John Elder Robison, who has Asperger’s, writes prolifically on Autism. He volunteered to undergo an experimental treatment which involved being subjected to magnetic stimulation of targeted areas of his brain.
There have been extensive studies on Asperger’s by neurophysiologists during the past 30 – 40 years. During the past 15 – 20 years, the emphasis has been upon the difference in utilization of the Cerebral cortex and the Amygdala aspect of the Cerebellum between neurotypicals and those on the Autism Spectrum.
These studies reveal how information with an emotional content, especially when personally conveyed, is largely processed in the Cerebral cortex by those with Asperger’s rather than in the Amygdala where it is processed by neurotypicals.
The result is those of us on the autism spectrum process information with emotional content logically, rather than emotionally.
However, the richer the contextual content associated with the information, the greater the ability of Aspies to ‘understand’, even if they cannot ‘directly experience’ the emotion being expressed.
In the experimental treatment in which Robison participated, he didn’t immediately notice any difference.
But the next day, when he interacted with others, he was unexpectedly overwhelmed by an almost ‘psychic’ awareness of their emotions.
He was assailed by emotions of “jealousy, fear, anger and every bad thing I could imagine” (Neale). It was an unexpected torrent of emotions which he experienced as shocking and distressing.
This situation, one of being admitted to an emotional landscape which is usually unavailable, puts me in mind of Virginia Woolf’s comment in A Room of One’s Own about patriarchal rules in Oxbridge. At the library, she was refused entrance because of being a woman.
In social situations, as a person with autism syndrome, I feel as Woolf did “…how unpleasant it is to be locked out;” (18).
But when I am composing a poem like Exonerating Eve which expresses such a divergent but powerful viewpoint, then, like Woolf, I cannot help but ponder the alternative, as she did when she added, “… and I thought how it is worse perhaps to be locked in;” (18).
Aspies, such as myself, come to realize early in our lives that we are somehow ‘locked out’. We learn to accept this and to make social inroads where we may.
But Robison’s experience indicates that our lack of social/emotional understanding is a ‘locking out’ that is at least in some respects beneficial, allowing us to experience the world in a way that, while ingenuous, is also unique and insightful.
And thus I present my poem:
I know why Eve ate the apple
Picked and tasted forbidden fruit.
Locked in her Eden she hungered for more,
wanted proof that her life would not
always be just wandering the garden
A helpmate to Adam, a servant to God.
In her heart she yearned for more than the beauty,
More than the silence. More than obedience.
Something within called her to challenge
The ‘perfection’ of a life established by God.
Accepted by Man.
Did The Creator witness her anguish?
Did He inspire her desire for more?
Gifting free will to all of humanity
Did He await our wakening thrill?
Did He seek a braver companion
Than one who obeyed without question or zeal?
Was He astounded when it was the woman
The feminine one who plucked and then peeled
The Fruit that triggered a flood
of passion and reason,
Wherein she shrugged off obedience
and now saw her truth?
Newly aware, she sees in her nudity
All that is vulnerable and desirable to men.
Looking out at the garden she sees the reality,
thorns and thistles suddenly visible.
And within her, an awareness of a strong inner spirit,
God-given, to prepare her for the journey
that she now begins.
Eve ate the fruit to be free from the fallacy
That her life was perfect.
She dared to be more than that helpmate.
More than that servant.
To live in a garden that was an Eden no more.
A garden that now she perceives as a jungle.
A garden that asks her spirit to grow
A garden with pathways to be forged and then trodden
A life posing questions, needing answers,
Revealing wonders, unveiling horrors.
A life to be probed. A will to be tested.
Searching for truth, for reason and passion,
She reaches up, plucks The Fruit from the tree
And in that critical, wonderful moment,
Plunges mankind into uncertainty,
Drawing us all out of complacency.
Here in the midst of this pandemic
I understand a woman like Eve.
As I sit and reflect on the life I’ve created,
I challenge myself to find more of me.
To ask the hard questions, to reach for the truth.
To find in myself the courage to ask
The questions that, unanswered
leave me unproved.
To reach for the core, the richness of life
Face my own fears, grapple with and tame them.
While I have time. While I am here, locked in this life
Some would call Paradise.
Yes. I have come to know why Eve ate that apple.
M J Adam
Wednesday, July 28, 2021