Dwelling

From Issue Zero git notebook

A structurally sound, coherent, and either mutually reinforcing or at least compatible set of habits, routines, and indeed, obsessions, is, for somebody on the autistic spectrum, akin to a house you built with your own hands, a log cabin, a family house, a cathedral. A fraction more literally if not less poetically, it is a dwelling. It gives shelter. It gives comfort. An ordinary day is full of threats, hurts, and discomfiture. All of my life, since I was a child, I have found projects that gave me meaning, a sense of identity, purpose. All of my life, since I was old enough to meaningfully reflect upon my own mental process, I have periodically known the anxiety of being without the same. Even if, or indeed especially because these projects had no meaning for anybody else, I needed them. This makes them sound rather more volitional than they perhaps are. I doubt that I could choose not to have a project, not to be inside a project, not to desperately seek such a project, but, were that possible, it would mean chaos, anomie, anxiety, entropy, a lack of direction, of a sense of identity: life would have no pleasure and many pains.

Many people on the autistic spectrum have a single mental dwelling place their whole lives. I have worked with them, picked up on them over and over again in literature, heard of them in stories told by friends, met them. A lad I used to work with at a college for kids with “special needs” had a destination roll from a bus or a tram, I forget which, set up in his bedroom.1 Another dreamed of running a laundromat and would watch wash cycles on YouTube. Fantomas, a friend of mine, is fascinated by analogue cameras, propelling pencils, and a particular brand of German air rifles manufactured in the 1970s. For me, such consuming passions have cycled around, sometimes returning, sometimes not. I have moved from one place to another, one job to the next, and these different routines and the different inputs and environments I have known, have led to my having to reconfigure my habits and routines like a boat that must be hauled up in a dry dock. I have sometimes tried to reconstruct these obsessions after the fact but, like zooming into a coastline, I can give up on an attempt to list and track even those in a single month, let alone a lifetime. Indeed, an essay I was developing for this issue, Sometimes a Month Means a Decade, became an attempt to track a series of obsessions in a period when I needed one more than ever but had not the time for indulge one.

1 He also used to listen to the John Peel show religiously so, though there is an analogous obsessive quality to both, it is not necessarily so easy to typecast him.