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July 3, 2013:  Reviewing the Movies Although I'm a person who is very selective about which movies I like to watch (mostly because of how much I remember them for days, months, and even years afterward), I also occasionally pull the DVDs out of storage and watch them again--in some cases as many as a dozen times or more by now.  One of the mixed blessings of autism is being able to similarly review experiences of my life, recalling incidents with all of the detail and immediacy of when I first experienced them.  The fascinating thing about seeing movies for a second and third time, is that one can notice additional details, meanings, and implications that might have been previously overlooked.  Even with my autistic attention to detail, there has always been more to discover--perhaps because my own perspective on life has subtly changed in the meantime and there were lessons and insights available which I lacked sufficient maturity to appreciate during previous viewings.  Consequently, the best movies become more and more inspirational and deeply meaningful with time.  Having recognized this, I find myself regarding each new day as a collection of sacred opportunities to make the movie I will be quite possibly remembering and reviewing for many years to come.  Another
important aspect of reviewing the movies, however, is recognizing that if I turn off my DVD player during the bad parts, because they seem just too painful to watch, I will never get to see the happy ending which follows.  Similarly, if I fast- forward through the difficult moments, my appreciation for the final victory will be significantly less.  All of which leads me to the conclusion that enduring difficulties is necessary for full appreciation and the deepest possible experience of unknown victories and accomplishments that will follow.  If the present circumstances are troubling, therefore, it just means that I haven't yet reached the happy ending that's sure to follow.  Times of trouble are never the end, but they are quite common when one is in the middle.  So I keep going--any way that I can.  July 27, 2013:  Being Me Around You Perhaps autism is the reason I've never really noticed an inherent conflict between individuality, relationship, and community.  Specifically because of autism, I notice the myriad of details related to each of these three and, in time, I've also learned how these details can be organized like the subtle shifts of color within a rainbow.  When conflicts have occurred, it is more often because of objections to interconnection. On one hand, in being myself I make a point of knowing my strengths and weaknesses and of being proactive in my ongoing response to them.  The only times my quirks become divisive, is when I encounter persons who prefer that all or part of my uniqueness would somehow cease to exist.  In forming a relationship of any sort, two inherent qualities one must expect are first of all that integrating someone new into my life will introduce various changes and second that all of my decisions will no longer be made by myself alone.  Conflict begins, however, where mutual respect and openness end.  One cannot simultaneously welcome someone into certain areas of life while keeping that person out of others, without thereby maintaining a personal and emotional distance that is specifically adversarial to deeper interpersonal connection.  In so doing, the result would be fractured rather than holistically integrated people. On the other hand are those who wish to be welcomed, but who simultaneously hold parts of themselves out.  They wish to be a priority in others' lives without placing any priority on responding in kind, resulting in a parasitic sort of drain on personal energy.  Very few relationships can survive such imbalance.  If I go so far as to invite someone to become a member of my inner circle of family-like primary relationships, I quickly begin to build my life around those persons.  If the relationship is unbalanced, however, one person's issues can consume the other's integrity.  Curiously, however, when asked about their primary relationships, it seems that most people will describe themselves as being the one who gives more than the other person does.  What that says to me, is that significantly more open and honest communication is needed. A problem with noticing who is giving more than the other, is that the focus shifts to what is not shared instead of to what is shared.  None of us lives or dies alone, so each of us must consider carefully within relationships just what exactly our contribution to others' lives is.  If we focus upon accomplishing and maintaining a particular state, however, we slip into battling life itself--which must always grow and change in order to be what it is.  As the oft-repeated witticism instructs, "life is a journey; not a destination."  To render life a destination is to force it into a stagnation that is analogous to death.  Autistic though I may be, I want to live. Will you journey with me into all of the changes and challenges the future holds and become a bigger and better person thereby--or will you instead request that I move into your world, pretend to be your idealized fantasy of myself rather than the person I truly am, allow myself to stagnate in order to avoid changing anything, and ultimately shrivel and die? Please, I want to live the life that is my own and that has its own unique place within the rainbow spectrum of human experience, both making my contribution and also knowing that others will stand by me.  Is that too much to ask?  I am not your Frankenstein monster, assembled from diverse pieces to be paraded around the room as an example of your accomplishment of creating something indistinguishable from socially described normalcy.  I am here to do the creative work that no one except myself can do; all I need is for others to give me a real chance to shine.  August 8, 2013:  A report submitted to the newsletter department of the World OutGames 2013 event in Antwerp, Belgium.  At great personal expense and sacrifice, I registered for participation in the archery competition and traveled to Antwerp to participate in the third World OutGames.  I disclosed prior to my travel that I have the disability of high-functioning autism and, after asking whether it would be okay, that I would be participating in the ritual garb of my ministerial alter-ego, Sister Who (www.SisterWho.com).  At accreditation, I specifically asked whether there was any place to practice prior to the competition and I was specifically told that a single practice session would occur on Saturday, August 3, from 2-4:30 p.m. at the same location at which the competition would begin the following Tuesday morning.  I spent the usual three hours of preparation on Saturday morning, attiring myself in my ritual garb and applying the face-paint which is a primary component of that appearance.  I asked my hosts (with whom I had been matched by the hosted housing program of WOGA 2013) whether there would be any problem carrying my bow to the practice session and their opinion was that there would not be any problem.  One of my hosts provided a ride in his car to the north sport-park location and I began searching for the archery practice session.  No one I encountered, however, knew where the address provided by WOGA 2013 was located.  Through all of this searching for the address provided, my bow was unstrung and my arrows were locked within a case.  Suddenly I was surrounded by six police officers who demanded to know who I was, what I was doing there, and so forth.  I informed them that I was an archery participant of the World OutGames looking for the practice session I had been told would occur somewhere nearby.  They said they had not heard anything about the World OutGames and were hesitant to believe that any such event existed.  For approximately an hour they surrounded me, speaking only in Dutch and providing very little explanation in English.  How I managed to avoid experiencing an autistic melt-down, I simply don't know, considering how frightening this entire situation was.  Finally they said they would take me to the address identified as the location of the archery competition (which turned out to be either an incorrect or completely inaccurate address), then to the location of the opening ceremonies so that they could confirm that the World OutGames was in fact a real event, and finally they would take me back to where I was staying, because they could not tolerate me traveling around Antwerp with a bow that was not completely concealed (in which case, it would have been indistinguishable from someone carrying a rifle or other long gun).  Sitting in the back of a police vehicle when we arrived at the Opening Ceremonies location, they were able to locate a WOGA 2013 official who spoke to them in Dutch and failed to reassure or even acknowledge me at all.  Finally I was transported back to the place where I was staying.  I left my bow and arrows there and traveled in ritual garb to the Rainbow Village area and then to the Opening Ceremonies, trying to refocus myself mentally and emotionally on more positive things than this terrifying experience.  When I finally arrived back at my hosted housing location, however, I discovered that the whole incident with the police was being broadcast within local evening news and that the news report included the opinion that appearing in public places while wearing face-paint was absolutely not allowed (which is not what I was told by the police).  At that point, I found that I had been so traumatized by the afternoon experience that I was too frightened to leave the building at all for the next two days.  I also realized that I would not have sufficient concentration to participate in the archery competition.  Consequently, at great additional expense and because I no longer felt safe anywhere in Belgium, I changed my plane ticket so that I could return to the US as soon as possible (which turned out to be Tuesday morning; by the time the competition started, I was already at the airport).  Because I did not actually participate in the competition, I left the participation medal behind.  I do not expect to ever travel to Belgium again.  Clearly Antwerp is not the diversity-tolerant and artistically supportive city it claims to be.  I am very glad to be home again, but I suspect it will be a very long time until I finish paying for my travel to Belgium.  Until then, it will not really be over, but rather will linger in my memory like a nightmare that refuses to end.  Sincerely, Rev. Denver NeVaar, MTS a/k/a Sister Who (www.SisterWho.com; www.DenverNeVaar.info) August 25, 2013:  As Stones in the Stream Mottled and misshapen, unmoving and unmoved for longer than any remembers, yet in awareness forever growing and accumulating more memories than any single moment can hold--an entire lifetime is necessary.  In a long ago time, the stone lay in a field, surrounded by flowers with occasional attempts by vines to scale its modest height.  Then a particularly harsh winter fading to spring floods reshaped the land and the water found a new course.  Now the tiny trickle had grown to a steady stream; more abundant in spring, of course, but persisting even through hot and dry late summer, carrying the snow of distant mountains toward even more distant oceans.   No matter how turbulent and forceful the currents, however, the stone remained peaceful and unmoved, responding to the assault by giving the stream its song.  Indeed, without the stone, the stream would have no voice at all. How absurd, therefore, the people passing by, presuming what they could make of the stone, without considering for even a moment what it already possessed.  "This could be an ornament in my garden!" one exclaimed.  "But then how would I continue to give song to the stream," the stone thought to itself.  "This could be used in the construction of my house!" another suggested, caring not that this could also make the stone invisible and incapable of any other contribution.  "This could be broken into a thousand small pieces to be polished and incorporated into jewelry!" yet another proposed, failing to see the beauty that was already present, even as the stone provided a step by which the river could be safely crossed. Yet the greatest wonder that persisted, as the human and natural worlds churned all around, was the perfect peace which the stone maintained--as long as to its own self, it remained true.  How I envy that integrity and aspire to do as well. October 6, 2013:  The Ability to Speak a Name There is something about adversity that can sometimes drive a voice out of the shadows.  Remembering that adversity  --and more importantly that voice--once the moment of crisis has passed, however, is a bit more difficult.  Speaking up with deep conviction could even be described as the transformation of that adversity into something better.  Without open adversity, however, it is easy to forget why speaking up is so important.  When circumstances are comfortable and convenient, speaking with deep conviction and a commitment to higher principles must draw its energy from elsewhere-- perhaps even from remembering what previously occurred with sufficient intensity that the past seems timeless.  Within the stories of virtually every marginalized population regardless of the real or imagined basis of the particular bigotry--race, orientation, ability, religion, nationality, or whatever--the pattern of events always seem to move from being those who cannot be openly discussed within polite company, to being those who are finally demanding respect and getting it, to being assimilated by the mainstream in ways that tend toward conformity, to ultimately being once again the name that is not openly discussed, simply because doing so might make someone uncomfortable.  Hello?  Have we all forgotten that the very fact of being fully alive is inescapably intertwined with passing from one uncomfortable experience to the next?  It is never comfortable to practice or prepare to do one’s best.  Being awarded a silver medal in bodybuilding came after eighteen months of strenuous exercise--two hours per day, six days per week-- accompanied by all sorts of self-discipline and sacrifice (no desserts, no fried foods, etc.).  The accomplishment was not a lottery prize; it was earned.  The ability to identify myself as autistic without any sort of shame, is similarly a matter of self-discipline and sacrifice.  I continue to study myself and my particular manifestation of autism in order to continually expand my understanding of what I can do and of what I have to give to the world around me.  I will not--under any circumstances whatsoever--consent to ever again be an example of a race, an orientation, an ability, a religion, or a nationality that cannot openly speak its own name.  Specifically by remembering the past, I will strive to build a better future.  If I must leave behind the unhealthy sweetness of superficial popularity in the same way that desserts had no place in my life while training for the accomplishment of a silver medal, then at least I know that I will have no regrets and that any prize I receive will be one of earned integrity and perseverance rather than mere chance.  The characteristics with which one is born--orientation, race, social class, ability, and so forth--are sometimes described as being “accidents of birth,” but the creative and constructive expression of each of these within the unfolding of life that follows, are the substance of meaning and purpose that give power to whomever is willing to serve them.  By love and wisdom, all that I am is what I am divinely called to be--in the most beautiful way possible.  Truth seeks a voice within the world and I am willing to lend it mine.  If there are those who do not understand and/or who respond badly, they will still have had the chance to do better than that, if I have been faithful to the spirit within me.  For my part, I will strive to effectively utilize every such chance entrusted to me.  Yet, all that being said, what is the name by which I will call my spirit?  All things considered, how could there by only one?  Nonetheless, I am a single point at which many spectrums and continuums intersect.  Spiritually, I am a glass of water striving for a relationship of love and wisdom with the ocean.  One thing I am not, however, is a person fearful of speaking any of his names publicly.  Complex though it may be to say this, I am myself.  December 5, 2013:  Standing Tall in a World of Cowering Shadows On one hand, I remain absolutely convinced that absolutely everything is extremely interconnected and interdependent.  On the other hand, however, as someone with high-function autism, I remain very aware the details of my world, among which is that apparently the majority of those around me wish to hide everything of which others might not approve--including autism.  In contrast, I learned very early in life that one cannot live one’s own life with any integrity nor can one effectively serve one’s life purpose (and, yes, I believe everybody has at least one) while striving to be the embodiment of others’ expectations, fantasies, and illusions.  As superficially desirable as it may seem to experience life as perpetually blissful, the inescapable truth is that we don’t grow nor do we learn much from being happy all of the time.  It is the cycles of days and nights and seasons that keep the world going and it is the cycles of happiness, sadness, fear, anger, failure, success, and contentment which keep our spirits alive.  We cannot serve those cycles, however, while hiding from whatever our respective life experiences include.  For those of us with autism, it may be even more difficult to withstand how overwhelming the world typically feels, but no good comes from allowing the victimization we experience to become our primary personal definition.  We must continually show the people of the world the multi-dimensional universe within ourselves, of which they would otherwise be completely unaware--specifically because of the light and the empowerment such personal universes can provide.  In the absence of such light, life in general would be nothing but shadows and darkness.  You are indeed a light to the world--so shine, in whatever ways you can.