“Just Being Funny”

Last week Soma and Emma discussed different proverbs.  Soma explained that one of the proverbs was about how a new person can be very enthusiastic upon getting a new job, eager to prove their worth they do a great deal, but as time goes on they lose some of their enthusiasm and do not do as much.  Emma then wrote, “It is like a new husband.”

When Soma asked her to say more, Emma wrote, “Just being funny.”

And she was.  Really funny.  In fact, I burst out laughing.   One of the great things about someone who says the unexpected is that it often is very funny, and that she also intended to be so, makes it all the more joyful.  (There is nothing more upsetting and hurtful to the other person than laughing at something that strikes you as funny, only to realize the person speaking did not intend or mean to be funny.)

I cannot anticipate what Emma will write.  The way she phrases ideas and thoughts, even questions are unexpected.  I am biased, I know, but I see her way with words as one of her many, many talents.  The beautiful and unexpected way in which she will phrase a thought or express a feeling fills me with emotion. I am in eager anticipation and gratitude for every word she writes.  I sit and watch her and am mesmerized.  There are few things I enjoy doing as much, truthfully.

At the moment Emma’s two favorite songs are Clint Eastwood by the group Gorillaz and Cage the Elephant’s Ain’t No Rest For the Wicked.  Like me, when Emma likes a song she will play it over and over and over.  When I was a teenager I wore out record albums (yup, that’s how old I am) from playing the same favored song repeatedly, causing the album to get scratched from my insistence that only the one or two songs be played and not the record in its entirety.  Dancing to those favorite songs is an added bonus.  Emma loves to dance and so do I, something my husband loves doing as well.  Listening to music requires no speech; no words need to be exchanged.  Given how hard Emma must work to write her thoughts, it is nice to do something we all love, that isn’t hard work.

Yesterday Emma and I were discussing death, something Emma speaks about regularly in repetitious utterances about various pets and people who have died.  We have talked about death before, but this time Emma wrote a sentence that I couldn’t make sense of.  It was at the end of a 40 minute session, so I figured she was tired and we’d come back to it later.  Since our time was up, I left the sheet of paper with Emma’s sentence on it, on the table.  This morning, just before I left for work, I reread the sentence.

“Hysterical rant on death is assuring story, but does nothing to understand reality of story.”

And I began to wonder whether her spoken phrases, “Bertie died, Bertie has to be careful.  Yeah, Bertie got old.  Bertie lay down and went to sleep.  Bertie died…” about my very old cat who was seventeen when he finally died, is a kind of calming self talk.  Perhaps a way to make the unknown less frightening and yet she still knows that even in trying to soothe her fears, the repetitive talk does nothing to help her understand.

So this afternoon, I will ask her and afterward we will listen to Gorillaz and Cage the Elephant and dance.

Dancing ~ 2012

Dancing ~ 2012

20 responses to ““Just Being Funny”

  1. Absolutely delightful!

  2. Emma’s words fill me with emotion too – and I am not biased at all! I am so excited when I get an alert in my inbox and I see that Emma has written something else. I always have to look straight away. I enjoy Ariane’s writing too of course!

  3. I, too, started laughing at, “It is like a new husband.” Miss Emma nailed that one!

  4. “Hysterical rant on death is assuring story, but does nothing to understand reality of story.”
    “And I began to wonder whether her spoken phrases, “Bertie died, Bertie has to be careful. Yeah, Bertie got old. Bertie lay down and went to sleep. Bertie died…” about my very old cat who was seventeen when he finally died, is a kind of calming self talk. Perhaps a way to make the unknown less frightening and yet she still knows that even in trying to soothe her fears, the repetitive talk does nothing to help her understand.”
    “Bertie died, Bertie has to be careful. Yeah, Bertie got old. Bertie lay down and went to sleep. Bertie died…” [I’m personally comfortable: with what Emma says here; with how she is approaching and talking about topic. I can work with this person; we are on the same page on this topic. I am moved by and make sense of the story her talk tells. ]
    Emma’s talk speaks to her sense and understanding of what took place about Bertie. In that talk, a living Bertie is still present. Having died, being dead, is held open. Living Bertie is acceptably understood. Dead Bertie is approached. Emma has more to consider before moving on.
    Emma’s talk holds her in place in her living as she looks into Bertie’s death. Emma is in process of producing her understanding of death, as it contrasts with her living.

    “Bertie …. my very old cat who was seventeen when he finally died …”. Ariane’s talk holds her in place in her living, as she looks into Bertie’s death. Ariane’s talk speaks to her having moved on from Bertie’s death. Ariane talks out of her understanding of death, as it has emerged across her biography, and out of what she has won to as her personal living which contrasts with that dying.

    Emma and Ariane and all of us are always involved in understanding living and dying. Anxiety and fear and hope and all else of that order, never disappears from what we there do. What we there do, is the story our talking weaves: that story giving us all that we are and all that our world is. The reality of story is, on this reading: the activity we engage in as our talking yields story; and is the product which story yields (which is all else, self and world).

    Where that talking about death is “hysterical rant”, what it mediates (as self and world) will not long stand up; talking having to take up a more authentic and mature relation to living and dying and anxiety and fear and hope. That hysterical-rant talking then not understanding what really needs to be done; it not cutting the mustard.
    “Hysterical rant on death is assuring story, but does nothing to understand reality of story”: can be read as Emma maturely stating that for our stories to do what they have to do, they mustn’t be hysterical rants, but must work across understanding of the real job of work that these stories do, and must do.

    When Emma says: “Bertie died, Bertie has to be careful. Yeah, Bertie got old. Bertie lay down and went to sleep. Bertie died…”; she is working as a qualitative researcher would work. Her grasp of the empirical, her working through her own sensory-cognitive processing, is impeccable. She is not easily giving over to the sense that because there is a word (“died”), that the use of that word covers her experiencing. She is running the movement, from a living she has innate sense of, to what she now approaches as something flagged by the words that “Bertie died”: backwards and forwards, backwards and forwards; imperceptibly building discrimination about the contrast between a Bertie who lives and a Bertie who has died.
    Understanding the ever-changing story-telling arising from that aggregating of discrimination and the talking accompanying it, sees Emma becoming reflexive, sees Emma seeing herself as the crucial story teller. The repetitive talk not indicating stasis or lack of functioning, but rather indicating that there is a process going on; a process of Emma evolving an understanding of “the reality of story”.

    I’m looking at this in terms of presuming competence. I’m looking at presuming competence in terms of what perspective we have to bring into play to see competence rather than deficit. Perhaps the maximum we can do here is to presume that the other has whatever competence we presume ourselves to have. Perhaps if the environment for the development of an autistically becoming child is made up of others viewing the child in terms of that child possessing whatever competence each person presumes themselves to possess, then all will go for the best.

    I wonder how Carl Jung (with his own story about archetypes) would hear the story Emma’s talk tells.

    • I would be fascinated to hear Jung’s thoughts as well!

      Reading your comment has given me lots to think about. My main question to Emma though, is, do you want me to comment? Is this talk also a desire for more information? Is it directed to self or is it a need for engagement or maybe it depends on the situation and so I will ask her later.

      Death can be so frightening to many, it sometimes is to me and other times it is not, but either way, I now have some great questions I will ask for verification of her experience…

      • My sense of the autistic has it that “voicing” is the crucial primary moment. Being heard and understood as voiced then the crucial secondary moment. I’m not sure that as an autistically acting person I ever have much anticipation or expectation of the hearing-other doing anything other than listening and understanding. The being heard and understood, enough in itself. The effort in voicing out of the autistic, so great and so unforgiving, that no thought is given to what might follow.
        If the next thing another person does/says demonstrates and incorporates hearing and understanding of what a moment ago I autistically voiced, then, I am content, and affirmed and realised by the part played by that other.

  5. I find myself when repeating utterances such as Emma does about Bertie, that I am both practicing putting words with things that happened, perhaps the words that I think are meaningful for others…but they do not begin to express the emotion of the blank space where Bertie was. It is an outer event (the self-talk) that is quite different from the inner event (the blank space where a loved one was).

    • Yes bev. An outer event (Involving talk), and an inner event; and all as you detail them. That was the sense of Emma’s talk I had. You capture that sense so well in what you here say.

    • Oh Bev, this is such a lovely way to express this and something I relate to as well.

    • I do the same, though I’ve “learned” to do it in my head most of the time. I’ll repeat things over and over until they make sense. Putting the words to the concepts and pictures in my brain that others can’t see but that I need them to understand.

      • When I do this I want to call it “salami slicing”. Something arises in life (say my sense that an autistic student needs to be approached and provided differently than is happening), and initially my sense of things “fragments” (perhaps across the ins and outs of taking perspective and argument to other people). I get fixated on this life issue, that I have to deal with. My life efforts and life resource gets drawn into doing this, and things can get desperate; being overwhelmed in the effort is a constant threat. I cut through the existentiality of this, along any dimension my sense tells me is actual (“Bertie lay down”; I see autistic intelligence and not deficit in this or that behaviour). It can take a long time to get to where I can express my integrated sense of things and make it stand up in talking to other people. “That I need them to understand” captures all this perfectly.

  6. awesome 🙂

  7. “Hysterical rant on death is assuring story, but does nothing to understand reality of story.”

    A fascinating sentence: terse, somewhat cryptic. I’m wondering about the meaning. To me it speaks of a reaction born of anxiety and fear of the unknown; an instinctive, emotional knee-jerk response to simply repeat the surface facts. Something that is known intellectually but not understood, not “grokked”, not lived and breathed. Something that requires the kind of deep understanding that goes far beyond words. And with that understanding comes a kind of acceptance and peace: no longer unknown, the thing no longer evokes such fear.

    I don’t know what Emma was thinking when she wrote those words, but this is the meaning her words have to me.

  8. I wonder if there is another layer to be revealed – as she’s shown you recently, she has picked up on all sorts of things that most of us would miss while in the throes of our daily lives.
    Maybe I’m being too literal, but it almost seems a description of having seen someone sermonize on the subject, which might have suggested itself to my mind through the mention of the word “proverbs”….

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