To begin the story at the beginning, read "Part 1: Post 1: Beginning Again," published in January, 2013. To consult a description of the campus, read "Part 1: Post 14: The Greening of Campus," published in March, 2013.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Year 2: Part 2: Post 9: Gender



We’re getting close to the end of the spring semester now; there’s only two weeks left. I knew this semester was short, but it’s gone faster this year than last. In three weeks I’ll be on the Island with Charlie. I have to get ready. I’m almost halfway through the reading I have to do for it.

And I still haven’t talked Gender Studies, my Friday class with Allen and Kit.

I think I explained how it’s actually two classes, a women’s studies class for women and a men’s studies class for men, that sometimes meet together. But when we meet together it isn’t just a single, merged class (except according to the schedule we will do that on the last meeting). Instead, either the men attend the women’s studies class or the other way around. The first two weeks we were separate, then we started alternating: women’s class; men’s class; separate meetings; men’s class; women’s class; and then the last one will be joint.

In the beginning, I was honestly a little confused in the men’s class. I think a lot of us were. I mean, if the whole reason we have women’s studies is that most studies ignore women, then why do we need men’s studies? But Allen, who teaches that class, smiled and asked if I thought only women could be obscured by sexism? So we talked about that. We talked about how sexism hurts men—less than it hurts women, but still, we did come up with a list of things we’re really glad are changing—what a completely non-sexist society might be like, and how men’s roles and women’s roles are connected, so if men don’t change our roles it makes it harder for women to change theirs. We talked about a lot of things.

A couple of things stand out as interesting or funny. A lot of stuff was funny.

Like, on the first day, Allen said “So, does anyone have any questions or confusion about the plumbing?” He meant sexual anatomy (what “pipes” go where and how they connect, I suppose), and we all cracked up. 

Nobody raised their hands on that question, of course, but Allen actually pressed the point a bit.

“Some of you probably do need to learn a few things about anatomy and physical sex." Again, everybody cracked up. He grinned and held up his hand, as if asking us to hold off on giggling and listen to him. We simmered down. "A lot of people reach adulthood without knowing how birth control and sexually transmitted disease prevention works or not knowing what questions men and women need to ask prior to pelvic surgery. And the scary thing is you don’t know that you don’t know, so you have no reason to go find out.”

So we talked about common misconceptions (yes, some of us were wrong about a few things), and unusual misconceptions (I suppose Dan, who is not me, not knowing girls fart until last year counts), and we drew anatomical diagrams on the board. I don’t think that part would have been funny, except that we were a little uncomfortable so we kept cracking up.

Or, at least a couple of us did. There were guys in the class who could say words like "labia" without either giggling or stammering, but I wasn't one of them. Eventually Allen got tired of it and started laughing at us.

"Ok, ok!" he cried, "I know some of you are still fourteen inside, but can we please...ok, have a big laugh, get it out of your systems...one, two, three--VAGINA!" We all burst out laughing, even the mature majority of the class. "Boo!" More laughter. We all simmered down and Allen continued. "Ok, anyone delivered by caesarian section here? Anyone?" No hands went up. "Ok, then, so you all came out of one of these once upon a time, and most of you want to get into another one...these are the bodies of our mothers, our sisters, our friends, and our lovers, so can we please have a little respect!" Except he was still laughing at us, so we weren't quite as chastened as we might have been.

But we did make an effort and I did learn how to talk about women's bodies with a straight face.

Or, the first time we went to the women’s studies class, Kit walked into the middle of the room, welcomed us and then asked, with no preamble whatsoever,

“Have any of you men ever wondered how we handle menstrual hygiene on campus?”

Again, we all cracked up because we were uncomfortable. Nobody responded. Kit smiled.

“You didn’t, did you? Come on, fess up.” We fessed up; none of us had.

“Should we have?” asked Dan, bravely. “Why? I thought you all wanted that private, anyway?”

“Well, all women never want the same thing,” Kit began, “but yes, generally speaking, it is private. But that doesn’t mean you can’t wonder. You wonder about other private things about women, after all.” She had us there.  “The thing is, you live with us, you share bathrooms with some of us, and so you know we aren’t filling waste baskets with used pads or tampon applicators. So that opens up a mystery; if we aren’t using disposable products, what are we using?” She was right; I’d cleaned bathrooms on campus for a year, and never saw any sign of menstruation. And I never wondered about it.

“I don’t know that I’d elevate this to a should” she continued, looking at Dan. “There are a lot of mysteries to attend to in this world, and this one is, after all, private. But almost every woman on campus menstruates, and we have to figure out how to deal with it. It’s a big part of our lives. And I would go so far as to say, yes, you should wonder about women’s lives, even those aspects that have nothing obvious to do with you. Because that’s part of getting to know us as people. And because sometimes you might be able to help.”

“How?” asked Dan. Kit smiled in approval. That was evidently the right question.

“You might be able to offer a female friend a tampon," she began. "You might be able to recognize the symptoms of toxic shock syndrome, ectopic pregnancy, or a heart attack, which often has different symptoms in women than men. You might be able to be a good friend to a woman who has survived rape, coped with sexual discrimination in the workplace, or lost a child to miscarriage. Any number of things.”

I don't understand a lot of what gets said in that class, but hearing Kit say that that there are useful things we, as men, can do for women feels really good.

Note; I have certain friends who will have my hide if I don't point out that sexual assault is not a distinctively women's issue; what Kit meant is that a woman who has survived an assault might need a male friend who is comfortable thinking about the perspectives of women.

[Next Post: Monday, April 21st: Spring] 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Year 2: Part 2: Post 8: Easter



As I mentioned last post, in 2001 Easter was earlier than it is this year, although the fact that the days of the week fell on different dates makes it difficult to tell when my Easter post should be, exactly. I’m doing it this week, writing as though Easter Sunday were yesterday.

I just got back from my parents’ this morning—I made it back in time for my landscaping shift, though I missed breakfast on campus. I was at my parents’ place, of course, for Easter. I got there Saturday afternoon, went to church with them on Sunday, and had Easter dinner with them. There were no uncles and aunts this time, like there were for Thanksgiving, but my brother and his wife were there, so we were all together. That was good.

And—newsflash—my brother’s wife is pregnant! My bro’s going to be a dad! It’s kind of hard to wrap my head around, but I’m sure they’ll be good parents. And I’ll be an uncle. I imagine that someday I’ll embarrass this kid at Thanksgiving.

But anyway, we did have a good time, all of us together. We had an Easter egg hunt, with freshly dyed chicken eggs, and everything (I didn’t tell them about the other egg hunt I did this spring, though I did show them my wind-up egg. I said it was a prize for my skill as a naturalist in a contest, I just didn’t elaborate). I don’t think we were going to have an egg hunt, I didn’t really expect to have one, but then my Mom asked if “you kids” wanted to have one. This was just before dinner on Saturday, over a tray of dip and carrots. My sister rolled her eyes.

“Mom, we’re not kids anymore,” she said.

“Yeah,” said my brother, “I’m going to have a kid. You’ve done raised us, Mom.” But she sighed nostalgically.

“I know, but you’ll always be my kids. And you so used to love Easter egg hunts!”

So then we had a twenty minute-long discussion about whether we were too old and whether if we did have an egg hunt it would really be Mom doing it for us or us doing it for Mom, or maybe my brother needed one last chance to act like a kid before he becomes a dad, or maybe my sister still is a kid and we should all do it for her, and just because we’re older doesn’t mean she should have to grow up too fast (though she is sixteen already) and on and on and on. Until my sister interrupted.
“Hold on,” she said, “hold on! This is stupid. Let’s quit arguing about whether we should do an egg hunt and why and why not and ages and everything else. Who actually wants to do an egg hunt?”

And we all raised our hands, even my Dad. My sister-in-law walking into the room just then and asked why our hands were all raised, so my sister explained.

“Oh yeah, I’m in,” she said, and took a carrot.

So, on the way back from Church yesterday, we bought eggs and egg dye and we dyed eggs and hand an egg hunt. We actually had two, so everybody, even my parents, got a chance to both hide and seek. And then it was time for dinner. We had a ham from a humanely raised and slaughtered hog (I contacted the same people who provide hogs for campus), and various vegetable sides (some local, some not), and an egg salad because my mother refused to have to deal with forty-eight hard-boiled eggs without our help on at least some of them. And we talked about politics and who is doing what from our church and whether my sister is going to go to junior prom with this guy who asked her even though she’s not really into him, and on and on and on. And nobody asked me about my school or my religious beliefs and we had a great time.

But about church. It didn’t really impress itself upon me this year, the way the little service on campus last year did. Frankly, the congregation seemed kind of emotionally anemic, with everybody trying to sing quieter than his or her neighbor, and there were a lot of empty seats in the pews even on Easter, and the sermon was entirely focused on how great it is that we can live forever on the New Earth and all I kept thinking of was “but I want to live right now on this Earth.”

I couldn’t see the service anthropologically, as someone else’s beliefs, to be understood and respected, the way I did at the Seder the other day, because I am Christian. These are the ideas I was taught to accept. Except I don’t accept them. They just seem wrong to me, all of a sudden. Wrong as in inaccurate. And I don’t really know what to think about that.

So I got back on campus this morning, and I wanted to talk to someone about it. Logically I should talk to Charlie, but he’s not really that good for discussions because he tends to just listen to your statement and then make a pronouncement about it and that’s the end of it. But I couldn’t find anyone else this morning, and anyway I was really busy. We were getting the window boxes ready for planting later, and there are a lot of window boxes. And then it was lunch time and Charlie disappeared somewhere and I wasn’t really sure who I wanted to look for or what I wanted to say. And then I saw Greg in the Dining Hall, so I asked if I could eat with him and talk a few minutes. He is the Spirit Master for the whole school.

“I think I’m having a crisis of faith,” I told him.

“Good,” he told me. “That sounds interesting.” I rolled my eyes and he smiled at me a little. “You know that faith, as such, isn’t really my thing, right?” he told me. “I’m more action-oriented.”

“Yeah, I know.” I think I sighed a bit. “It’s just…I was raised to believe certain things, and now I don’t, and I don’t even know what that means. I mean, I was also raised to belief it’s important to have faith in certain things, it’s important to believe in certain things, so I feel remiss, now, naughty, almost. But I don’t know if that makes any sense. I mean, clearly it doesn’t make sense to believe in something as a matter of faith if it’s not true…” He smiled at me a little and considered a moment.
“Why don’t you think about what faith means?” he suggested. “That might help you resolve when and where faith is appropriate?”

“You mean, like, it’s definition?”

 “Yes, that’s a good place to start.” He considered again. I used to be scared of Greg. He doesn’t smile very often, not with people he doesn’t know well, anyway. He looks kind of severe, and he doesn’t seem friendly. I often see him at breakfast, eating by himself. But I think, now, that maybe he just isn’t outgoing. Anyway, I’ve seen him asleep on the couch with his glasses all askew, and somehow I haven’t found him intimidating after that. There is something relaxing about his presence. He really listens. 

“Faith,” he continued, thoughtfully, “it is considered a virtue. Perhaps it is good to be faithful, quite aside from whether you have something good to have faith in? It is not exactly the same thing as belief, though it is similar. You are Christian, are you not?”

“Methodist,” I confirmed. “Or, at least I was raised that way.”

“Christianity is interesting, in my opinion. Your central figure, Jesus Christ, is not simply a teacher or a role model, but an embodiment of the divine. So your living relationship with the divine must therefore be a relationship with Jesus, as a personality. I can see why whether Jesus is a real, living Person would be a much more pertinent question than whether Shakyamuni was an historical figure.” He meant the Buddha.

“Was he?”

“Shakyamuni? I do not know and do not care. I think he probably was, though his story has clearly been heavily mythologized. Someone did claim to have found his cremains some decades ago. But it doesn’t really matter. Buddhism works, whether the Buddha existed or not. But about Jesus…”

“You are right. We are supposed to love Him, and to feel loved by him,” I said. “And I want to, but lately I’m thinking that a lot of the other things I learned in Sunday school that doesn’t make sense to me, that I just don’t believe. So I’m wondering if even Jesus is real. And I used to love Him so much when I was little, before I got distracted by things. Sometimes I think someone has to be real, if people love Him. Other times, I think maybe humans just made Him up, so we’d have someone to love.”

“Love is a powerful need,” Greg acknowledged. “It seems to me that to love is even more necessary to the soul than being loved. Making up a perfect person to love, someone who could deserve the devotion of which we are capable in a way no fallible human could, is certainly something we humans would do. And it would work, in a strictly psychological sense.  Daniel, I cannot help you. I cannot tell you whether Jesus exists or not, nor what it should mean for you if He does not. I suggest you sit with this, and let the mud settle in your mind. However, if you wish to love with all your heart, if you wish to be devoted, I can suggest a course for you aside from finding a perfect person.”

“What’s that?”

“Love without caring whether those you love are worth it or not.”

[Next Post: Friday, April 18th: Looking Around]

Friday, April 11, 2014

Year 2:Part 2: Post 7: Passover



Note: Thirteen years ago, both Easter and Passover were a little earlier than they are this year, roughly speaking this week. Of course, the days of the week fell on different dates and that complicates things, but the point is that I’m writing as though the first night of Passover were earlier this week and today were Good Friday.

This year, I’m going home for Easter. I’ve arranged to borrow a car and I’m heading home after my landscaping shift tomorrow. My Dad is glad about it. I don’t think he really believes that the service on campus counts.

But Easter isn’t the only holiday I’ve gotten more organized about myself this year. I asked around, trying to find out what was happening this year—I was thinking there might be a Good Friday service on campus, but there wasn’t—and I discovered that Passover is this week, too, and that some people on campus were having a Seder, and that you didn’t have to be Jewish to go. So, I went.

I’d never been to a Seder before, though I read up on them before I went so I sort of knew what to expect. I’m not sure how typical this Seder was, though, since a lot of the people who went aren’t Jewish and I’m not sure how many of the others are Jewish anymore.

It’s funny, there aren’t any people on campus now who are Jewish the way that Ollie and Archie are Christian, although I’ve heard there have been some in the past. I’m not even one hundred percent sure that there was anyone at that Seder as Jewish as I am Christian. What I mean is…I believe in Jesus and I read the Bible and I go to church sometimes, but I also go to Charlie for spiritual teaching and I don’t think he’s been to a Christian service in a very long time. I don’t think my Dad is entirely wrong to worry that I might be switching religion, I just don’t think there is anything wrong or worrisome about what I’m doing—or I wouldn’t be doing it. So I’m sort-of Christian. I’m broadly Christian, but I’m other things, too. And I don’t think that there is anyone on campus who really has Jewish beliefs to even that minimal extent. I mean, I know for a fact that a lot of them believe in multiple deities, which seems to be the number one thing Jews are not supposed to do.

And yet, I’d say almost a quarter of the people on campus self-identify as Jews. There are more Jews here than Christians in that sense. But when I say I’m Christian, I’m talking about what I believe. When they say they are Jewish they are talking about who they are. It’s an ethnic identity.

What do they believe? All different things, I’m sure. I don’t know most of them very well, and when I say “almost a quarter” I am estimating—there’s a lot of people on campus who I don’t know if they consider themselves Jewish or not, because we’ve never talked about it. But there are people who call themselves “Jewitches,” there are Hebrew polytheists who do their best to follow some version of the religion Israelites had before they were Jews, there are Qabalahists who may or may not be Jewish in any other way, and there are Wiccans, Buddhists, non-denominational Neopagans and people who won’t say what they are but who all celebrated Chanukah as children and all call themselves Jews.

I think for a lot of these people being Jewish is an ethnic identity and maybe also a kind of habit, the way that a lot of people on campus celebrate Christmas but don’t believe in Jesus—except they don’t call themselves Christians. For others, they might be pagans, but the way they are pagan is shaped by their being Jewish. Like the Hebrew polytheists, obviously, but also there are people like Aaron, the librarian.

 I haven’t talked about Aaron much, because I haven’t talked to him much. Mostly I only interact with him when I need his help as a research librarian, and he is very good at that. But I do know a little about him, things I’ve noticed and things I’ve heard, and we have talked a few times. And I know that part of the reason he is a librarian is that studying texts is very important to him. He makes a basic assumption that scholarly study is itself a religious act, rather than simply going to books as a source of spiritual ideas. I could be wrong, but I think that is a Jewish assumption. And Aaron turned up at the Seder.

There were about twenty of us, not that I made a count, at least five of us visitors who aren’t Jews in any form. It was interesting. The whole thing is basically a teaching event, a transmission of this sense that we (meaning the Jews alive today) are part of a larger body of people who were slaves in Egypt and were liberated by God. I remember thinking, years ago, that it must be very strange to consider yourself God’s chosen people, to believe that you have this contract with God where He’ll take care of you if you belong to him, and still have all these awful things happen to you. I mean, so many people have tried to just get rid of the Jews over the years, it’s awful. But this week, at the Seder, I realized maybe I’d misunderstood the deal. God hasn’t kept the Jews safe or made them particularly prosperous, but they still exist. They are still here. That’s not something that can be said about a lot of ethnic groups from a few thousand years ago.

The whole idea of a diaspora—I remember, in American Minority Perspectives, being struck by how different the Jewish perspectives were from the personal history that Greg told. I mean, Greg is Japanese-American, but I can’t help that. He has no interest in maintaining his Japanese heritage for his own sake. He’s very insistent that he is American. He says his mother came to this country to become American, and that is what he wants to be. I think he would have forgotten his Japanese ancestry a long time ago if he did not have to cope with other people constantly reminding him of it. In contrast, the Jews left their country hundreds and hundreds of years ago and they are still Jews.
And I think the Passover Seder is why, or a big part of why.

You eat, you drink, you hear stories, you ask questions. It’s a deliberate transmission. I happened to be the youngest person there, so I got to ask the questions. I really didn’t know the answers, not completely, so it was interesting.

But for all that, I didn’t really believe the answers—I didn’t believe the we part. That night wasn’t different from all other nights for me. I am not Jewish.

Ultimately, I was there as an outsider. I found it interesting in a more or less anthropologic way. And that got me thinking.

I mean are these the chosen people? Did God really make a deal with them that if they followed His law and remained loyal to Him then He’d take care of them? If I really believed that, then wouldn’t I have to become Jewish, too? It would seem stupid not to. So do I really believe that these people are all deluded? No, I can’t quite buy that, either. And these people on campus who are so insistent about their Jewish identity don’t follow the law—the Jewish religious law—so obviously they don’t believe it, so why are they Jewish? Why I am I a Christian when I’m willing to learn a way to God from people who aren’t Christian, a thing I’m pretty sure good Christians are not supposed to do? I know that Kit says that it’s possible for apparently contradictory things to be simultaneously and equally right—she even has a pretty elegant illustration of it, involving people traveling in opposite directions to reach the center of the same circle, because they started on opposite sides. But “Have no other gods before me” seems pretty unambiguous to me, and not one of these supposed Jews on campus, and only a small handful of the campus Christians actually obey that one.

Which makes me wonder, do we really believe in God? Or do we believe in going to church or being Jewish, or whatever else? And should we believe in God? Is God real?

I‘ve been asking people about this. I know there are people on campus who are very religious but, while they don’t quite say so, I’m pretty sure they don’t believe that any of the gods and goddesses they talk about really exist. They talk about them like psychological constructs whom they worship in order to obtain psychological benefits and facilitate personal growth.

I asked Allen about it, but of course he didn’t give me a straight answer. He said that at least religions are a response to human psychological needs, that the need is real. But he didn’t say more than that. So I asked Charlie.

“I prefer to think that God is that which is real,” he said, “and that are job is to find out what that reality is and what it means so we can relate to it properly.”

[Next Post: Monday, April 14th: Easter]

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Year 2: Part 2: Post 6: Crazy



He did it again.

Charlie dumped an insane workload on me. But, he has a habit of telling me to do things there’s no way I can do, but then I go ahead and do them anyway, so I guess I’ll do this one, too.

What happened is the other day, after we were done working and ready to head to lunch, he pulled me aside and told me that the ally who helps him lead hikes on the island trip has quit. If you remember, the yearlings go to an island (which I intentionally do not name) for a week. It’s kind of a group bonding thing plus a chance for each of the masters to teach some things in a different context. Charlie, of course, leads a couple of nature hikes, but there are too many people to fit on one hike. So he has an assistant to lead half the group for him.

“What, he just quit?” I said, all indignant.

“He had his reasons,” Charlie said, raising his chin a little. I don’t think he liked my getting defensive of him. “I want you to take his place.”

What? Charlie, I hardly remember anything about the Island. I don’t know enough to lead a hike.”

“Well, you’ve got a month to fix that.”

“Oookay….”

“I’m not going to just dump you into it, Daniel. I’ll give you a species list to learn and some reading. A lot of the species you already know. The others you can find in the herbarium—even if you can’t get really solid on them that way, you’ll get a head start on learning them in the field. Then, you can come up and stay with me on the Island and I’ll train you. You ok with that?”

“Um, yeah. Of course.”

“Ok, good. I’ll write up your reading list and your species lists and get them to you later today.” And he walked off.

I only had to think about it for a few seconds. Really, I didn’t have to think about it at all. Because the more insane things Charlie decides to teach me, the more I learn. And—I think I heard this right—I’m going to the Island, with Charlie, just me. Most students don’t get that. They can’t, it’s impossible, because there’s only one Charlie. So, yes, of course I’m going, if I have to learn the name of every blade of grass on campus to do it.

But I keep saying “insane,” or “crazy” about this sort of thing, which is really ironic given what we did in Allen’s class this past week.

A big part of what Allen keeps coming back to in this class is who is crazy and who isn’t, and what craziness is and what it isn’t. I understand that, historically, there have been a lot of different definitions of craziness, and I understand that there’s this…when you hear words like crazy, insane, mentally ill, you don’t really picture a person. You picture a disease, a stereotype. So it made perfect sense why Allen did what he did.

When we got into class, there were a group of outsiders there, all dressed in the brown uniform and white belt of someone who’s already graduated. That was strange, but not that strange, because a couple of outsiders have attended most of our class meetings so far. Allen explained that they are allies and friends of his who were interested in the class so he said they could audit it. Some have come one day and others on other days, and the only unusual thing I noticed was that on this day they all showed up together. No big deal.

Anyway, so Allen gives this lecture on the difference between psychological and neurological problems. I’m not sure if this was his own idea or something current in the professional world generally, but he said psychologists assume that human mental processes are learned. So, if you learn bad processes from trauma or bad parenting or whatever, you can go to a therapist to learn good processes instead. Neurologists, in contrast, assume that human mental processes are the result of brain function. So, if your functioning is bad, maybe your functioning can be improved in some way, or at least you can learn to cope with the functioning you do have.

“Now, I am, by training, a psychologist, but I’m agnostic on which approach is more true,” said Allen. “Clearly, from a certain perspective, they are both at least partially right, since human minds clearly do have a learned component, and, to the extent that our minds are linked to our brains, whatever is in our minds must have its echo in brain structure. I’m more interested in which approach is more helpful.” 

So, he continued to talk for a while about the advantages and disadvantages of each approach, what the differences are between a neurological disorder and a mental health problem, and how and why different variations in psychology or neurology are considered pathological or not. As you can imagine, he asked more questions than he answered.

And then he had us all get up and talk to each other. We had three minutes for each conversation and then we had to switch and talk to someone else. After each conversation, we wrote down whether we thought the other person had a problem or not, and what we thought their problem might be. We did that for half an hour or so, and then we all turned in our guesses anonymously. He said he’s tally the results, just for fun, and let us know next week what we all thought of each other. We took a five minute break, and then came back, and Allen asked if any of us did have a neurological or psychological issue we were comfortable sharing.

And of course all eight of the visitors raised their hands. They were all plants.

I almost can’t believe I didn’t guess that. This is Allen, after all, and Allen plays tricks. But he plays very good tricks, is the issue.

The eight visitors included a recovering alcoholic, a bipolar person, a schizophrenic (on medication), a person on peyote who was otherwise quite sane, two autistic people, a stroke survivor, and a person in treatment for PTSD following an assault. I hadn’t correctly guessed any of them; I thought everybody was normal, except the person on peyote and one of the two autistic people, both of whom I thought probably had schizophrenia because they just seemed subtly “off.” When I did my homework later I found out that unusual body language is typical for autistic people and so a lot of them seem “off” or strange. It has nothing whatever to do with their minds, which are different, but as sound as anyone else’s.

The eight of them formed a kind of panel and answered our questions and talked about their experiences. None of them were what I would have expected. The woman on peyote didn’t act crazy or react overtly to any hallucinations, though she did act a bit distracted at times. Someone asked her if she was hallucinating and she said she was and described some of them. She was apparently having a pretty good trip and had not taken very much. The bipolar person and the schizophrenic person both seemed utterly normal, although they were both on medication and both said they did have trouble staying employed sometimes. Both described themselves as mentally ill, but both denied being “crazy.” The alcoholic man, in contrast, insisted that he was crazy, and the woman with PTSD said she felt crazy, but didn’t actually know if she was. 

At the end, Allen invited us all to have breakfast together the following morning, so we could talk more casually. I suppose the idea was to further present these people as people, not as representatives of problems, and most of us seemed really into doing it. One of the two autistic people begged off because, she explained, dining rooms are way too noisy and she wasn’t staying over anyway as she can’t sleep in any bed but her own. The woman on peyote pointed out that she’d be happy to have breakfast with us, but that by breakfast-time she wouldn’t be on peyote anymore and would be, in her words, “very boring.” 

“I have seen you sober many times, Cecelia,” said Allen, “and you have never bored me.”
Two things struck me about the afternoon, and got me really thinking. I’m still thinking about them. One of those things is that, and I didn’t notice it until later, after the fact, Allen always said “we” when he referred to people who are not neurotypical (not neurologically normal.) He didn’t elaborate and I don’t think I’m going to ask, but it has me wondering.

Second, as I was going out, I asked Allen if the results from our surveys would be skewed because the visitors knew some of them had diagnoses and that we were just students.

“They didn’t know you don’t have psychological or neurological diagnoses,” he told me, sounding surprised. “I don’t know that. Statistically speaking, some of you probably do, or could. Remember, all of them graduated from this school. They represent you just as much as they represent their diagnoses.”

I wonder how many of them thought I was crazy?

[Next Post: Friday, April 11th, Passover]