Tag: philosophy

What causes autism? Some theories.

What causes autism? Some theories.

Debate over what causes autism, and how to prevent it from occurring, remains inconclusive. Theories range from biological factors, to medical interference, and even to how a child was raised in early life.

The vaccine myth.

The theory that vaccines cause autism is unfortunately popular.The article published by Andrew Wakefield in 1998, which suggested the Measles, Mumps, Rubella vaccine (MMR) was responsible for behaviour regression and developmental disorder, was repeatedly refuted and eventually retracted in 2010.

The vaccine theory relied on two factors: one, that children often displayed autistic symptoms around the same time as receiving the MMR vaccine; and two, that autism had become ‘epidemic’ as vaccination became common practice in society. The more likely reason for the surge in autism diagnoses is a better understanding of the condition, changes to diagnostic practices and increased awareness–particularly among educators.

That autistic symptoms arise in the same developmental period as the second dose of the MMR vaccine (usually around the age of 4) is purely coincidental.

Even if the vaccine theory was correct, and I don’t believe it is, I fail to understand the logic of refusing to vaccinate children to decrease the risk of developmental disorder. Autism isn’t exactly a fun bag of kittens every day, but it is perfectly possible to live a long and happy life as an autistic person. Even those requiring extreme care are capable of being happy and healthy people.

Refusal to vaccinate increases the risk of contracting avoidable (and deadly) disease, both to the unvaccinated child and those who are unable to be vaccinated for medical reasons. It just doesn’t make sense to me.

Vitamin D deficiency.

This one is interesting, because I have extremely low levels of Vitamin D. I know, I know–I should go outside from time to time.. but maybe that’s not the only factor? I take supplements daily, which I find gives me the energy boost I’m often lacking.

Women who are deficient in Vitamin D during pregnancy are more likely to give birth to a child with autistic behaviours.

Inability to properly absorb and process Vitamin D may also be one of the many genetic factors that contributes to an autistic profile. Deficiency in Vitamin D may not be a cause, but a symptom–and perhaps lead us to a genetic marker as we build a greater understanding of how autism occurs.

Genetic factors.

This is the theory that makes the most sense, both in logic and in my own family experience. Autism is a condition of particular traits, that by their combination and intensity in a single person cause that person to diverge from what is known as ‘neurotypical’ (NT). You could think of this combination as a recipe, almost.

In most cases, and definitely in mine, you can spot autistic traits across the family of a diagnosed person. While the behaviours may be similar, they may not have the same intensity, obsessiveness, or rigidity of the autistic person–but they’re certainly there. Some in the family may have an autistic trait or two that is extremely intense—but not any others.

These traits are spread among parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents and beyond. When enough intense traits are passed down to a single person,  that person becomes diagnosably autistic.

This also explains why many people feel everyone is ‘a little autistic’, which is in some views true–and others false. Milder examples of autistic behaviours are common among the general population.However, while an ‘allistic’ (non-autistic) person may understand elements of a behaviour, they are less able to understand how multiple intense traits affect an autistic mind.

So you may think of autism as caused by the right mix of ingredients passed to an individual.

Interestingly, my genetic profile is significantly different to those of my undiagnosed siblings. I am the only right-handed child, the only one with grey eyes (the others are brown), and of us four I have the shorter, thinner-boned build. These genetic differences between me and my three siblings hint at my getting a number of recessive genes, some of which may have been autistic markers.

Brain compensation theory.

This does fall in with genetics as well, but an interesting study on autistic children and their non-affected siblings discovered that unaffected siblings also have a similar neurological signature to their autistic sibling.

Decoded, that means that the structures of the brain used to process particular information have a similar decreased ability as compared to children without an autistic sibling. However, unlike both their autistic sibling and their typically developing peers, unaffected siblings showed activity in other areas of the brain.

That suggests that unaffected siblings have created ‘other’ pathways through the brain to achieve neurotypical behaviours. I love this, because it shows just how adaptable the brain is. It also firms up the nature of autism as genetic, and explains how siblings can exhibit similar traits to their autistic sibling but not at the same intensity. Some compensatory structures may not be as complete as others, meaning that the trait will be more present in that sibling.

I find this especially interesting, as my sister is highly sensitive to tags and seams in her clothing. Far more than I am! That sensory sensitivity may be a trait that her brain has not fully countered.

Nurture and autism.

I’ll talk a little about this, because I think it’s relevant. Autistic behaviours can be adjusted over time, especially among those in the Aspergers category. I believe that autistic people are capable of building their own compensatory structures in the brain. We need to find our own way to achieve stability. This doesn’t mean a cure–simply working with and around our weaker points for a solution that suits us.

Early intervention and parenting methods are critical here, which is where I feel extremely lucky. Though I didn’t know I was autistic until a few months ago, my parents were not the sort to give in to picky eating habits. You ate what was on the table, or made your own food. I believe the firmness of that rule is one of the primary reasons why there are so few foods I don’t eat–I was never able to avoid anything long enough that it tasted wrong/unpleasant.

As an adult, I allow myself to not eat the things that really do bother me: pork, any meat with bones still in it, any meat that still resembles the animal it used to be, celery, and zombie toes broad beans. The list of things I won’t eat is actually quite small. I will pick around bones, but I really don’t like it. I’ll also eat mashed potato, though the texture bothers me most times.

I believe my lack of serious food aversions is mostly due to being encouraged to try a wide variety of foods as a kid, and also my curiosity regarding taste. New foods and drinks intrigue me, so I have to try things at least once! Or perhaps, it was simply never a severe factor for me.

We were also raised in a very structured and supportive environment, and the only real upsets I can recall having usually involved things like moving house, moving school, and other unavoidable moments of change. For the most part, my family life synched well with the parts of my autism that liked things to be a certain way, and for things to happen in a way that was consistent and predictable.

We went to school through the week, to bed at a particular time (even when I was in my last years of high school, I had a bed time. I hated it, but looking back it was another part to the structure of my day that I could rely on), there was often sports on Saturday morning, and during the football season we would generally catch up with family friends to watch the game and eat together.

So I was lucky in a lot of ways, that my family created an environment that curtailed some of the more annoying aspects of autism, while providing the structure I needed to feel secure. Though at the time, it was simply how our family operated–not any concession for an autistic mind.

I give in to it more as an adult, especially with food and clothing. I buy my own, so if I find that I’ve purchased a shirt that is uncomfortable and distracting to wear–it’s my own loss if I never wear it. The same goes for food. Clothes get rotated to the back of my wardrobe and eventually donated to charity. Some are too itchy, some feel too restricting, and some just make me irritable and I can’t articulate why. I did get myself to wear skinny jeans, though I prefer not to–and I still won’t wear shorts. I don’t even know why I won’t wear shorts, I just hate them.

I can make these choices as an adult, because I have been through the process of attempting, tolerating, and know for myself if it’s worth persisting. I also know I can work around things, like eating all the peas first when someone mixes them with the marvel that is corn (why do people ruin corn like that?). I’m in a space where I can do things in my particular way, and so long as it doesn’t hamper my ability to get things done, there’s nothing wrong with that.

I’ve rambled a lot and gone way off point–each autistic person’s ability to adapt and build compensatory structures and strategies will depend on the severity of the symptom, awareness of the individual in working toward the goal, and the age of the person. It can be done, though, it’s up to the individual to decide whether there is value in being able to eat a food, tolerate a situation, or wear an item of clothing. Sometimes the level of work to get to a point of tolerance isn’t justified for the outcome, or the time and number of exposures it would take to achieve the goal (remembering that each exposure will cause some level of distress) isn’t worth it. While it’s definitely ‘possible’, it may only be after thousands of exposures and unknown distress.

Are there any other theories you’ve heard regarding causes of autism? I’d love to research them!

 

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Reconciling evolution and intelligent design.

Reconciling evolution and intelligent design.

Fair warning, this post is about religion. I’m not a religious person–but I’m fascinated by the structure and influence it has. I admire those who have the strength of faith to believe in what cannot be proven, and those who take these ancient teachings and utilise them to be generous and kind. I hope that my thoughts below carry my respect for others’ belief. However, if you find religious discussion confronting or uncomfortable, you may wish to skip reading this blog.

If you are religious and find your way through my thoughts–I would love to know your view.

Why is a twit like me thinking about religion so much?

I was raised to believe in what I chose to believe in, so for the most part that was the hidden magic of the universe that you see in books and movies. I hoped every day desperately that I would catch my toys interacting in the dead of night, a tiny world that nested within my own. I attended a church with my grandparents and siblings on the weekend, their way of giving my parents some much-needed peace, but the miracles of the Bible just never grabbed me in the way it does others.

I liked the stories, and I loved the massive lunch they held once a month. I got enough familiarity with the routine and structure of church that I eventually decided it wasn’t for me, and I would have to find another activity with free food.

Simply put, I couldn’t suspend my belief enough to accept the Bible as a historical source. I still can’t, and I think it’s downright amazing for those who can.

I do think about it a lot, though, especially with the influence that religion has on society. Trying to reconcile happenings in the world with oft-quoted Bible verses keeps me occupied.

Genesis vs The Big Bang

One thing I never really ‘got’ about Genesis was the concept of the world being created in seven days. This makes very little sense if you consider that prior to there being light, there was likely no way to measure day and night. But then, who are we to assume that a God’s concept of day and night is the same length as our own?

The magic-wand approach of ‘intelligent design’ just doesn’t seem right. Why magic a universe from the depths of nowhere, when you could grow one? Why go for instant gratification when you could pull cosmic forces from hither and thither, smashing them all into one ‘big bang’ and forming the beginnings of a baby universe?

I don’t see how the Bible and scientific theories of universe creation are incompatible.

Remember too, that when these tales were initially formed, society didn’t have the deep scientific understanding that we do now. You could assume we were told a story we would understand, one of magic and wonder. Much like a child’s fairy tale before the child is old enough to comprehend that these things (allegedly) don’t exist.

God as a scientist.

So if we assume then that God is the instigator of the ‘big bang’ and our universe is His pet project, we then begin to see God not as an almighty magician, but as something better. A scientist!

This does mean putting aside the idea that God’s way always is and always was perfect. Perhaps in days of Eden it might have been, but whether you believe that sin and corruption changed the course of the world–or that God allowed nature to grow as it would–you can’t deny that the world has been evolving and adapting.

A close friend advised me that God gave man free will, that man could choose to love Him independently. The concept of the unknown element, ‘free will’ ties in nicely with the idea of us as an ongoing project. Another teaching claims that after the original sin, man was given the freedom to seek his own salvation in goodness and worship. In other words–God let us loose upon the earth to see what we would do.

Choose him? Better ourselves? Tear the world apart? In giving that free will, God himself was unable to know the outcome of the universe. Sounds like a pretty awesome project to me!

Evolution vs Intelligent design

With me so far? This one can be tricky. Once again, we’re going to assume that Genesis is a story told to man based upon how they understood themselves at the time. That is, a race that could stand, walk, and communicate.

Evolution suggests we weren’t always like that. Evolution suggests that we evolved, like all other organisms, from the smallest building blocks in the universe. The Bible states that we were made in God’s image. The fight over what view is correct has been raging since the theory of evolution first arose.

They’re not incompatible. We assume that the Bible means our current shape and form, because that is what we know. We don’t know what God’s image is. God, as is commonly accepted, is an all-knowing presence with no corporeal form. There’s no evidence that contradicts the idea that God Himself is able to change forms, and plenty of evidence that humans have evolved over time.

We were created in his image, and molded further to suit the changing planet, perhaps?

The universe as an ongoing project.

I’ve said a bit about this already, but the idea of our universe being seven day’s work and then sitting back to see what happens? Doesn’t sound much fun for God. I think evolution tells us that if He is the driving force behind all creation, he is still creating.

The world is changing and reacting in ways that He may not have predicted. Adjustments are needed, punishments are delivered and rewards are given. Over centuries organisms grow or lose tails, shed or grow fur to suit new climates, breed and diversify into the complex kingdom we live in.

What if we’re not just discovering new species of animals, but he is creating them for us to find?

Could you imagine the pure joy that God must feel as we explore and discover these creations? Pride when we broke our world down into building blocks, atoms and cells. Excitement at our discoveries, like a parent for a child. This is why I especially can’t get behind the Religion vs Science idea. God is science, and science is God’s magic.

On developments since the time of writing.

I can accept that the Bible may (in places) suggest that homosexual relationships are not acceptable. But remember, in this time and age, there was a great need for people to populate the earth. If men lay with men, and women with women, the progress of man would have been hobbled. We were not in the fortunate position we are now, where so many brilliant minds carry society forward.

We no longer need the reproductive power we did in Biblical times. ‘Go forth and multiply’ is no longer feasible when the world is bowing under the strain of overpopulation.

There’s a study done with rats by John Calhoun (1962) that I think illustrates this nicely. A number of rats put in an enclosure of a certain size will grow the population to a point–and then it plateaus. Put those same rats in a larger enclosure and the population will grow again, until the optimum population is reached and once again the numbers plateau. For any size ‘world’, there is an ideal number of inhabitants.

The rats controlled their own population by becoming bisexual, homosexual or asexual. As the rats were unable to flee the situation, the end result in most cases was a pretty scary dystopia–and there are plenty of counters to Calhoun’s research that suggest human society is less likely to follow that exact path.

However. If God works in mysterious was, and we must assume He does, how is homosexuality not a perfect solution to overpopulation? He’s not taken away the ability to love, but broadened the acceptance of other options and the idea that not all relationships must create children. We no longer need to multiply, but we do need to love and care for each other. There are children without families and families that cannot have children–it may be a literal match made in Heaven.

There are many verses in the Bible that speak to social contexts that no longer apply. Clinging to the words on the page may be inhibiting society’s ability to move forward with His grander plan.

The vast difference between Old and New Testaments illustrate how God adapts from guiding man with lessons built on fear, to the gentler acceptance and sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Society changed, and God’s method of guidance did as well. Not everything that was acceptable before is acceptable now–not everything that was unacceptable then is still unacceptable now.

Basically? The truth is bigger than the Bible.

If I had the faith, that is what I would believe. The Bible was a guide book for centuries ago, one that can inform us of where we came from–but has limited use in our current social context. In accepting that the world is changing around us, and that this is by God’s doing, it also needs to be recognised that Gods plan is also changing.

Therefore, a thick volume of preserved words can only tell us so much. For the rest we need to take the spirit of God’s message (be kind, be generous, and love one another) and ask ourselves how it applies to the world as it is today. And from then, trust that if we act with that message and with God in our hearts, that we are acting in accordance with his plan.

I may not have God in my heart, but I do wholly believe in the message–insofar as it teaches love and acceptance. I see churches turning closer to this, and it makes me happy. Religion is a very powerful tool in society, and it should be used to bring people together–not tear them apart.

Especially not over ancient, difficult-to-translate text.

The ‘me’ I see.

The ‘me’ I see.

So many of my posts here have been negative, or at the least, not very positive. I don’t like that. The reasons behind my frustration are often complex and require writing out to explain them to myself and then to the world. I don’t feel as much of a need to explain the good moments, I just accept them as they come.

Still, I’m aware that the blog is unbalanced in that aspect. Today I want to talk about something that does lean toward the positive. I want to put together a picture of who I am and who I want to be.

Like most kids who experience bullying, or those who get themselves tangled in controlling friendships, I sacrificed parts of myself to please those around me and secure my position in the group. I smothered my feelings, I taught myself to hide all of my hurts, and I learned that standing out and being different was wrong. I learned not to talk to people about what I was feeling, that my needs were less important than another person’s time. I learned that my problems were mine to deal with, asking for anyone’s help would allow them to see myself as I truly am–and once that ‘secret’ was out, I would be outcast.

There weren’t any exceptions to this rule. It didn’t matter how long, or how close, or how important someone was in my life. I wanted to be easy. I didn’t want to be trouble. I wanted to simply exist in the company of others for as long as I could fool them that I belonged there.

I think I was twelve the year I burned the side of my leg after a motorbike ride. The burn was about the size of my hand and stung like a bitch. I knew I’d been burned, but I said nothing. It was Christmas day. Everyone should be happy on Christmas day. If they saw me injured, they would be worried and distracted from their fun because of me. I went out the back with a cold wet face washer and tended to it myself.

Naturally my parents found out a few days later and it got seen to properly, but that explains the sort of thought processes that went into keeping that secret.

Those processes still exist. The desire to be easy and not upset those around me still governs the majority of my decisions. I do catch myself doing it, and when it comes to things I deem serious, I correct it. I force myself to ask for help. The real damage is in the suppression of the things I love, and want to be. My silence when I want to speak, my muted reactions when I want to burst with emotion. All because I don’t want to bother or trouble another person.

That’s where I’ve come from. It means that who I feel I am, and who I project myself to be are at odds with each other. I don’t feel that I am a quiet, stand-offish, secretive person. That’s not who I want to be, either.

This is who I feel I am, written in third person because it’s somehow easier.


 

She’s relaxed, talkative. She says dumb things and goes bright red  when she realises what she’s said. It doesn’t shame her. She laughs with a snort out of her nose first, and then a belly laugh that sputters through her lips out into a full sound. She doesn’t  care how inelegant it is. It’s a laugh, and laughs happen the way they do.

She can talk about almost anything, stopping her is harder than getting her to start. She talks fast. Sometimes she needs to be asked to slow down. She gets excited when telling stories or talking about things she loves, waving her hands emphatically. You can see when she loves a subject, it lifts her. She’s equally animated on subjects she hates, arguing rational points with the confidence of a lawyer. She might be wrong, she’s not always right, but she’s always passionate. Especially when it comes to politics. She wants to see a better world, a fair world.

She’s an idealist and an optimist. Even though the skeptical side of her knows that a perfect world will never happen, she argues that there’s no reason not to aim for it. That’s the function of idealists: to dream bigger and better, to inspire continuous change rather than settling for good enough. She believes in continuous improvement and life-long learning. She believes in understanding her self and optimising her strengths, developing her weaknesses. Her optimism is balanced by a grounded sense of logic, she hopes for the best and understands the consequences of the worst. She believes that St Kilda and Richmond will win premierships. When they do, she’ll cry with happiness because she knows how much it means to people who mean the world to her.

She wants those around her to be happy. She wants to make them happy, to help. She can’t walk past something that she knows another person will love, she has to buy it and surprise them. It’s worth the smile. That makes her happy. She loves surprising people. Her methods of helping are often physical things, gifts or tasks done. Words never seem as useful as something concrete. This is her proof that she cares. That she knows what you want and need and love, and that she goes nowhere in her life without those she loves in her mind and heart.

She’s affectionate, and wants to show it. She’s a ‘huggy’ person. Everything she feels, she feels it intensely. There’s no middle ground between elation and sorrow. There don’t need to be reasons to explain why. Her mood changes with the world around her, the things she delights in or takes sadness from. It’s a never-ending rush that can be exhausting.

She overthinks. She needs to know why and what and how. She struggles to accept that some things just have to be a certain way. Knowing how things work is how she remembers. She had this argument about trigonometry. Until she knew why the formula worked, it was impossible to remember.

She’s confused by people. They don’t make sense. They aren’t direct in what they want, they communicate on a wavelength she can’t tune into. In spite of every attempt to mimic and follow along, they still know she’s not like them. She has rules to follow when talking to others, pre-considered answers to give when the situation requires it. She wants to break free of them and just be herself–but reliance on the rules got her this far, and she’s afraid. Without the rules she will be weird and most likely Wrong.

She’s plagued by anxiety. Not for spiders or heights, but in her interactions with other people. It’s not, as people assume, irrational. There’s so much to remember. So much body language to analyse. So much to keep up with, it seems impossible. After every conversation she reflects, tries to spot what she did right and what she did wrong. This is how she built her rules. Anxiety tells her to be careful in her communications, the cost of screwing it up is too high. Mess it up and she won’t be accepted.

She knows this. She’s lived it.

She wishes she could ‘just relax’. Sometimes she is told to be herself, others she is told she needs to push through and be like everyone else. Which one is she supposed to do? The former is hard for people to accept, the latter is exhausting. It burns her out. Pretending is supposed to increase her ability to do things the ‘right’ way, pushing on should be the key to tolerating and surviving the world. It just feels like a heavy mask. It feels like a lie. She’ll never truly relax until she can be herself and be accepted.

She wants freedom and justice, equality for all. She wants to see refugees settled in peaceful neighbourhoods, communities working together, understanding and acceptance for LGBTQI+ people (and anyone else who’s different). She wants everyone to be happy. She hates the ineffectiveness of politics, the drama-mill that is journalism, she’s disgusted by how words are twisted and turned to portray people in a bad light before all the facts are known. She believes wholly in knowing all sides of a story before judgement.

She believes in people, in their goodness, and will always try to find an explanation that keeps that intact. She doesn’t hate. She gets manipulated from time to time for giving people more chances than they deserve, but she refuses to change that. She’s happier in herself knowing that she gave someone every opportunity to correct their behaviour before giving up.

She’s bloody minded. She gets fixed on problems and how to solve them. Sometimes she gets so caught on the angle of one solution she doesn’t see other, more obvious, solutions. She will throw herself at a problem until it cracks or breaks her. She’s notorious for sending emails with her thoughts and theories on how to improve things. She’s rarely defeated for long, and always comes back to a task more determined than before.

She’s picky about things. How the groceries are stacked on the conveyor belt, how dishes are stacked in the dishwasher. She hates pegs left on the clothesline when the washing is taken in. Errors in advertising and other mass communication irritate her. Stores should have logical layouts that make sense, with checkouts by the door–none of this ‘Kmart registers in the middle of the shop’ nonsense. She can tell when an image is a pixel out of alignment, or a shade wrong in colour. She hates the font Scriptina more than she hates Comic Sans (both are overused).

She’s scattered and disorganised in her own organised way. Her long-term memory is good, but she forgets where she put her drink… constantly. Spaces that are too organised and too clear make her anxious, she likes to spread out and see things. Her desk is a pile of papers. She knows what all of them are, and how to get them when they’re needed. She has her processes for doing things and stumbles when they’re interrupted or changed. She does not like change.

She constructs her plan for the day every morning, and gets frustrated when it doesn’t work out. She hates uncertainty in planning, likes to know what is happening and when it will happen. Additions or changes to a plan at the last minute will frazzle her, and when plans fall through she is left with a void that feels too big to fill. When things happen regularly, she expects that to continue. She notices patterns around her and uses those to project what might happen in the future.

She’s extremely passionate about her hobbies, though she keeps them mostly confined to the communities they belong in. The online world introduced her to so many wonderful people through games and blogs and forums, people without whom she wouldn’t be who she is now. Her life is full of rich friendships that reach across the country and the world. None of them are less for not being present in her physical life. She is grateful for their existence. Online she can pretend less and be weird more, and these people embraced her for it. She learned how to find her ‘tribe’ and begin the process of accepting herself. It continues here.

She’s brilliant at pouring her heart and soul into a task, less good at splitting it between multiple tasks at the same time. She’s a perfectionist who worries about things not being done well enough, sometimes that makes things hard to start. She can get lost in tasks, as well, so absorbed that any other outside needs are forgotten. Her ability to produce in this mode is phenomenal. She just has to remember to stop and eat.

She wants to be more. Not just more successful, but more true to how she sees herself. She wants to wave her arms with excitement, chatter on endlessly about her favourite things, bounce on her toes while she speaks even if it annoys those she’s talking to. She wants to sprawl comfortably beside friends and binge-watch TV, to not hear herself calculating every move and word she makes, she wants to leverage the intensity of herself and use it. She wants to squeal and dance and even get visibly pissed off when she feels it.

She’ll get there. It’s a long and slow process, breaking bad habits takes time. And when it’s done, she’ll be an unashamedly loud and animated, intensely-emotional, scatter-brained creative with a wicked sense of humour and a superhuman ability to focus on single tasks.

Bring it on.

A lifelong love of language

A lifelong love of language

I’ve been obsessed with words for as long as I can remember. I don’t recall learning to read, or having any difficulty doing so. Like breathing or walking, it feels like something that was just always there.

I’m sure that I went through the same stages of discovering letters and how they form words, no doubt my parents remember me learning to read–but I don’t. Words are a part of me, I feel.

My writing reflects that, and so does my love of reading. I don’t have the attention span for novels like I used to, and something about the prospect of holding a book for an extended period of time (or carrying it around with me so I have it when I need it) feels strangely overwhelming. Still, I continue to read anything and everything I can.

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I can read articles for hours. I love exploring the unique use of language in social media. I have an enormous group of friends across the world with whom I communicate almost exclusively in text mediums. BuzzFeed, Forbes.com, and LinkedIn are some of my favourite sites to visit for interesting or thought-provoking articles.

Lately I love reading up on content marketing strategies, and I’ve always been fascinated by advertising. I hate when effective content and social media strategies are reduced to a game of numbers. It seems crude, even if it works.

Linguistics and the construction of language is a fascinating area of study, too. I tried studying it at a university level, but too much of it focused on using obscure or dead languages to demonstrate theory (taking away the familiarity of English so the construction could be more easily seen). I’m not particularly interested in how other languages work, so I didn’t pursue it beyond an elective class.

Array of colourful alphabet letters

I love the shape and sounds of some letters. Some I hate. They have a colour, and a feel. I like the combinations they make on the page and in my head, on my tongue when I speak. My favourite letter is L, but only capital L. Small l looks too much like I, and is less satisfying in shape. L is blue. That’s my favourite colour. It’s smooth, like a water-worn rock.

I dislike O in both capital and lower case. It’s orange, my least favourite colour, and it tastes like the rind of an orange. I don’t like how it feels to write, either. I can never get the ends of the line to join into a nice loop. Frustrating. Or it looks too narrow, too fat… O is a stupid letter.

I’m glad I don’t have any in my name.

I like and dislike certain combinations of letters, too. I looove ie/ei, though I can never remember which way they go in some words. I rely on autocorrect for that. Bad me! I also love Rh, ir and yr, ri, el, th, mr, ai, iq and sa. I love the letter S, too, now that I think about it. It’s sleek, gold, and probably tastes like glass… though I haven’t thought about it much.

Combinations I hate include cl (I just think of clowns, I can’t help it), kr, rk, um, ur, et, ith, and sh. I think they’re gross. They look gross, sound gross, and feel gross.

The shapes are important, though. Words have a shape and a rhythm (now there’s a word I adore: rhythm!) that is more than the shape of the combinations inside them. In primary school, our teacher would give us boxes that represented the shape of words, and we had to guess what the words were.

I have really horrible handwriting. Always have. My pen licence was revoked three or four times in primary school, and I think in the end I only kept it because forcing me to grey lead pencil any longer was going to end in more ridicule. It was largely anxiety related, part pure laziness, and part just how I write.

writ_neat
‘I always had terrible writing. Even concentrating long enough to write this neatly is hard.’ – an example of my writing closer to what it would have been ten years ago.

One of my closest friends never had trouble reading it. Even when I’d forgotten what it was supposed to say, she was always able to decode it (mind you, she was also the one I went to when, for whatever reason, I couldn’t open my combination lock yet again). She said, ‘The trick is to forget the letters and read the shape of the word.’

And she was right. The shape of the word was there, the general idea of it was on the page–but the individual letters that made the word weren’t necessarily legible. I’ve become so reliant on a keyboard in my post-school life that I’m not sure even that is true now.

Back then, it meant that I could disguise words that I wasn’t 100% comfortable spelling (though there are very few of them) without compromising the meaning of the message. This was especially great when I suddenly found myself struggling to spell ‘when’ in the middle of a written exam.

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‘The shitstorm that is my writing cause I’m too lazy to put any real effort in!’ – my writing as it is now. 

That happens, too. I lose words. I spent a very confused hour one day unable to recall the words for ‘plastic bag’. Would have been fine if I hadn’t been actively working at a supermarket check out! The whole time I could ‘feel’ it just outside my reach while I took bags from the holder and waved them limply at customers, saying, ‘Do you want… um, this?’

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These days my hand writing is just a shitstorm. There’s no nice way to put it. I don’t enjoy holding a pen, and I can get my thoughts out way quicker on a keyboard. Hand writing feels backward and uncomfortable, constricting. They say it’s better for you to hand write, but anything I write by hand I’d also intend to re-type for use, so it’s terribly inefficient.

I don’t like doing something twice if I only have to do it once. As Dad says, if you do it right the first time you shouldn’t have to do it again.

I’m working toward overcoming the obstacles that challenge my ability to put fiction together. I have folders upon folders of writing scraps ready to become novels, but not yet the full toolset to get it done. Finally moving up from retail and into a job where I get to weave words daily has brought me all sorts of happiness, I do genuinely enjoy writing about industrial cleaning equipment!

I just love words. Language creates our frame for understanding the world, it shapes what we can and cannot comprehend. Without our vast and productive language skills, we are no more than instinct and needs-based communication. Language is what makes us human, and from language came the possibility for other language: art, music, mathematics.

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It boggles me how some people just don’t see that. I might be weird for thinking the letter S tastes like glass, but I’m pretty sure that people who don’t give language the full respect it deserves are weirder than that!

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