I remember growing up within a rural environment in southern Wisconsin that we knew at least the basic identity of nearly every neighbor for three to five miles in any direction. After my family moved into town when I was about fourteen, we didn't know who lived on the other side of the fence around the backyard. There seems to be little argument that the world has become an overpopulated place, yet the experience of personal isolation appears to have increased in direct proportion to the addition of each new resident. To put it bluntly, there is something insane about feeling absolutely alone within the midst of billions of people--but also something disturbingly honest.
It seems that what we have lost (or are losing) is consciousness of just how interconnected and interdependent we are. Each person has a unique way of perceiving, understanding, processing, and responding to information. Consequently, it would seem that if we could learn to effectively collaborate, there would be almost nothing that would go unnoticed, unlearned, and unaddressed in some hopefully constructive way. All that is currently missing is our decision and dedication to do so.
Unfortunately, knowing this doesn't make my life any easier because the basic dynamic described above cannot be legislated from without but must be chosen from within. As someone instructed me many years ago, "one can only build the bridge halfway." If no one builds the other half of the bridge, the chasms between myself and others will never be crossed. For myself specifically, this has resulted in a situation within which my only immediate family are my dogs, my vocational future is uncertain, and my current financial survival is continually teetering on the brink of disaster. Nonetheless, there is no question that I have abundant abilities, that I am able to create many beautiful and inspiring things, and that I am thankfully sufficiently stubborn about not giving up that in spite of even the most adversarial circumstances, I persist in doing as much good as I can for as long as I can--but there seem to be more and more days of late within which I'm simply feeling very, very worn out and wondering where the rewards for all of this effort are hiding.
In the midst of such intellectual, physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual pursuits, I know that personal integrity and honest self-awareness remain critically important. Specific and fluctuating combinations of limitation and ability surround and shape me, alternatively inviting humility and courage within diverse moments. Things that I wish I could do and have tried to do but which remain resolutely out of reach form a sort of boundary that steers me toward other dreams where I often excel but find that I'm still waiting for others to even notice. Greater artists than I, however, were completely ignored and in some cases even scorned until after their physical lives had ended. Even if my work rises to the level of theirs, should I expect that I will receive blessings which they were denied?
It is specifically because of such thoughts as all of those above, that I return again and again to the conclusion that life is primarily about the growth of the soul. The specific question with which I must now wrestle, as I mentally and emotionally prepare to meet with a clinical psychologist later today, is what effect a diagnosis of High-functioning Autism could contribute to the growth of my soul. Conversely, what if a different diagnosis is discovered? Considering more than thirty qualities on my list of possible indications of some sort of anomalous categorization, I will be very surprised indeed if the answer I receive is that there is nothing unique about me at all, but even then my conclusion remains that life is primarily concerned with the growth of the soul.
I guess, all things considered, that for which I most wish, is a sense of family, of community, and of friends along the way. Not superficially, in name only, but functionally; that when I metaphorically reach out into the darkness, I will always find someone there, willing to also take my hand and journey onward together for as long as we can.