Thursday, December 29, 2011

Chapter 10: Asperger's and Rationality and Faith (Part 1)

Holy Cow. Chapter 10 already?

This post is an introduction to a 2 part series about the things mentioned in the title. This post's purpose is for me to air out some ideas and thoughts I had a few weeks ago, preparing your for my more focused ideas in the next post.

I often play with LEGOs with my younger brother; we come up with stories we call "episodes" with all the little minifigures and vehicles he builds. I can't remember exactly when we started - but I think it stretches all the way back to when we lived in England, somewhere between 2002-2005. As brothers do, we often clash on the plot, which in retrospect is silly - and we usually work through it.

So today we're making Camp Half-Blood - full of demigods, knights, wizards and Jedi - team up with all the non-Star Wars villains (the Romans, Death Eaters, and orcs) to besiege the Separatists. Mega Mordred accidentally created a black hole, and only the Green Mountain can be used to draw it into space and safely away from Earth. The Separatists, however, want to take the Green Mountain with them to a galaxy far, far away and use it to defeat the Republic, so all the other characters must unite against them to save the world.

We have very active imaginations. Of course, this intricate plot did not create itself. This is the brainchild of much innovation and heated argument.

The two Sith and General Grievous have just slain Ben Kenobi (that is, the Episode IV version - we couldn't kill the Clone Wars version because that would create a time paradox) and are planning to retreat with their droid army to the Green Mountain. Assajj Ventress calls for her troops to follow her -

"Wait," I say. This has to be the fifth time the episode has been interrupted today. "The Separatist base is surrounded. How can they flee?" My brother furrows his eyebrows.

"But you said the whole army would retreat," he says.

"No," I reply, "I said these three -" I point to the Sith and General Grievous - "could escape. It doesn't make sense for the droid army to escape if they're surrounded; these three could easily sneak out, though."

"But we agreed that they would all fall back," he says.

It usually goes back and forth like this, with us disagreeing on who said what, until I realize that I'm arguing about LEGOs and it's silly for me to worry too much about the plot making sense.

"Okay," I say, "the Separatists can fall back. But -" and here I revert to rationality - "they somehow have to create a hole in the good guy army." I don't mean this to shoot him down; now even I'm trying to figure out a way to make it happen. Then my brother grabs a minifigure -

Assajj Ventress suddenly has an idea and force pushes a Republic Cruiser away, creating an exit point for her droid troops -

"Wait," I say. "They can't do that." After all, if they could just force push Cruisers around, why didn't they do that before?

"Sam," my brother says quickly, "why do you always poke holes in my ideas?"

There's a pause.

"I..." I have no idea what to say. "I don't try to poke holes in your ideas," I say lamely.

"You always make holes," he says.

"I don't make holes," I respond quickly.

"But you always find them. Why do you have to mention them?"

"I find holes. That's the way I think." This is true. "I don't mean anything by it -"

"But why do you always mention them?" he asks, making me think. This throws me. Sometimes it's good to mention holes - but during our episodes, where we're breaking the laws of physics to create black holes and use magical mountains to pull them into space?

I reach down for a minifigure -

Assajj Ventress suddenly has an idea and force pushes a Republic Cruiser away, creating an exit point for her droid troops. She turns to General Greivous. "Why didn't we do that before?" she asks.

And so the episode continues, and the Separatists escape to fight another day, extending the Black Hole story arc for at least a few more episodes. And I'm left to wonder about this strange tendency of mine I never considered before - why do I seek to poke holes in things?


I don't know when I started my tendency of trying to find holes. I think at some point I developed a sense of skepticism, questioning most things I learned. This is especially true in math and physics, which I've mostly taught myself over the years. When I encounter a new idea that is not intuitive to me, I brush it aside and try to derive my own method or idea, usually only ending up back where I started, having learned why the nonintuitive is really the only way about it. I don't regret this tendency; I think I have a better understanding of math and physics than most other students my level, because I don't accept the what until I know the why and how.

There's almost certainly a dash of Asperger's hidden in this tendency - whether it's due to the nature of Aspies to be "logical" or due to our obsessiveness over small discrepancies, it plays a large role in the way I think. Anything that might be wrong becomes wrong in my mind until I can find a way to prove it - because I can't justify knowing something without understanding it.

Notice the wordplay - not mine, but from whoever put the word "understand" into our language. To stand beneath. To get under the surface and find out how it ticks. This is also why, when I find a classical song I particularly like, I try to play it on the piano, even if it's beyond my skill level - because when when I play the piece, become the sub-stance (Latin wordplay), I understand it better.

Keep that theme in mind; it may become important later.

Now, there's a few exceptions to this rule of proof- much to my discomfort. Firstly, there's the areas that I don't have enough obsessive interest in to worry about proving. I love history, but not that much. And literature is more like music, in that there isn't much to prove, but much to understand.

Then there's God. You may have seen this coming due to the title, but I'll have to ask you to wait till the next post before I deal with it.

And finally, there's imagination. Because at times you just have to make an assumption or two to get anywhere, in writing and reading and playing/listening to music and even in math and physics. Albert Einstein's favorite words, with which he began many groundbreaking thought experiments, were, "Now let us imagine..." I try to harness my creative power as much as possible in coming up with explanations for things, or in figuring out ways to accomplish a goal.

All of this comes back, though, to my brother's question - when I find something foolish or full of holes, why do I feel the need to point out the holes? I didn't even know I had this tendency until my brother mentioned it. In fact, I think I mostly have this tendency around family, because I usually try to be very sensitive to others' ideas. For some reason my family gets the short end of the stick in that respect. Perhaps that's only natural; perhaps someone has to get the short end. But I think I can find a way to balance it out, if I try.

The funniest thing is - to both close this post and begin the next one - as pious as I try to be about my rationality, even to the little extent I apply it to imagination, God, and other less interesting subjects, I'm horribly irrational in other ways. This is a trademark of Asperger's that we aren't always aware of: we tend to pride ourselves on our logic (to compensate for our lacking in social skills, likely), but we forget those times that we are very illogical in our obsessions. And I'll tell you more about those next.

1 comment:

  1. Having been at a debate tournament all day desperately searching for holes in everything everyone says (and having had the "why do you always point out the holes in my argument" discussion many times with my own family), I really enjoyed this post.