Friday, May 15, 2009

What makes you a Person?

Mine was a journey from soulhood to personhood

What makes a person? Not looks or talents or even personality. For me, personhood is a matter of physical form. You have it. I lack it. My tactile system is corrupt. To feel is not to feel. to be is not to be. The tactile feedback that delineates our body boundary, defines our separate identity, is omitted from my sensory functioning. To explain, it sounds simple: to live, it is complicated. My body is broken, but my mind and soul are intact. Mine was a personhood based solely on thought. Like a shape shifter my body melted into whatever I touched. I was part of everything and nothing all at once. To experience my personhood required I lock myself off from the world. To join the world was to lose myself, quite literally, all physical sense of self erased. It was bodily death, even while the mind survived. How does the mind function without a body to direct? How does a mind function without a body as its reference point? This was my dilemma of learning. This is my dilemma of living.

Meaningful experience is the basis of all learning. Autism robs the body of meaningful experience; whether through one sense or another it is all to the same effect. Personhood is preserved, not destroyed in our autistic state. Retaining personhood in the outside world, that is the challenge that faces the autist. It is the challenge I face every day.

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