It's been said that the most direct path between two points is a straight line. While this may indeed be sage advice, the lines in our brains are anything but straight! They curve around like a cloverleaf expressway. Some lines intersect others in places in which intersection seems implausible. They curve, bend and twist to the point that our minds look like a jumbled and tangled web of thoughts, beliefs, conceptions, premises, opinions and ideas -- a labyrinth within its own multi-layered labyrinth.
This post was spurred by a discussion on political philosophy over at Always Already
. In my brief comment, I admitted that I possess a glaring contradiction within me. In terms of political philosophy, I'm an avowed socialist. However, within the confines of my neurological being, I'm patently anti-social!
On the face of it, these two aspects of me seem wholly incompatible. Socialists embrace the concepts of community and cooperation, while the anti-social person embraces isolation and being left to their own devices. A socialist is more apt to find worth in change and fluidity, while the anti-social personality finds security in the status quo and rigidity. So, it would seem that my innermost core is being pulled in opposite directions simultaneously.
The difference in these two perspectives is that they are confined to different spheres of what we call the self. My socialist tendencies are part of my cognitive and intellectual framework. The anti-social aspects are part of my neurological and emotive being. Consequently, the former applies to my thinking in terms of the world at large, while the latter more specifically governs my specific actions and behaviors.
This sort of dichotomy certainly is not personal to me alone. I often marvel at the direct contradictions inherent in the lifestyles of many fundamental Christians. On one hand, they will tell you that their very lives are lived in devotion to this fellow called Jesus. They study his life and hang on his every word. Yet, their overt behavior and the policies they support seem to fly in the face of this devotion.
According to their own religious narrative, this Jesus dude was known to consort with prostitutes, lepers, tax collectors and gentiles -- the dregs of his society. He welcomed all into his tent and all that he asked for was for them to be open to the kingdom of his father.
Contrast this to the lifestyle choices of many contemporary conservative Christians. They live in gated communities, belong to exclusive country clubs and support policies that discriminate against the very same kinds of people that their savior welcomed with open arms. Want to talk about contradictions?
Another current example that quickly comes to mind concerns all these "free market" disciples begging for government handouts. For decades, they've run around proclaiming the mantra that each person must pull themselves up by their own bootstraps plus there's no such thing as a free lunch. They've stridently opposed welfare, medicaid and the minimum wage because, they contend, that the system is kept in balance by the vaunted "invisible hand" of the market.
Yet, the moment they encounter the slightest amount of turbulence or see storm clouds gathering on the horizon, the "invisible hand" argument evaporates into thin air. They insist that OTHERS must pull up THEIR bootstraps and a free lunch is just what the doctor ordered!
Returning now to my own personal contradictions -- some of which are just exasperating as the two cited above -- I find that these strange dichotomies often frustrate the hell out of me, especially those that juxtapose my intellectual self versus my Asperger's self!
As I've mentioned before, it's quite vexing to understand your own pathologies without having much of an ability to alter them. As I've illustrated on this blog again and again, I can analyze my quirky disposition up one side and down the other. I can easily tease out the psychological and sociological implications. Yet, for all my intellectual prowess in this area, the behavioral patterns themselves remain unchanged.
It's sort of like these two parts of my being are standing on a spot looking at an agreed upon destination far off in the distance. My intellectual self immediately gets to work on plotting out the most direct and safest course to reach the objective. This part of me looks at the lay of the land, geographic obstacles and takes the specifics of the ecosystem and climate into account. When all the available information has been gathered and analyzed thoroughly, a line is plotted on the map.
With the intellectual self taking the lead, we start off on the journey. Moments later, however the intellectual self notices that the neurological self has already veered off course. Here's what the intellectual self has to say:
You're going the wrong way, you stupid moron! Come here, look at the map. If you keep heading that direction, you're going to run straight into a thicket of brambles. It's a wide thicket and, to get through it, you will have to suffer all sorts of cuts and abrasions. I'm not even sure it's possible to penetrate.
If, by chance, you somehow claw your way through, the moment you step out of the thicket there's a drop off of over 500 feet. You'll go tumbling into a raging river strewn with huge boulders and logs. Chances are that you won't even survive the fall.
Even if you somehow manage to survive all of this, the only place to pull yourself out of the river is in a field of quicksand. So please, pay attention. F-o-l-l-o-w me.
The neurological self nods its head and then charges straight into the thicket of brambles, falls headfirst into the raging river and climbs out only to get stuck in the quicksand.
You know, at times, I almost wish I had been born fully autistic. Because my cognitive abilities would be severely impaired and compromised, I wouldn't be able fully to comprehend the various predicaments I habitually find myself in. It's not that I necessarily wouldn't encase myself in these same kinds of contradictions, it's more than I wouldn't possess the intellectual capabilities to recognize them for what they are. :)
But, as Popeye once mused, "I yam what I yam" -- a most jumbled and tangled web.