Sunday, June 29, 2014


I like mythology.  I hate mythology.  I don't know that there is any other way to interact with it.  By mythology, I mean the sum total of stories we tell about the world around us to explain it to ourselves and that we assume in some way to be true/useful or that in history at some point someone assumed to be true/useful.

For an example of why I love and hate mythology, take the Greek and Roman mythology.  Much of it provided some way to try to make sense of the supernatural forces that were assumed to pervade reality.  Much of it describes events happening which are frankly brutal and disgusting and gods in general who are capricious and difficult to respect in any kind of normal human moral context.  But the world is a scary place with lots of things happening all the time that are brutal and make no sense in a moral context if you assume someone is responsible for all the random stuff that happens to you, so the brutality and amorality actually probably to many made the myths more compelling- not less.  The myths also provided a sense of common identity, a model for how idealized inter city interactions might take place, and a sense of traditional enemies and how they might be viewed and treated.

Some myths don't have to be believed as real to be viewed as useful.  A long time ago in a website far far extinct a completely fictionalized myth was created for people on the autism spectrum.  While nobody viewed the mythos as "real" in any literal sense, the "Aspergian Island" mythology created a sense of community and a common way of expressing the frustrations of living an autistic life and resonated widely and spawned a whole family of web forums and other communities which were very helpful to many people during a darker time of autism acceptance just not being a very high social priority and where it wasn't uncommon to hear about people claiming poison such as that anti bullying measures weren't needed because autistics didn't have emotions anyways.

So where's the problem?  Well, humans tend to form into tribal groups that want to love the people inside of them and hate the people outside of them.  Myths often are the language spoken to express the justification for these barriers.  Also, myths form the expression of how to punish and how to justify punishing someone who doesn't conform to the in group.  We can limit the needless destruction by trying to make our myths as accurate as possible and subjecting them to revision such as in science.  But as imperfect human beings, our will to punish or exclude traitors or outsiders easily overshadows the usefulness the myths provide. And that is why I hate myths.  Life in its totality is a mystery.  We all, in a sense, live in Plato's cave.  And the more we are sure we have the correct story of how the world works then the more we are willing to justify the emotional and social abuse heaped on ousiders or traitors.  And the more we are sure we are right the less willing we are to open our minds to the possibility of being wrong and needing to make course corrections.

So as I said before, I love and hate myths.  I don't know that it is possible to completely due without them, but to resolve the basic tension between loving everyone and loving only those we are like you a head on attack on the reliability of the myths must be made.

Friday, June 20, 2014


When I got home from work tonight the USU laser beam was going and for some reason it seemed exceptionally brilliant against the night sky.  So I took a picture on a 15 second exposure and wrote a poem.  What else do you do with free laser light shows?  Click the picture to see its full grandeur.


Infinite to the left, Infinite to the right.
The lightning splits the sky.
Endless possibility shines through the heavens,
When lightning splits the sky.

My past to the left, my future to the right.
Transformation splits my life.
Endless potential promised from heaven,
When lightning splits the sky.

The beauty of my past, the hope of my future.
Eternal transformation burns my life.
Endless decay and rebirth promised at the crossroads,
When lightning splits the sky.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Feeling clueless on how to defend the clueless

Having Asperger Syndrome has made me sympathetic to the plight of others who are similarly socially clueless.  So sometimes when I hear others criticizing or expressing awkwardness about dealing with a socially clueless person I want to jump in and defend the reputation of the clueless person.

Years ago while I was at a library a group of my classmates gathered around and started talking about how a woman we all knew had asked one of them out on a date.  The problem was the boy in question was on a date with another girl when this woman asked him out.  They were confused by her lack of tact and expressed frustration that this woman kept doing things like that.  I happened to know that this woman also had Asperger syndrome.  It would have been so convenient to have just said "She's a little mentally disabled when it comes to social norms so cut her some slack."  But this is a sensitive issue and its not good to out someone else especially if you aren't absolutely confident that the results will be emotionally safe for the person you are outing.  So I just said something like "I'd give her the benefit of the doubt."  Since at least some of the people around me knew about my having Asperger Syndrome I think I might have even gone as far as saying "I'd cut her some slack just like you would if I made a social mistake."  I don't know if she ever got her date with the young man she asked out, but I kind of doubt it.

Recently at work I've overheard similar conversations of frustration regarding someone who is socially clueless.  Someone who I know has tentatively self diagnosed themselves as Asperger Syndrome.  Unfortunately, this man often tends to go beyond simply being clueless.  He also tends towards being cluelessly and loudly offensive.  Making sexually judgmental comments about his coworkers daughters, absurdly racist statements, bigoted statements about homosexuals, and other unpleasant things to deal with.

And I just don't know what to do.  He's a nice enough guy once you get past the rougher edges and if he doesn't drive you crazy first with the more absurd things he talks about.  I'd love to step up and say "I'm sorry you feel he was frustrating, but he just doesn't understand social politeness"  Because it often goes beyond politeness in style to issues of offensiveness in content.  And I can't make any excuse for those statements.  They are just there.  But I wish I could do something more.  It makes me feel clueless.

Thursday, June 12, 2014


There was once was a shepherd who had 100 sheep.  One of them tended to wander.  The shepherd didn't like how nervous that made the other 99.  He angrily told the 1 sheep that if it wanted to wander and tempted the other sheep to wander to the shepherd would spray paint it red so that the other sheep would know to stay away from it.  Because its better to have 99 sheep who know its  to avoid wanderers than to have 100 sheep who aren't completely strictly in agreement about everything.  Since the food of the good shepherd is only for good sheep, the spray painted sheep was then forbidden from eating the food in the pasture of the good shepherd.  Because its better to watch one sheep starve to death alone cut off and ostracized from all its fellows than it is to deal with the possibility that the 99 might get ideas.

What a good shepherd.  All good shepherds like to eat tasty sheep, what else do the sheep exist for?