Sunday, December 10, 2023


Like most years at this time, we have had some snow that didn't last. I have become accustomed to being snowed in later in the winter and usually like it. However, with climate change, winter temperatures and snowfall have become more erratic, particularly in the Northeast. My arrangement this winter will be a little different, because I will be living alone and don't have a pet or a wood stove. Since communication with my partner was never good and gradually deteriorated over a period of twenty-two years, I actually miss William, the cat, more than her, because I spent more time interacting with him on a daily basis. But I don't plan to get another pet. You spend a lot of time with pets, interact with them and become extremely attached to them – and then they die. I already knew that this would happen, and adopting William in the first place was not my idea.

Recently, I've been having conversations about generational changes and mental illness. The book Generations: The Real Differences Between Gen Z, Millennials, Gen X, Boomers, and Silents—and What They Mean for America's Future has been brought up. The context for that discussion is how it is becoming increasingly difficult to relate to younger people if you are a pre-millennial. That topic doesn't interest me much, because I have almost no interaction with anyone under forty besides my grandson, and the circumstances of his childhood don't mesh with any particular generational profile. I prefer to think along the lines of Sherry Turkle in Reclaiming Conversation, perhaps because we belong to the same generation and have similar concerns about the inability of younger people to communicate, and we can see the adverse social effects of the internet. My main thought is that the commercialization of the internet has led to unanticipated social effects that make human societies more unstable than they have been in centuries. I don't think that the end is in sight yet, and there is a chance that this will end very badly. So, in my case, I'm not that concerned about the quality of my communication with younger people. Even if I wanted to do something about it, that would be nearly impossible, because the social characteristics of adults become relatively fixed by the time they've grown up. We are now looking at adult millennials who may never be able to relate to baby boomers.

Under the topic of mental illness, I tend to focus on autism for a couple of reasons. First of all, as Sherry Turkle points out, one of the characteristics of younger people who have been immersed in the internet since childhood is autistic behavior, although, technically, they may not be diagnosed as autistic. The point is that their modes of communication have similarities to those of autistic people. Secondly, I've spent over fifty years with autistic people, and I am not at all autistic. One of the main reasons why I have this blog is that I like to express my ideas, and what I've found is that most others are only interested in the circumscribed discussion of ideas. In many cases, they are not aware that they have unconscious lists of things that they can discuss and things they can't discuss. These two lists are affected by educational and social backgrounds, but, somewhat more intractably, by their psychiatric status. In the case of people who have autism spectrum disorder, or at least some of the symptoms, because they may be unable to interpret other people well and may have reduced social abilities, it is easy to run into a brick wall with something that resembles an open discussion. They may be operating on a cognitive model that is completely different from yours, and if you suppress discussions that fall on their "can't discuss" list, you may only be delaying the exposure of fundamental conceptual incompatibilities. Because I'm focusing on autism, these incompatibilities usually relate to different ideas of what constitutes a satisfactory social environment. For example, you may prefer a social environment in which you can express various ideas and receive some thoughtful feedback, whereas autistic people may prefer a light social environment in which people always seem friendly, agreeable and predictable. You can run into difficulties with autistic people on social questions, because they may not understand their social environments and may process them in an entirely different fashion from you. You may think of a social event that an autistic person likes as a shallow, pointless exchange. What I've noticed is that there can be a range of complex undercurrents in many social contexts that escape the notice of autistic people. If autistic behavior is now on the ascent, non-autistic people need to prepare themselves for unsatisfactory social lives. As I've said before, autistic people often tend to be politically correct. Their senses of humor are pretty bad too. I was trying to think of a joke that starts out "Three autistic people walk into a bar...." I can't think of a funny punch line. How about "The other customers all leave and the bartender shuts down early"?

I have been doing a little reading, but nothing exciting. Since I love biographies and am a single male living alone in the woods in New England, I decided to read a biography of Henry David Thoreau. He is not exactly an ideal subject for me, but I probably agree with some of his ideas. Since people don't communicate much now, it may be easier to commiserate with well-documented people who died long ago.

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