Asperger's, Tourette's and Art:
Tightrope walking beneath heaven
PrefaceDiagnoses are man-made classifications of ailments, conditions and disorders. A diagnosis can make it easier for a person to understand or explain why he or she is struggling, whether it be physically or mentally. It can also make it easier to understand a person's behaviour and unusual lifestyle.
In my case, having always been an outsider, the Asperger diagnosis came as no surprise. In fact, it was a relief. It offered plausible answers to so many of the unanswered questions that have accumulated regarding my many "collisions" with life. I do recognise many of the traits that fall into the concept of "Asperger's Syndrome". Moreover, it was also a relief to fit into a ready-made category since this rules out other, more serious diagnoses as to what the symptoms might be an indication of.
Having said that, I have come to realise that these "labels" are of somewhat limited use. I do share many of the common, cardinal traits of the Asperger classification. Yet some of the characteristics I cannot fully recognise in myself, and I seem to have other characteristics which are definitely not typical of the Asperger classification; for example, I thrive on wordplay and humour. Making people laugh gives me immense pleasure. I do understand irony, and I do believe I can read a person's facial expressions. However, I struggle very much in social settings: I react negatively to being exposed to too many impressions. Essentially I am a recluse.
In any case, my point is that a diagnosis must never be taken as an absolute. It is useful is some cases, but it should not limit a person. And it should never be used against a person as an excuse to ostracise him or her from society.
In short: A diagnosis at its best fosters understanding, but at its worst it brings forth preconceptions, and hinders self-realisation.
It might sound strange, but every title of the works I have created through the years seems to fit my life to a tee; so does «Tightrope walking beneath heaven» – a symphonic poem from 1993.
The titles have become self-fulfilling premonitions. I can see this very clearly and I realize I am the titles of what I create: I walk the tightrope through life beneath the heavens. I can't help this situation, but I have to fix my eyes on an external, faraway point to prevent myself from falling off the rope, in a world that is conventional. There are only a few exceptions from this rope and having to look far ahead not to fall: when I am alone in nature I can lower my eyes; and alone with art or my muse I can lower my eyes.
To me, one day equals a lifetime. Not a single hour passes without my brain working full speed; automatically, inexhaustibly and incessantly creative. There is never a recess. My brain is like a sensor receiving impressions all the time. I have always been this way. I haven't developed in any direction since I was a child. I have always had the same thoughts, always seen the same things, always heard the same sounds and felt the same emotions. I can see and hear "everything", but it is a daily struggle. This enriches my life immensely but it also makes my existence very dynamic because neurotypical people have a tendency to flock around what I see as conformist life-lies or illusions. To me that equals breathing in a vacuum; I cannot harbor life-lies. I cannot accept a world run by religion and moralising politics, which gives the state unsubstantiated power over the individual.
Finding a way to turn my creativity into a living is an imperative. This is indeed very challenging and almost unnatural, because it often demands my being social and present in conventional settings. I cannot go through with this without risking psychological "meltdowns" trailing behind. I am an autodidact; I am completely without a formal music education. Not because I don't acknowledge or respect schooling. Asperger's syndrome has made it very difficult for me to meet up and cope with what others perceive as mundane and trivial. That is why I cannot manage having a conventional job.
I am born without a «filter» and that forces me to act with caution, being very selective in my choices and how I interact. Everything I do is carried out in an alternative way: without a safety net. I have ended up outside the conventional world on a parallel pathway, and I exist in my own orbit circling around the Earth.
I experience euphoria and despair; unlimited elation and bottomless pits. There are many things I cannot do in this life, but I do make art continuously. I see that there are a striking number of people carrying autistic traits that have made incredible art; the painting you admire, fantastic inventions or the music you cannot stop listening to. I believe that there is a "third eye" in play here, an extra dimension making the rich experience even richer for the audience; someone seeing on behalf of others; someone carrying the intellectual and philosophical strain. There are, and always have been, other artists with Asperger's syndrome; I am not exclusive in this respect. I want to contribute to the task of giving Asperger's syndrome and Tourette's syndrome a human face, even if I walk the tightrope alone.