The Opposite of Love

August 1, 2006 at 5:05 pm (Autieparenting, Autism and religion, Autism demonized, Hipocrisy, Perseveration)

Counterintuitive. This is a word that I started perseverating on a couple of years ago. I can’t remember for sure why I started thinking about it, but I think I must have heard it on the radio while driving. I do remember wondering why this word stuck with me above all other words at that time. I thought, maybe it was because it had so many syllables, or maybe it was the meter or cadence of the word that made me want to think it over and over again, like a hit song with a good hook. I soon realized, however, that polysyllibification and rhythm were not necessary for word perseveration to take place, because shortly thereafter the German words schadenfreude and fisslig took the place of counterintuitive. I liked that the name Freud was contained within schadenfreude, and I thought about how deliciously appropriate that was, even though I generally don’t put must stock in Freud’s psychoanalytic theory (except recently I started having a lot of symbolic, very Freudian dreams, and that’s starting to make me wonder a little). Fisslig (which, if I recall correctly, means something to this effect: “a state of flustered incompetence induced by the condescending scrutiny and assumption of incompetence by another”) was offered up by my friend Andrea, who has a knack for finding words (even if she has to borrow them from another language) to describe thoughts and feelings I’ve had that do not have any correponding words in the English language.

Andrea is also the one who theorized that perseverations never die: they just lie dormant. Under the right circumstances (time, money, something that trips that switch again), the potential is always there for the perseveration to be resurrected and enjoyed once again. I can’t prove the theory to be correct, but I have experienced this phenomenon enough times to believe that it is true, at least for me–and Andrea. And if it is true for activities, it must also be true for words, because this morning the word counterintuitive flooded my thoughts again as I was listening to a very familiar song. What happened this morning was a phenomenon that I’ve experienced, for example, when reading a very familiar Bible passage. I will read some verse that I must have read hundreds of times before, when suddenly I will “see” something in it that is completely different, completely interesting and new, as though I had never read that verse before.

I was driving out of the Toyota dealership with my autistic son Ben in the back seat of a rental car. My car was in the shop getting an oil change, and I was not about to wait around for it with Ben in tow. So as I was pulling out of the lot I started flipping through the radio stations and noticed that they had been saved to button numbers by someone else, and I didn’t like any of the stations (all hip-hop and rap, which I can only tolerate about 1% of the time, and a gospel station that was getting bad reception).  So I decided to manually find the oldies station (you know, songs from the sixties and seventies…um, yeah), and a song I really like came on: Let’s Get Together by The Youngbloods. I was feeling upbeat and groovy, and so I started singing along with the song. Ben was in a bad mood, however, and he kept making bad-mood noises that were ramping up and competing with the song. I found myself in the awkward situation of snapping at Ben for making so much noise during my love-in of one.

C’mon people now,

“Eeeahh, ahh, ahh…”

“Ben? What’s wrong?”

Smile on your brother

“Ee-yeeeaaah, aah, eeh, eh!!”

Ev’rybody get together

“Ben! What do you want?”

Try and love one another right now

“Weeeh-aaaaah, ooh, ooh, eee-yeah!!!”

“Ben! Why are you making so much noise? Stop it, already!”

So there I was driving along, feeling guilty and not all that groovy anymore, and thinking about how ironic that whole exchange was, when this part came on toward the end:

If you hear the song I sing,
You must understand
You hold the key to love and fear
All in your trembling hand
Just one key unlocks them both
It’s there at your command

At first I was thinking, “I like that verse. I think I’m going to put that in as a signature in my Yahoo account.” But nanoseconds later, I started thinking: “Whoa. Wait a minute. Did they just say ‘love and fear’? Love and fear. That sounds familiar.” Then I started deconstructing the verse:

There is a single key. It’s in my hand. That key unlocks both love and fear. One key opens up two different doors. Or maybe it’s the same door. Maybe it’s the door to my heart. Why did they not say love and hate? Isn’t hate the opposite of love? Why love and fear? Where have I heard “love and fear” before in the same sentence?

That was when I remembered this verse from–you guessed it–the Bible:

“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.” 1John 4:18

And that’s when the word counterintuitive started playing in the background of my mind over and over again. I thought, “If anyone was asked ‘What is the opposite of love?’ the answer would always be hate. It is counterintuitive to suggest that the opposite of love is fear.”

Counterintuitive. I agreed with myself that it was, but I didn’t know exactly why yet. I knew that it had something to do with the word epiphenomenon that I started perseverating on the night before, after reading about it on Autism Demonized. I began thinking about illusions and distractions from true phenomena, whereby maybe most people have a tendency to mistake epiphenomena for phenomena, and how that can relate to other things in the world too, but ultimately I was forced to push all these thoughts aside because I found it frustrating that I could not write about it while driving around doing all sorts of mundane errands. Ben needed his allergy shots, my vacuum needed bags, and my other autistic son David needed a bottle of Coke. And I do mean “needed.” I also had to take David to see the psychologist in the afternoon for an evaluation necessary to apply for additional services outside of the school district, and thoughts of having to go through the interview made it hard to think about much of anything else. After that interview was over, I dropped David home so he could resume playing Sonic the Hedgehog on Sega Dreamcast, which had been on pause the whole time we were out. I paid the babysitter and took Ben with me to go get my car back from the dealership. That was when I started thinking again, and thinking so hard actually that I actually got lost, which doesn’t happen very often. I tried to backtrack and find the other road but I ended up on some unfamiliar side streets going in the wrong direction. I hailed a woman on the street, telling her I was looking for Easton Road, and she ended up being very, very Aspie-ish which gave me some comfort for some reason. Her directions got me as far as Glenside Avenue, and I guess the Force led me back in the right direction after that.

If it is true that fear is the true opposite of love, why would “hate” be the almost universal response to the question, “What is the opposite of love?” Could it be that people are mistaking the epiphenomenon for the true phenomenon?

On the Autism Demonized blog, Ballastexistenz posted a quotation, attributed to Dr. Michael Goldburg, from the film Living the Autism Maze:

How can we have this rare misfortune become an epiphenomena [sic] threatening to overwhelm our school and social systems, while destroying families across this country and around the world?

Ballastexistenz looked up the word epiphenomenon and rightly commented that this word does not make sense in this context. Definitions of epiphenomenon:

A secondary phenomenon that results from and accompanies another

A secondary phenomenon that is a by-product of another phenomenon

I believe that the author of the above quotation was trying to amplify the word “phenomenon” by erroneously adding “epi,” instead of “pan” (e.g., the way epidemic is amplified to pandemic). Since “pan-phenomenon” is not a word, the writer fell back to the real word “epiphenomenon,” which is probably not what he meant. (That is, unless he was implying that the phenomenon is the mercury and the epiphenomenon is the autism; but that could be the topic of another, well-worn discussion.)

Could it be then, I wondered, that hatred is “merely” a secondary phenomenon that is a by-product of fear? Could it be that the things people hate about autism, and what seems to be a hatred of autism and autistics, is really at its root a fear of autism and autistics, and a fear of encroachment upon oneself and one’s identity by the misunderstood entity of autism? Could it be that if the uncertainty surrounding something about autism were removed, a lot of the fear, control, and hatred of it would be removed also? I think back to all the things I have ever felt resentment (a lesser form of hatred maybe) about autism, and these are a few things that come to mind: poop all over the place, being pinched and bitten, not being able to go many places or do many thing that other people take for granted, not having any normal experiences with my children’s schools and teachers, stress on marriage. But as these things start resolving themselves one by one, I now think that if only I knew at the time that “poop all over the place” would end on such-and-such a date, I would not have been so resentful at the time. What I needed was an end-date to look forward to, and then I would not have been so afraid that it would never, ever end. The helplessness that comes from feeling like a certain thing will never end breeds fear and resentment; ultimately, if left unchecked, it can breed anger, hatred, and murder. That is why Jesus said if you hate your brother in your heart (i.e., angry with him without cause, feel he is a fool) you are in danger of judgment because you have already murdered him in your heart. Hatred and dehumanization are only one step away from murder.

On this same blog, Gryphyn was criticized for demonizing autistics in a thread called Are You Neurotypical. The criticism was cross-posted back to the thread, and instead of engaging in mature dialogue Gryphyn responded in this way:

[AB] is a fucking moron. I’m not demonizing autism, I’m demonizing people who think having autism is ‘cool’. Get a clue, fucking public school rejects.

My response to this extreme nastiness was as follows:

When confronted with that “bad idea or notion,” those who perpetrate it can be seen to convulse and emit a strange string of denials and ad hominem attacks. This was posted on that site after Ettina posted:

“[AB] is a fucking moron. I’m not demonizing autism, I’m demonizing people who think having autism is ‘cool’. Get a clue, fucking public school rejects.”

He says he is not “demonizing autism.” He is merely calling autistics morons and rejects. There may not be any spiritual component involved here, but the hatred is transparent.

I almost forgot to mention that by cursing and calling ALL (by the fact that he used the plural at the end) autistics morons and rejects, this writer seeks to elevate himself to the status of “cool,” which is the kind of thing he seems to be denouncing.

I said, “the hatred is transparent,” naming it for what it “seemed” to be on the surface. In the last paragraph I started to unearth what was really going on, but I stopped just short of a conclusion. I see now that what drives people like Gryphyn to post things like this is fear. He revealed his own fear, whether he wanted to or not, by talking about the status of “cool,” which is clearly what he desperately wants to be or else he would not be concerned about other people’s coolness or lack thereof. He cannot maintain his own coolness without insulting an entire population. He cannot even see the self-contridictions in his writing because he is so blinded by his own self-protective, identity-protective fear of losing his cool status. I’d say this way of thinking is a slippery slope, but actually Gryphyn went from zero to sixty the moment he was questioned about his statement, so I guess for some people hatred is felt very easily and very fast.

And yet, even though I believe that the end result of fear is murder, I do not believe that murder can be explained away or excused through a compassionate look at the “trembling hand” of the mothers and fathers who held that key and instead of unlocking love unlocked fear. By unlocking instead of controlling fear, they opened up a Pandora’s box and allowed their fears–natural fears that probably everyone experiences–to spin wildly out of control. They betrayed their faithlessness in doing so. Faithlessness in God first, but also faithlessness in themselves to persevere as parents and faithlessness in their children to grow and mature at their own pace, leaving many of these distressing aspects of autism behind them.

People believe that the opposite of love is hate. Hatred kills, so hatred must be associated with action, power, and strength. Love nurtures, so love must be associated with passivity, meekness, and weakness. In reality, at least for me, the opposite is true: 

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. 2Timothy 1:7

The reason killers kill what they fear is that they have a spirit of fear that makes them believe falsehoods. They have no faith, no patience, no perseverence, no longsuffering, no understanding, no wisdom. They allow themselves to be cornered by their own fears, and everyone knows what happens to a cornered animal: they have a fight-or-flight response. Those who fear autism have chosen to fight it because they can’t fly away from it. Some have joined the cause to Deafeat Autism Now and Cure Autism Now, others have chosen to fight with words and images, such as the members of Autism Speaks, who have portrayed autism through their own fearful lens in Autism Every Day. Members of Autism Speaks have not been content to wallow in their own fears about autism. True to the adage that misery loves company, they have sought to envelop the viewer in their own fearful world by projecting their homicidal thoughts onto them. If the viewer identifies with Autism Speaks and the “gut-wrenching” tales of suffering, the viewer will automatically identify with the inner thoughts, now publically spoken, of some of the members. By now this notorious quotation uttered by Alison Tepper Singer is widespread in the autism activist community:

“I remember that was a scary moment for me when I realized I had sat in the car for about 15 minutes and actually contemplated putting Jody in the car and driving off the George Washington Bridge. That would be preferable to having to put her in one of these schools.”

Others, such as Karen McCarron, have taken that last, awful step and have actually murdered their autistic children to “end her pain and her daughter’s pain.” I doubt that, if asked if she had hated her daughter Katie, Karen McCarron would answer in the affirmative. In her mind, I suppose, she was committing a mercy killing. Her fears for herself, her family, and her daughter overcame her and caused her to do the unthinkable.

If perfect love casts out fear, what about imperfect or misguided love? I think it leads to disaster. I leads parents to take all kinds of chances with their children, maybe even kill them, in the name of love. Yesterday I saw a woman with two autistic children interviewed on the first of a five-part series called Inside Autism on CNN. To paraphrase because I can’t find the transcript, she said she has tried everything to help her autistic children, and when something didn’t work, she tried something else. This upset me because it seemed almost like a game of Russian roulette. If the therapy doesn’t work, then fine; no harm done. If the therapy does work, all the better. What if the therapy not only doesn’t work but harms or kills? That is the trouble with “trying everything” out of fear mistaken for love.

The autism activist community has been trying to defeat this Goliath (represented by DAN, CAN, Generation Rescue, and Autism Speaks just to name a few) by using reason and expressing righteous indignation, but Goliath keeps growing bigger and stronger, backed by corporate sponsors, Hollywood, science and research, and some members of the government. Even though I feel like a tiny David in this battle, I wish that I could just lodge one tiny thought-seed into Goliath’s heart, not a stone into its head to kill it. If I hate it and kill it, I am no better than they are, really, and I am just betraying my own fear of it. If I could do anything at all to transform it or convert it, it would be to plant the idea that to truly love is to have true power, and that we already have the means to unlock unconditional love toward our children, if only we will use the keys we are holding in our hands for the right purpose. God gives everyone a free will to choose between life and death, good and evil, love and fear. I would much rather win the Goliaths over to this point of view–to choose love–than to keep answering their fear and hatred with righteous indignation and getting nowhere at all. 


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