a case against audience-driven authorship
As someone with Autistic social disjointing, often unable to naturally communicate or thereupon maintain friendships, and who’s thus nearly lost my mind from loneliness, I have usually doubted the value of my presence. I can quite rarely tell if anyone about me genuinely enjoys my company, or if I am a burdensome shadow, that be best swept away. Not because I have no self-esteem or immense self-pity, but because I genuinely cannot read that from people. Autism can be blinding in that way. Of course, I’ve also had friends I called dear tell me as much, some shove me out after they silently grew bitter towards me, and naturally facebook often reminds one of the many apparent deleted ‘friendships’ who didn’t think you valuable enough to keep, so this sentiment is not entirely out of possibility.
You see, I’ve recently come to understand that, a large portion of my life, I have lived with or around people of abusive characters, surrounded by lineages of personality disorders and controlling whims, people who often know no better than to restrict and control, to unintentionally manipulate or even bully. Some by family, some by friendship. And, both my inability to appropriately judge others’ feelings and a strong sense of duty to others, means I can easily fall into these relationships without the slightest clue. So, as any such environment would, this constant degrading atmosphere can and very well may teach you three most wretched beliefs: You are unlovable, you are of little value and not worthy of respect, and your presence is better locked away in the dark, for you are best kept out of the lives of others, as you have nothing to offer them, but only the burden you keep. I can't fully explain why it draws this, but it does for some reason. And, as I’ve realised this progression of such a sentiment in me, I’ve also come to realise that my every friendship and relationship begins with this thought, even if not intentional; the moment I meet someone, sometimes even before I meet them at all, I discern that their life is better without me in it. I aptly discredit my own value to them for them. If I were more socially able, if I could discern more clearly how they felt about me, this might not be so. Yet, my lacking social fluency enforces this rather wretched sentiment, making a sort of difficult psychological cycle of social violence and seclusion. Therefore, for this reason, it is only the persistent who manage getting me into their lives (and I greatly value them because of this). Unless someone makes a clear care for me, I remain alone and rarely reach toward others. I must be hunted and tamed, not because I do not want any relationships, any social interactions — I want them immensely — but because I am blind to anyone trying to tame me. I am like the fox who has been chased out of too many gardens. I have learned the world a wretched place and its people often a wretched thing, who are probably best off without me, who do not want me digging through their flowerbeds.
Naturally, then, you would think, given these elements of my life, that if I could take a scalpel to the history of my being, I would go about making immense alterations. I mean, who wouldn’t ? What caterpillar wouldn’t want to be a butterfly ? And, somedays, you would certainly be correct in saying that I as well would.
However, imagine, if you may, a person who is paralysed in their legs, or perhaps someone who is colour blind, or, for my own personal pertinence, someone who is mute. That person lives in a world designed for speech (see Duncan Jones’ Mute on Netflix for reference) and everyone around them will treat them as such, including themselves in many ways. Their “disability” will become a hinderance in that the expected norms will constantly berate them, telling them to be this or do this, and they will feel a sense of shame — notice there is no might, as it is an unfortunate assurance in a life of disability (at least once in a while) — that “tempts” them towards the ability to speak. If given the option to learn, there would be difficulty to reject. So, naturally, the abortion of our wretchedness, of our inability, our disability, our misery, would be the preferred course of action. And yet, does this make it the “best” of choices ?
Most days, even the most burdenly lonesome, I would not claim such for myself. I would choose silence over speech, struggle over peace, the shy fox over the friendly golden retriever. I would claim my wretchedness as my own. After all, it was enough for Van Gogh and Dickinson, who saw little sunshine and created only beauty. One might be tempted — in fact, one would certainly be tempted — yet temptations are only that and nothing more. What good does it do to scream over spilt milk, as they say. Or, in the words of a starey eyed Bran Stark (who's eager to finish a series), “Everything you did brought you to where you are now. Where you belong.”
Or, considering another, as in a mute, born without the ability to speak yet constantly “tempted” by a world of speech, Jesus too was born without the ability to sin yet constantly tempted by a world of sin. Regardless of whether he could or not, speak, sin, etc., he would be wholly tempted to and the fact of whether he could or not, becomes irrelevant. I would walk if I could, I would speak if I could, I would sin if I could, but then what life would I have from it ? Would the deaf gain that much from hearing the noise of the world, the screams of cars and construction sites ? Would A Quiet Place resolve at all pleasantly if Regan were not deaf ? And what would Jesus gain by sinning ? His arms not on a cross ? What does one truly gain by the luxuries of ease ?
We may never know how many licks it takes to get to the centre of a tootsie pop, we may never know how our lives would be, if we had not broken that bone or stole that loaf of bread or gotten that woman pregnant. Would our lives be better, would we be better, would the sun be cooler, the grass greener, our neighbours kinder, or would it be worse ?
My miseries have taught me such delightful things, after all. Such as the importance of kindness, mercy, love, gentleness, duty, and especially the importance of patience. They have taught me that even the most wretched of people can have a kind heart and that children, no matter their parents, can become beautiful and good people. Truly, all of the worst things in my life, even my own wretched mistakes, have taught me the best of things. It seems that owning my suffering as a crown of strength is far more redeeming (or at least productive) than screaming and running from it, trying to pretend it does not and never did exist.
I am sure there are many who would choose an altered dress over tattered rags. I am sure there are many who would change the history of Germany. Perhaps, if we could change some things, the world would be a little better, or perhaps not. I don’t mean to say terrible things are good, for no one would claim someone being raped or murdered a good thing. All I mean is that good things sometimes come out of wretched things and sometimes they don’t. Perhaps, as Stephen King proposes (in 11.22.63), the world would be terrible if Kennedy wasn’t shot, or perhaps it would be better. No one would argue the holocaust a good thing — it was most certainly a truly terrible thing — yet did it bring about the worst possible world ? Or was it an awful valley we had to pass in order to arrive into the best possible world ? Or, maybe it just brought about some mediocre existence and was simply horrible. I don’t know and I don’t believe we can answer that without looking upon the whole of the space time continuum and all its possible alterations. Bad things sometimes lead to good things, just as good sometimes leads to bad, and we can’t know which will be. I think we can, however, change how we respond to these terrible things, how we respond to everything.
Every day millions die. Many before they are birthed into any of the joy or goodness the world can offer. Some naturally. Some by murder. Some by suicide. Without ever knowing the light of the world, without knowing love, they pass into the outer darkness. Without having that altered dress, without speaking, without seeing the colour of the sky. They exist in mere misery until it eats them whole. Perhaps, one can only weep and wish everything better, beat their chests and scream at an unfair world. Or, perhaps, we might be good and faithful midwives, better at tending to each other in that love, which binds up our miseries, no matter how wretched they may be. Rather than discerning ourselves worthless to others, discrediting ourselves because of our miseries, might we embrace our miseries in order to better love and care for one another. Might the sufferings we undergo lead us to thinking of others more. Perhaps we might just be better, do better, no matter how good or terrible our environments are. Even if it's painfully hard.
I do not claim myself the voice of truth, for I am but a peddle in a windstorm, not even an idiot with a box. Perhaps my every thought is wrong, perhaps I am what I fear, best kept in the dark cupboard under the stairwell. Perhaps all that is terrible is just another pointless misery on the way to a useless shell of a corpse. And yet, if it is so, why write this, why read this, why do anything at all ? Why bother ? And even still, if it or I am so, I still hold that I would not choose otherwise, though I might be tempted. For, who am I, certainly not the author (I wouldn’t be narcoleptic, if I were). I am but a measly actor — no, I am not even that, for I never have the correct lines — I am but a single audience member in the furthest, cheapest seat with a post and a very tall woman with bushy hair in my way. Why on earth would I try to claim a better writing, I can hardly make out what’s happening in this one.
Truly, if none should read this, if none should read any of my work, if none should know my name, if none should care but God, then I am as a king, whose impression lies on the very face of currency. My miseries my crown. Would it be a delight that I change anyone or even the world for better ? That someone retire the shame they feel for their own strifes and embrace them joyfully ? Certainly. Yet, these are unnecessary possibilities in the scheme of things. I am most satisfied in my cheap seat, as a weary fox in the bushes. I could not embrace my sufferings if I were not. After all, even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table, why should I claim myself any higher or wanting.
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Eugène Delacroix, Horse Frightened by a Storm, 1824
Eugène Delacroix, The Death of Desdemona, 1858
Mute, Duncan Jones & Michael Robert Johnson, 2018
Game of Thrones, S8 E3, Benioff, Weiss, Sandhu, & Antonucci
A Quiet Place, John Krasinski, Bryan Woods, & Scott Beck, 2018
Stephen King, 11.22.63, 2011 (novel) / 2016 (series)