Aphorism: “a pithy observation that contains a general truth,” such as “opposites attract.” Synonyms: saying, maxim, axiom, adage, epigram
By Claudia Casser
This is the second in a series of posts collecting personal observations encapsulating strongly-felt “truths” that seem to resonate more strongly with “Aspies” than with neurotypicals (“NTs”). Of course, no aphorism tells the whole truth. In fact, my favorite sets of aphorisms are those which appear contradictory, such as the famous NT aphorisms: “Birds of a feather flock together” vs. “Opposites attract.” “Look before you leap” vs. “Hesitate and you are lost.” “A stitch in time saves nine” vs. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
My favorite college freshman pairing of Nietzsche quotes is “Do not be virtuous beyond your strength, and do not desire anything of yourself against probability” vs. “Everything he is doing is decent and in order, and yet he has a bad conscience: for the extraordinary is his task.” IMO my obsessive puzzling over these two aphorisms is quintessentially Aspie:
On the one hand, I have always striven to “be virtuous beyond my strength” and desired actions of myself “against probability” by expending vast energy trying to be everything NTs expected of me, trying to accomplish what someone of my talents without my social weaknesses “should” have been able to accomplish (for six decades I didn’t know I was “on the spectrum” or even that there was one, much less that I experienced the world, especially the social world, differently from others). Including the first Nietzsche aphorism on my freshman dorm wall was my only dim recognition that I was asking too much of myself.
On the other hand, I always felt and still foolishly feel guilty that I have not used my special talents to their potential, despite now knowing the barriers I had to overcome to use them at all.
So, below are some facially contradictory Aspie-flavored truths:
#1 The less I am truthful, the more NTs believe me.
#2 On NT subtexts: NT maxim: “Be true to yourself!” NT subtext: “But only so long as that does not annoy me.”
#3 Is it better to be misunderstood for your words or your silence? If you value sincerity, then it is the former; if you value dignity or want to be popular, it is the latter.
#4 I often misread NT intentions; but then, they also often misread mine. Why are both my fault? Might makes right.
#5 Conformity is essential to work in groups. Diversity is essential for groups to work. (But note, you only get social credit for the first.)
#6 The more you know, the easier it is to find means to achieve goals. The less you know, the easier it is to establish goals.
#7 Introspection is my greatest amusement and torment.
#8 Aristotle famously said, “the unexamined life is not worth living.” But neither is the over-examined life.
#9 Early diagnosis is better: first because it allows your parents to stop blaming the wrong causes of “misbehavior” and to seek targeted help; second because it encourages you and your support network to focus on your strengths and forgive your weaknesses.
#10 Late diagnosis is better: first because it pressures you to conform, focusing your efforts on masking differences and compensating for weaknesses; second because it allows you to compete without stigma#13.
#11 The problem with double standards is not that they distinguish among groups, but that they group the wrong people together.
#12 Things fun in the short-term but not in the long-term: a) Eating; b) Not eating; c) Shopping; d) Not shopping; e) Truthtelling; f) Lying.
#13 Knowing your weaknesses makes you weaker until you find the strength to compensate.
#14 You misunderstand me only because you insist on believing that I don’t mean what I say.
#15 My father used to like to say, “moderation in everything, including moderation.” I puzzled over that paradox for years, until I decided that paradoxes are only functions of language. Better language might be, “balance in everything over the long term.”
#16 Balance is boring. Imbalance is what propels you forward, until you re-establish equilibrium or die.
Claudia Casser (firstname.lastname@example.org), a graduate of Harvard Law School, worked as an antitrust litigator and a corporate in-house counsel before retiring to write and raise her children. Claudia’s 2016 semi-comic coming of age novel, “No Child Left Behind,” celebrates neurodiversity. Visit her website at www.ethicalantics.com, and buy her novel on Amazon.