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Wednesday, January 10, 2018


I am probably not neurologically typical. By this I don't mean that I am on the autism spectrum: I do not have problems with social interactions, eye contact, and the like. I am not the most socially smooth person, of course, but I can read people's emotions and don't have any of those particular characteristics.
I don't score high for Aspergers on the typical internet tests for it (not that those have any scientific value!).  

I am not obsessive-compulsive, either, in the clinical sense. (Hand washing, turning off lights, etc..) What I do have, though, is a kind of obsessive compulsion to do certain things. This can be memorizing poetry, learning all 12 keys on the piano, or studying the quasi-mathematical patterns of prosody. If I am interested in an author I want to read every damn word that the person wrote. I feel that I must compose music, that I have no choice to do so, and that only by doing so can I scratch a particular itch that I feel in my brain.

I enjoy reading books in languages I barely know.  I am prone to very severe "ear worm."

I don't have ADHD. My attention span is extraordinarily good.

I may be highly intelligent as well. That is not "typical." There are, however, people who are smarter than I am but without my particular set of characteristics. I believe, rightly or wrongly, that my ideas are more original and interesting than most other smart academics. I also believe that I am more self-aware about my confirmation biases and of my "professional deformation." I was arrogant in youth but now infused with a deep humility about the extreme limits of my erudition.

Very strong in me is a sense of religious awe, combined with a complete skepticism about any religious explanation of that awe. I feel that awe just by being alive and looking out the window at an oak tree. The conduit to it is music. I will never again mock anyone's religious faith, because that seems to be the way that many people channel this particular feeling. Many, of course, are religious but not spiritual, to reverse the personal ad cliché, and those deserve all the mockery in the world (though not by me).  

I think what I am saying here is that the way we think of our neurological "wiring" needs to be more nuanced. We tend to think along a set of axes, from normal or typical to pathological or disordered. Many of us in academia are just not wired the same way as a normal person (whoever that is!), but there are many ways of not being typical. I often feel out of touch even in academia, among scholars of poetry or poets.


Among those who comment frequently on the blog, though, I feel completely attuned. I am not saying this because I will agree with every opinion they might hold. (Agreement might be overrated.)  Or because they like me personally (though they may). What I am saying is that people who read the blog and comment are those who get me, through a process of self-selection.

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