Sunday, 4 October 2009

Thinking Time.

OK, a nightmare couple of weeks, we've had them before, we will have them again. It is the nature of our existence. We live constantly on the edge, not just me or Sarah, or you, but all of us.

The true reality of our existence is the present, the moment we exist in. In truth, none of us know what will happen next. Our lives are a conglomeration of memory and experience, we remember our experiences and work out the most likely course of events into the future. Hence most of us spend our lives doing our level best to avoid the unknown by doing what we always do and by creating strategies to keep ourselves occupied and relatively safe in the hope that existence will continue in a more or less linear progress to who knows where. We tend not to dwell on the uncertainties, life wouldn't be worth living if we did, constantly gazing into an unknown future which our insurance policies remind us is littered with accidents, sickness, acts of war, terrorism, revolution, insurrection and if you are really unlucky a malevolent god, and you really don't want to dwell on those!

We are remarkably good at keeping all the heavy stuff at the back of our minds, we do what we have to do to stay alive and then we embrace society and culture, we throw ourselves into the arts and sciences to educate and amuse and expand our minds. But for all that, I don't believe we can ever completely block out that obstinate little niggle living in the back of our minds with all the horrors, whispering in your ear, saying 'you don't really know what is going to happen in the next moment do you, not really.'

There, three paragraphs in and I haven't used the word, cute little word, quite innocent, very useful and probably our biggest enemy, of course it is not all bad, it is also, apparently, the greatest healer, but we are never entirely happy about it because it goes too fast when we are enjoying ourselves or we are late, and too slow when we are bored or early. Time, some of us don't have enough of it, some of us seem to have it to spare.

Time is the most important concept we have to grapple with, civilization depends upon it. Without some sort of synchronization of time society would not be able to function, we refer to it constantly. There are clocks and time pieces everywhere. So why am I saying all this.... I opened this with the statement that we have had a nightmare couple of weeks, a couple of weeks, a measure of time. Sarah has had her world turned upside down because the times she relies on have been messed about with.

I have this little theory that since time is so important and all encompassing to the neuro typical mind, how much more important it must be, by it's very nature, to the autistic mind. Sarah has many ways of checking the time, several clocks, a watch, the tv, the radio, probably the most reliable is the one in her head, as she seems to be able to tell me the time without reference to any mechanism until after she has told me, just to check. Time beyond hours and minutes, as in days months and years are also well established in Sarah's mind, for instance, she know there is a full moon every 28 days, and she knows that it coinsides with her menstrual cycle, she knows how many days there are in each month, and she knows there is a leap year which gives us an extra day in February every fourth year, so she can still tell you accurately what day you were born on and if you are silly enough to giver her a year she will broadcast your age.

Her transport arrives at 8.50am, if it is more than 10 minutes late, she is distraught, she likes to eat her tea at 5.30pm, if it is late there is hell to pay. I could go on, times and dates which are set and written down are set in concrete, change them at your peril. But she still cannot work out that there is a passage of time that has to be negotiated between say catching bus at say 10.00am and getting to the place where you catch the bus. I have learned now to take 10 minutes from the time to allow for this, but of course you can't do that with everything and that is where some problems arise, though to be fair not always. Woe betide the misguided but well intentioned who like to spring surprises on us, strategies built of time, take time to build. We don't do surprises and the unexpected gets a bit awkward as well.

I believe that Sarah finds herself staring into the abyss of the unknown on every occasion that time lets her down. Her life is ruled by routine, she depends upon routine and most routines are ruled by time. We deal with time, as I said before, we build strategies to avoid disaster but Sarah builds her strategies with time and if her time strategies gets messed about with she has nothing to guide her and she is left in chaos. So it's not really surprising that she plays up a bit on these occasions, not to mention the added insult of pre-menstrual stress, which thankfully has just stopped due to the timely appearance of the full moon.

So there you go, that's my little theory, written quite hastily whilst trying to cook Sunday dinner, which also requires some nifty timing I notice. I suppose I should say that most of my thinking on the nature of time was acquired whilst studying aesthetics in Cardiff several years ago where we were made to read 'Truth and Method' by Hans-Georg Gadamer, which made more sense to me this afternoon than it did when I needed it too all those years ago, and amazingly I knew exactly where to look in it to make sure I wasn't talking complete nonsense, which should please my old philosophy tutor Dr Nicholas Davey, his sojourn slumming it in the art department of UWIC was not entirely wasted, I learned something!

I hope this has made some sort of sense, bit out of practice for this sort of writing.

1 comment:

  1. It is interesting, isn't it, that while we neurological "normal" people can be just as put out by surprises, late buses and such, time for an autistic person appears to be a computable construct set up to organize a reality they do not fully grasp. So if time fails them, I imagine it must feel as if a laptop or precision watch is broken. One tiny element fails, which can mean that the whole system is falling over. What a frightening world to live in.
    I wonder though how much of that is due to the fact that "normal" people live their lives by outside time-keeping parameters. How did people with autism live in the Middle Ages - according to sun and moon? Maybe many of the shamans and savants of those days were really people with autism and their peculiarities were accepted as part of their personality makeup. Depending on the local social climate, they might have been revered or burnt at the stake...