Learning from others

I love it when friends direct me to articles that they know will fill my soul! Eric and Cynthia both sent me links to this article in The Guradian. The article is about Daniel Tammet who is an autistic savant. Tammet is unique because "unlike other savants, who can perform similar feats, Tammet can describe how he does it. He speaks seven languages and is even devising his own language."

Here are some sections that spoke to me:
Tammet is calculating 377 multiplied by 795. Actually, he isn't "calculating": there is nothing conscious about what he is doing. He arrives at the answer instantly. Since his epileptic fit, he has been able to see numbers as shapes, colours and textures. The number two, for instance, is a motion, and five is a clap of thunder. "When I multiply numbers together, I see two shapes. The image starts to change and evolve, and a third shape emerges. That's the answer. It's mental imagery. It's like maths without having to think."...

To him, pi isn't an abstract set of digits; it's a visual story, a film projected in front of his eyes. He learnt the number forwards and backwards and, last year, spent five hours recalling it in front of an adjudicator. He wanted to prove a point. "I memorised pi to 22,514 decimal places, and I am technically disabled. I just wanted to show people that disability needn't get in the way."...

Trips to the supermarket are always a chore. "There's too much mental stimulus. I have to look at every shape and texture. Every price, and every arrangement of fruit and vegetables. So instead of thinking,'What cheese do I want this week?', I'm just really uncomfortable."...

"I remember seeing a ladybird for the first time," he says. "I loved it so much, I went round searching every hedge and every leaf for more. I collected hundreds, and took them to show the teacher. He was amazed, and asked me to get on with some assignment. While I was busy he instructed a classmate to take the tub outside and let the ladybirds go. I was so upset that I cried when I found out. He didn't understand my world."...

I really feel that there is an emotional attachment, a caring for numbers. I think this is a human thing - in the same way that a poet humanises a river or a tree through metaphor, my world gives me a sense of numbers as personal. It sounds silly, but numbers are my friends."...

I just wanted to show people that disability needn't get in the way.
Oh, can't you relate to some of this... I know in my life, too much stimulus definitely makes me feel uncomfortable. And how refreshing that he knows this to be the case for himself. That he is aware of his limits and sets boundaries around what he is and is not capable of doing.

I can also relate to the trauma of another not understanding my world. How often have you yearned for another to just "get it"? Wanting someone to feel, understand, and respond compassionately to that which is occuring inside of you? And what does it feel like for you when this need, this desire goes unfullfilled? How do you find comfort?

And his emotional attachment and caring for numbers. What non tangible objects or concepts ignite your passion, stir your wonder and curiosity, fill you with a pouring of love and appreciation? What are you emotionally attached to?

(If you're interested in reading more, there's an article in the New York Times.)

I loved theses quotes from the NYTimes article where Daniel speaks of his connection to numbers.
The number 1 he's drawn to for its brightness. "Two is kind of like a movement, right to left, kind of like a drifting," he says. Five is a clap of thunder or the sound of a wave hitting a rock. Six "is actually the number I find hardest to experience," he says. "It's like a hole, or a chasm. Number 9 is the biggest number. It's very tall." He seems frightened for an instant. "It can be intimidating."


posted by ashley

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?