I’m reading a really wonderful book right now. Both Sides of the Table Autoethnographies of Educators Learning and Teaching With [Dis]ability Edited by Phil Smith. My friend Ib wrote a chapter for this fabulous book. Her chapter is called, Autistethnography. In her chapter she writes about the mesmerizing beauty of a dodecahedron and provides the following link – http://beachpackagingdesign.typepad.com/photos/uncategorized/2008/04/30/dodecahedron.jpg . Ibby writes, “…. if you memorize it well enough to be able to spin it around in your head while changing its colors, enable you to loiter for ages with the greatest of ease, astonishing onlookers with your ability to do what they mistakenly believe is nothing whatsoever.”
Oh how I love that and if you’re like me, you will read that sentence many times, considering its implications and its layered meaning. That sentence, if a sentence could be a dodecahedron, then it certainly is. I have spent the last five minutes carefully spinning those words around in my head while staring out the window of my studio at the snarled traffic creeping along the 59th Street bridge. What a wonderful sentence. What a wonderful way to think about something. And it is so perfectly Ibby-ish in all it’s spectacular-ness. My daughter understood this instantly after meeting Ibby for the first time and began to refer to her cheerfully as, “Ibby from Ibbia!” Do not mistake this as a demonstration of othering; it most certainly is not. In fact, it is the opposite. That she understood so instantly and on a whole other level is something I envy.
Both Sides of the Table isn’t an autism only book. It’s a book about identity, relationships, society, politics, research and self-discovery. It’s about the stories we create so we might learn about and from one another and how we affect each other through our experiences of the world. Don’t be put off by the title. Autoethnography is really another word for memoir, but the best kind of memoir. Memoir as a tool for investigation and a search for larger meaning. To me, anyway, those are always the very best memoirs, the ones where we not only identify, but where we learn something about the other person and in so doing, ourselves.
So I’ve been thinking a great deal about stories. Stories as research, stories of lives that overlap and how we affect one another. Deodatta Shenai Khatkhate left a great comment on yesterday’s post, he wrote, “There is a thought process that we ought to use our Words with caution, for they become our Actions; then our Actions become our Habits; and our Habits become our Character; and ultimately our Character becomes our Destiny. Thus the creator of one’s Words is always the master of one’s Destiny.” He attributed this idea to Ghandi and Margaret Thatcher; I’ve also read something similar from Lao Tse. In any case, it is wonderful and reminded me of this idea of autoethnography. The layering of experience, meaning, the overlap and the way we are intertwined with each other’s lives as they unfold, affecting change, shifting research, becoming research, becoming change.