There’s an old Zen story: A student said to Master Ichu, “Please write for me something of great wisdom.”
Master Ichu picked up his brush and wrote one word: “Attention.”The student said, “Is that all?”The master wrote, “Attention. Attention.”The student became irritable. “That doesn’t seem profound or subtle to me.”In response, Master Ichu wrote simply, “Attention. Attention. Attention.”In frustration, the student demanded, “What does this word attention mean?”Master Ichu replied, “Attention means attention.”-Beck, C.J. (1993). Nothing special: Living Zen. New York: HarperCollins. 168.
I squawk to relieve stress or to stay in the conversation when words are scarce. This is sometimes seen as “attention seeking behavior.” I should be ignored until I behave “appropriately.” Appropriately means like the majority. I do not care for the kind of attention I am being accused of.
Attention means knowing that I ended that last sentence with a preposition, attention means noticing the comma splice. Proper and consistent attention to these things tells me they are a part of my style, a representation of my thought processes, not errors. When I write a formal paper, I don’t do this. I pay attention to where I am.
Some people pay attention to their driving by listening to music, arguing with a passenger, talking on the phone, thinking about work or money problems. I am not able to do this, my kind of attention is different, focused, even when to most, the task at hand seems simple. You’ve done this thousands of times, it’s automatic. But lives are at stake.
Often confused with attention is awareness. Today is the last day of April, and I am glad. Awareness will still be demanded by the puzzle pieces and ribbons and walks and undoubtedly some will remain lit up blue well into the summer months.
Awareness in itself is neither good nor bad. But combine the word with “autism” and Google it. What you will find will have little to do with the concerns of autistic people and everything to do with fear.
Autism Awareness is all about how many of us there are and what should be done about it, and to whom you can give your money. Attention to detail will show you where the money goes.
This April, some better, more important, forms of awareness have been in the air. At long last, attention from major media sources is being directed toward the horrors of the Judge Rotenberg Center in Massachusetts. People watch Fox News and read Time Magazine who do not read blogs by autistic adults.
Attention: People are being tortured in the name of treatment.
Lives are at stake.
It is possible that the next time I talk to a group, when I ask who has heard of JRC, someone will raise a hand. That would represent progress. There is a lot of work that will need to be done to keep JRC in the public eye long enough for demand to grow to finally shut it down. This problem must not be pushed aside in the flurry of “awareness.”
Attention is a strength for many autistic people. Only you call it preoccupation or obsession or something else slightly or very judgmental.
See that autistic child, turning in circles, going on about robots again?
You call it perseveration, you miss the point.
This is his way of being, not an error.
This is an opportunity. It might not come again.