Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Gifted? Autistic? Quirky? - Embracing the Different

From a recent editorial at the entitled Gifted? Autistic? Or Just Quirky?:

Excerpt "...parents, teachers and children themselves need to see past the blazing brightness of any label and into the individuality and potential of the person in front of them."

Edith Sitwell's reflection comes to mind eccentricity: "Eccentricity is not, as dull people would have us believe, a form of madness. It is often a kind of innocent pride, and the man of genius and the aristocrat are frequently regarded as eccentrics because genius and aristocrat are entirely unafraid of and uninfluenced by the opinions and vagaries of the crowd."

There is something vitally important about how we see differences and embrace them. Some may object to the word eccentrics in the following passage from Jacobs' Narnian, but even if you substitute the word "differents", it's easy to see he makes a good point...

"Lewis shares with several English writers - notably Charles Lamb, Dickens, Chesterton, Orwell, and today Roger Scruton- a deep love for the English propensity not only to tolerate but positively to encourage eccentricity (aside: less in the U.S.?). The English love their eccentrics not because the eccentricities themselves are necessarily delightful but because the mere presence of such odd folks among them is a testimony to the community's gentleness, tolerance, and humor. In the single most incisive essay on the English character I know, 'England Your England' - written during the Second World War- Orwell asks why the Nazi goose-step, that terrifying image of 'a boot crashing down on a face,' is not used in England, and his answer is simple: 'because the people in the street would laugh.'"

And from Lewis, himself, reflecting on characters in The Wind in the Willows:

"...the grandfather, the parents, the grown-up son, the child, the dog, and the cat are true members (in the organic sense), precisely because they are not members or units of a homogenous class. They are not interchangeable. Each person is almost a species in himself...If you subtract any one member, you have not simply reduced the family in number; you have inflicted an injury on its structure. Its unity is a unity of unlikes, almost of incommensurables..."

Of course, the issues of our and others' differences extend far beyond medical diagnostic labels and behavioral checklists.

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