He Came From Planet Claire
As I continue to study Asperger’s Syndrome and the history of the autism spectrum, I am struck by how often those on the spectrum are described as having a special interest in, or knack for understanding, various machines, devices, electronics, computers, and the like. Asperger’s is sometimes referred to as “the Engineer’s Disease,” and “the link between engineering and autism is absolutely obvious”, according to Temple Grandin.
While I did put together a Heathkit or three in my youth, did well in electronics class, did a special project in holograms in High School, and am generally pretty good with computers, I’ve never considered myself to have any particular magical “knack” when it came to understanding our machine overlords. I don’t work on cars. I don’t repair lawn mowers. I don’t understand audio gear. And I am completely lost when it comes to performing a major update on WooCommerce. This particular characteristic of Aspergers doesn’t seem to fit me.
Or does it?
What feels true, in my case, is that I do, in fact, have a lifelong interest in, understanding of, and knack for dealing with perhaps the most complex and error-prone machine on Earth: the human being.
I remember watching you as a child. I remember watching you men converse together at family gatherings, and how different that was from you women’s conversation going on in the kitchen. I remember wondering what was going on inside your quiet, muttering skulls as I watched you work or play or just hang out. I remember being confused by your behavior. And I think I was aware, though these words were not available to me then, that the way you do things on Earth is not how we did things back on my home planet. And I think I knew, though again the words were not there, I knew that things didn’t have to be the way they were.
And that points, perhaps, to the reason why the human animal became my machine of interest. You made little sense to me, and you felt dangerous and irrational and unpredictable. I needed to understand you. I needed to put all of my brain power into observing you, so that I could predict your movements, and stay a step ahead of you, and keep out of your reach. And because I was wearing a human body myself, I had a ready source of data.
And that’s what I’ve done with my life, studying family systems and cultures and taboos and belief systems and scientific and metaphysical paradigms. Studying Sally, who breaks so many of your molds. Watching you. Watching out for you. Making notes and tallying instances and integrating over time.
Some say I’m from Mars.
Or one of the seven stars
That shine after 3:30 in the morning.
Well I am.