The Art of Autism kicks off our 8th Annual Arts & Poems for Peace Project. We will be posting on Facebook peace submissions throughout the month of October.
By Dawn Baker
The Oxford English Dictionary writes that peace is ‘freedom from disturbance’. The Hebrew root for peace (shalom) is a blessing that a person may be full of well-being in all aspects of their lives. Even though incomplete, those definitions of peace, when combined, suggest the potential for quite an incredible human existence, don’t they?
What would life be like if this peace (free from disturbance and where people would live in full well-being in all aspects of their lives) was something that breathed inside us as individuals and grew within us as a collective? There’s a rhetorical question I choose to leave lingering.
Taking a few steps away from what are possibly grand idealisms or unrealistic expectations, I am wondering if it would be wise to consider and analyse the peace within Dawn. Is there any? Welcome to my ‘now’ journey which began (in this phase) when much of my life was altered drastically for reasons that are irrelevant here. Dawn is seeking peace and pursuing it. If you’d like to join me where I am and walk a few steps with me, you are most welcome.
My autistic persona is fully unique (as it that of any autist or indeed any human), although I inevitably share traits and ‘ways of being’ with others of this wiring. With a focus on one aspect of my autistic functioning that I would both never want to lose but am constantly at full tilt trying to manage, meet (part of) my mind.
My brain functioning, and therefore the patterns of my mind are both an internal superpower and an atomic weapon to me. My mind battles itself with conflicting thoughts of equal or differing weight and truth, often with more than 3 or 4 strands active simultaneously. It considers so many variables in all kinds of scenarios and situations. It changes how it thinks as it thinks. My mind is an evolving network of connections and thoughts and concepts and theories. It is never, ever silent and it moves at high speed. For my mind to be at peace, would it need to be silenced?
Would that silence be peace? Is such a silence possible? For me, no.
Does that matter? I am currently of the thinking that no, it does not matter.
Why does it not matter? Because my current question to myself is a different one. It is concerning whether it is possible to be at peace within myself with the conflicting and racing thoughts, the on-going analysis and the ever-changing climate of my mind all being my reality, and whilst all being as present as they are. Is peace possible there?
On the face of it, my initial answer would be (and was) that no, it is not possible. But I have shifted from that stance and perspective and seem to be moving elsewhere to another (likely) temporary base from which to exist. My experiment on self is this: To allow all thoughts. I allow them with the mindset that whether they are contradictory or confirming of each other is irrelevant. I allow them whether they demonstrate logic or are fully irrational. I allow them whether they adhere to what I think I believe or not. I am to let them all be. To leave them. To let them do their thing. To allow them to interact, contradict, or confirm and I encourage them to simply exist alongside each other.
The fact that they are all there inside my head together isn’t because of some kind of malfunction in me as a humanoid. That was my previous stance, which I (for now, at least) consider nonsense. Yes, of course, we are all a product of both nature and nurture and will have been impacted and influenced by everything lived and experienced, but none of us is defective at the very essence of how and who we are. We may have seasons of life where additional, external-to-self expertise and help is needed, but as a life-form, we are not defective. We are perfectly ourselves whatever difficulty we may have or whatever experiences we have lived. I am not a malfunctioning humanoid, and neither are you. All these thoughts co-existing in my mind is not evidence of my malfunctioning. And because of this mini revelation (which emerged over time) my experiment to allow all thoughts is proving interesting in my pursuit of peace.
What have I discovered so far?
Given time, the loudest thoughts are often not the ones that end up being the most valuable or important. They are not necessarily the ones that result in an action being needed from me. They might have importance because of what they are concerning, but I am not here to stand up for every single matter of importance. I cannot. I am one person. It is impossible. Those loudest thoughts seem to kind of dissipate once they’ve had their say (for however long). Eventually, they are lesser in the sound mix, possibly still present, but more as a background context. (Let’s say they resemble a synthesised, partially dissonant but beautifully placed chord, played on a Roland Juno-D) rather than a vital and appropriately stylised lead vocal using a Shure SM58.)
Given time and space to explore as they interact with one another in a variety of ways, the oftentimes completely contradictory thoughts somehow settle. They seem to find a place to ‘be’ where these contradictory positions can all be fully true depending on contextual factors. They can co-exist. The only thing necessary to ensure this is possible is that another part of the mind gives up the dogged fight for a decision or judgement about what is right or wrong. There must be a willingness to accept it is less about absolutes and is more about the recognition of different stances, always remembering too that contexts are crucial.
Given time, the thoughts do settle (although the process can also mean more thoughts are being added constantly, but that doesn’t alter what is happening). The core senses of what I value or believe become more certain not because I have blindly accepted what I have been told to think, but because I have allowed the process of thinking without being threatened by it or needing it to be tidy and ordered as a process. Don’t get me wrong, I did want it to all be tidied and ordered. I like tidied and ordered, but that isn’t (I am more and more realising) how my mind works. And to find any peace, it won’t be ‘over there’ or indeed anywhere other than ‘here’. We must deal with what ‘is’ not what ‘should be’ or whatever other variable. It must be what ‘is’.
By allowing all these thoughts to exist and to interact, have I become a conflicted person? I would say that no, I have not. Has it been necessary for me to allow thoughts to metaphorically bounce off each other or become entwined or fused together before then being blown apart again? For me, yes. It is bringing more clarity than I’ve known before. Do I spend most of my time in a muddle? Yes. Is that okay? Yes. I am even more about process over outcome than ever I was. Is that okay? For me, yes.
Am I learning to accept my thinking mind as it is, and as part of who I am? Yes. What is the outcome of that? That I am more at peace with who I am that I ever have been even though that is often whilst being amid some crisis or other.
Does my mind and my thinking cover all aspects of Dawn? No, of course not. There is the pursuit of peace about how my life is, how I look, my weight, my emotions, my relationships, and all that forms any aspect of my life. I have only just begun, but I can get a small sense that a beginning of peace is acceptance of what ‘is’ and a non-striving for outcomes of my choosing at the time. Does that mean I am aimless? No. But it does mean I need to learn to hold all that ‘is’ lightly, remembering that holding too tightly can squash out the life and also isn’t a guarantee of protecting what ‘is’.
From the consideration of a personal pursuit of peace, it might be wise to mention peace on a wider scale, whilst ensuring we do not fall into the grand idealisms and the unrealistic expectations I mentioned earlier. This piece of writing isn’t about solutions and is definitely not a step-by-step guide to reaching ‘world peace’. But it is about the further exploration of thoughts concerning peace which may or may not translate into shifts towards individual and collective peace.
We seem to have a sticking point regarding world peace before we even begin and it is so obvious to anyone who can open their eyes to it, and (if looked at through most lenses) seems insurmountable. It is fully wound up in how we view self (truthfully, not necessarily how we present to others how we view self) and how we view others (truthfully, not necessarily how we present to others how we view others).
A world of peace would inevitably be largely dependent on the willingness and ability of peoples from all races, nations, and religions with whatever temperaments they naturally defer to, and whilst holding whatever diagnosis they may have, to genuinely allow (and indeed promote the necessity for) all to truly co-exist. Wouldn’t it? Is that not similar to how I am learning to allow contrasting, contradictory or aligning thoughts to co-exist in my mind? Can we do that? There is a lot of ‘seen to be doing that’ as so-called diversity is highlighted and promoted, but it seems to me it is often under-pinned by that which is not affirming of anyone or anything that is outside of one’s own experiences or perceived understanding.
And would any hope of world peace not also need to include the necessity for all to be truly authentic in their spiritual lives or their own sexual orientation regardless of the views of others? And would it not be essential we accept others without feeling the need to battle those who choose different categorisations to us (whoever the us is)? These few examples can be expanded to include whatever people groupings there are in existence across the world. Fundamentally, is peace not rooted in the true acceptance of all, rather than the ‘lip service’ acceptance of all?
And wouldn’t any hope of world peace also need for those who have grouped themselves with others (because of need or race or preference or whatever else) to see they can co-exist and live alongside others without necessarily needing to demonstrate their place or worth. If you are human of whatever categorisation or grouping we humans have created, so be it. You don’t need to shout that you’re here and must have a space. You can shout, if you feel the need to, but I hope you are doing so knowing internally the truth that you do already have a space, and you can be who you are and as you are.
Would that be peace? Maybe it would be a start towards it… but right now, I will leave you with your own thinking if you choose to explore it. I am going to go away to a quieter space because I’ve inserted a lot more thoughts into my own head and I need to allow these to do what they will as I find a way to internally settle (maybe). I have a feeling tonight it might be the audible book I have on repeat alongside whichever of my obsessions takes my focus as I step away from my desk.
Peace, harmony, wholeness, welfare, prosperity and tranquillity to you and yours as the pursuit of peace continues…
I’m Dawn, a late diagnosed autist who prefers to talk about herself in third person, so let’s shift. Dawn is an ex-primary school headteacher and ex-SENCo (along with various other teacher-based roles she had during her 16 years in education).
Dawn has a full-time job managing the impact of her wiring on herself (which tbf was always the case). She tends to move at speed (when she’s not in shutdown) and is filling a void of now not being a headteacher, so she is actively dabbling in other life-pursuits. Dawn has begun blogging (in a reasonably prolific way). She is developing a website (which is where her blogs live) as a virtual space for her to share her life mission (soon to be revealed). She teaches musical instruments to children and (on a similar theme) is manically taking her own graded musical exams (pretending these are vitally important to her life progression but really knowing they are just tangible goals for her to achieve during this life chapter).
Dawn used to give power to her autistic label. She saw Autistic Spectrum Disorder as a disorder (largely because of the impact it has had on her 0-40 life, although she didn’t have a name for it until a few years ago). She forgot to notice the super-powers within how autism exists as part of how she is.
Her mission in life is to attempt, through her blogging currently, to break-down some misconceptions about what is, to promote what would be a potentially healthier focus, and to champion what could be.