparently didn't need any help.

He also passed the stimuli's bill which kept us from dropping into a much more serious depression than we were already in. I know many say it wasn't enough, but with the full force of the republican party pushing against it, I think he did an amazing job getting anything at all.

Though he didn't initiate it, he did complete the tarp bank bail outs and managed to recover almost the entirety of the cost put into it.

He has increased infrastructure spending which had been almost nonexistent before. And when this jobs bill passes, it will add more money to improving our crumbling infrastructure. This is one that I personally think we need much more of.

The list goes on and on. It is just incredible the things Obama has gotten through  extreme opposition from the right and whining from his supposed supporters on the left. To say that President Obama has done nothing since taking office is an outright lie.

If you are a democrat, progressive, liberal, or even a poor old dirty hippie like myself, you should be shouting it from the rooftops that Obama is our man for the White House. For anyone to say the president is weak or afraid to stand up to the tea party, especially if they claim to be progressives, is just undermining our chances of getting Mr Obama a real progressive congress and Senate so he can really make some changes for the better.

Sometimes it seems to me that we progressives are our own worst enemy when it comes to politics. The Pro left as they have come to be known seem to think Obama has let them down. He's not progressive enough for them, he doesn't keep his promises, he is in cahoots with the bankers, he didn't raise millionares taxes, they have a long litany of complaints that are in fact bogus. These people wouldn't be happy even if Obama turned the US into the socialist country that they so dearly want us to be.

These people muddy the truth and cause the general population to take the wrong message home. They think that if they beat up on Obama enough, he will suddenly magically change everything and single handedly topple the conservative destruction of our country. The exact opposite is true. The constant harping on Obama discourages voting by making the average person think "what difference who is in office, they are all bad"

Well think about this. If we don't re-elect Obama we will be faced with a republican government that has done nothing but protect the ultra rich at the expense of the middle class and poor. They will put an end to medicare, social security, the EPA, food stamps, women's reproduction right, and put an end to separation of church and state. Who knows what else these wing nuts will try to do to us.

If we let the tea party and their republican flunkies continue to push their lies as truth, if we let them defeat Obama because we just don't have the political will to fight them, if we just lay down and let them walk all over us, then we deserve what we get.

So if you want to see our country continue to move forward instead of backwards, you must do your part. Raise your voice and be heard. Tell everyone you know what is happening. Organize a progressive club to disseminate the truth. Post blogs, tweet, stand on the corner and tell everyone that goes by, I don't care how you get the message out, just do it. If we don't then our country will be consumed by the right wing and you wont recognize your own country in another 10 or 20 years.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Is god able to stop evil but not willing?

I was told last night by a person who claims to be in training for the priesthood that "The absence of good or evil has no bearing on the omnipresence of God" and that "God allows evil to exist so that good can come out of it". I read these statements and it just boggles my mind. How can, in a world supposedly created by god, good and evil(or the absence there of) have no bearing on God? Did he not (according to the bible) create the heavens and earth and all that inhabit them? If god created everything, then he also created evil and is solely responsible for it.

The argument I got to my statement was "He(god) is not bound by the ramifications of evil. He can change it at will." and "guilty by association fallacy". To which I say, there is no fallacy of association, if god created everything he also created evil, you can't have it both ways. God can not create everything, but not be responsible for evil which is a part of his creation. If as I was told, god can change evil at will, then that once again proves my point that god being able to change evil and not doing so is in itself an evil act.

The guilt by association "fallacy" is just plain ignorant. The argument used to support this supposed fallacy was " If you witness a crime, are you evil because you were in the presence of it?". The problem with this argument is that once again, if god created everything, he also created evil and so is inherently associated with said evil and so in turn is evil himself. Or you could say that if God is a witness to evil and has it in his power to stop it and doesn't then he is as guilty of evil as the actual perpetrator is.

Lets go back a minute to this "God allows evil to exist so that good can come out of it", that's like saying I'm going to allow someone to rape you because it will make you a better person down the road. It still boils down to if god allows evil to exist when he has the supposed power to vanquish it, then he is also evil.

How anyone can interpret this any other way is beyond me. Either god is the almighty all knowing creator of heaven and earth and all that is found within, Including evil, or he did none of it and is just another myth from the bronze age.