The courage to make the move

July 25, 2007


Last night we went to dinner with Angie, her sister, and Clark. It is a terrific restaurant (“BLD” whiich stands for breakfast lunch and dinner) but it’s one that you have to yell at each other to be heard. This, as a trend I’m happy to report, seems to be falling out of favor in restaurants in Los Angeles, but sadly, not here. Angie, who has taken up smoking again, has thrashed her voice from trying to be heard in loud bars and restaurants in New York. As a result, her voice is hard for me to hear. At my ripe old age of 54, I have a hard time hearing some women, especially ones with a relative monotone speaking voice. Add that onto a very resonant acoustic space, and you up the stress level of your dining experience.

At the end of dinner, Clark launched into an hilarious monologue about “chunky money” which is the ability of a man (he was going on about men’s abilities to get women at a bar) to pick up hot women (or men) because of their wealth, even though their body is many pounds over that of a hot young guy with 6-pack abs. The only problem with this is that he wouldn’t stop. His voice got louder and louder, and more and more funny. This also made everyone else at other tables hav to talk louder, so this little room became a collage of shouting people tying to eat. I wanted him to stop but he didn’t. So, as we had paid the bill I took matters into my own hands and stood up, obviously as a gesture to leave. As if choreographed, everyone else stood up as well, ready to leave. I made the move, or else we all would have been trapped in this non-stop comedy club style banter.

The night before I attended a reading of Graham’s new script, NORMAL FOLK, for his new film project that deals with autism and Aspberger’s Syndrome. The readers, many of whose faces I’d seen in TV shows or movies, all sat the great round couch. The handful of listeners, of which I was one, were invited to offer feedback on the script. Graham and the handsome Australian chap sat at the fireplace directing and read the action descriptions for the script.

G told us that they would read “through page 55” but we had no idea of how long that might be. So we settled in to hear the story. He urged us to NOT get up a go to the bathroom for this first part. As expected, within the first fifteen minutes, several people made the move and got up to use the facilities. Then, no one got up for what seemed like an hour or more. It was hot; sweat was pouring down the back of my hair. I needed some water NOW. But I couldn’t cuz G told us not to. Screw it. I got up and went into the kitchen to get some water. Again, several others got up at the same time to do various things as if choreographed. Like a slingshot, I guess we had all been pulled back, ready to hurl forward to our pressing desires like peeing or getting some water.

That event reminded me of a passage I read recently where an experiment where the subject was instructed to NOT think about polar bears for exactly five minutes. If I were that subject, I could imagine thinking “well, I wasn’t thinking about polar bears at ALL just a second ago, but now…” And if I were told as a boy, to not get into the cookie jar, I probably would have made the move and snitched just one, but had I not been admonished to refrain from doing so, it would likely not have occurred to me. This is likely “human nature” in some personalities, or perhaps it was me, the son of a minister, bound to prove to people that I was not a goody two shoes.

I recalled hearing the premiere of John Adam’s GRAND PIANOLA MUSIC in 1983 in New York. After the closing chords, I was so impressed that Rob jumped up and started booing as loudly as he could. He didn’t care what anyone thought, he hated the music and let it be known.

I then flashed back to the story of “The Emperor’s New Clothes” where one boy had the courage to make a move and state the obvious that the emperor was indeed naked. One aspect of people with Aspberger’s syndrome is that they will say things that may be insulting, hurtful, or rude, but be oblivious to the impact of what they have just on that person. Would the boy who stated the obvious, be labeled as autistic these day? The emperor’s society “learned” to group hallucinate his fabulous attire, but the one who wasn’t in on that delusion, stated nothing more than the obvious (“out of the mouth of babes”) and the others reacted in horror.

The courage to stand up and say good night, the courage get up a pee when you were just told not to, the ability to block out thoughts on command, and the ability to state the obvious are all actions the probably come from the same part of the brain (the frontal lobe), but it is a part that many of us are hesitant to activate for fear of social scorn. On the contrary, I am finding that using this part of the brain to “make the move” to be socially liberating and a great tool in creating your OWN reality.

[Illustration by Edmund Dulac.]

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