Neurodevelopmental disorders and Art:
TIGHTROPE WALKING BENEATH HEAVEN
Written by Flint Juventino Beppe
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.
Diagnoses are human-made classifications of ailments, conditions and disorders. A diagnosis can make it easier for a person to understand or explain why they are 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 in a conventional world, the diagnosis of Asperger's Syndrome came as no surprise. In fact, it was in many ways a relief. It offered plausible answers to many of the unanswered questions that had accumulated regarding my many lifelong "collisions" with society. Moreover, it was also a relief since it ruled out other diagnoses as to what the symptoms might be an indication of.
I do recognize many of the traits associated with Asperger, and I do share many of the common, cardinal traits of the Asperger classification. I struggle in most social settings, and I tend to avoid them as much as I can: I react negatively to being exposed to an abundance of societal interactions.
If I were forced to come up with a close synonym to Asperger's Syndrome; I would name it huge capacitance. That sounds like a good thing, right? The problem is, I don't have a "filter" to sift what this capacity absorbs of impressions, e.g. what I hear, see, smell and so forth — hence the brain can be filled with much exasperating matter I never asked for.
Yet some Asperger characteristics I cannot fully recognize within myself, and I appear to have other characteristics which are definitely not typical of the Asperger classification; for example, I thrive on wordplay and humour. I do understand irony, and I believe I can read a person's facial expressions quite well.
Maybe the explanation lies within the co-occurring comorbidity of Tourette's syndrome and ADHD, two diagnoses that I have been given in addition to Asperger's Syndrome.
I have chosen to be open about it; perhaps someone out there might recognize what I'm talking about.
However, these "labels" are of somewhat limited use, and one should not let labels run one's life. A diagnosis is human-made, and thus 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 ostracize them. In short: a diagnosis at its best fosters understanding, but at its worst feeds preconceptions and hinders self-realization.
Having said all this, perhaps the real diagnosis, after all, is part of a much bigger picture that is incomprehensible or inaccessible to the human species anyway. In my case, this might, more than anything else, explain the presence of music that constantly sounds in my head.
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". Furthermore, 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 self-deception or illusions. To me that equals breathing in a vacuum; I cannot harbour life-lies. I cannot accept a world run by religion and moralizing politics, which gives the state unsubstantiated power over the individual.
My brain reacts fiercely to properties like paradoxical and illogical behaviour, stigma, bigotry as well as what I would call Moralizlation™ — stately legislation breaching human rights by criminalizing the innocent, as well as moralism, taboos, stigma or sentiment. I despise nanny states disturbing privacy and personal, individual choices. I cannot help but finding any so-called truths or propaganda like religion, politics or isms inherently perishable. All -isms are to me ridiculous, and nothing more than self-deception fostering sheep-mentality. Furthermore, democracy, politics, and religion, with no exceptions, are three of the most significant examples of life-lies and camouflaged evilness that I can imagine, as these by their very nature intercept autonomy and normalize discrimination, often in written form as religious texts or Moralizlation™. No wonder that history keeps repeating itself, and that society goes in circles instead of forward.
These human-made arenas are so far away from mountains, sea or where the music originates as I can imagine. Essentially, I am probably a recluse; and society definitely seems like a by-product of a strange planet. Instead, I turn my face towards nature.
Finding a way to turn my creativity into a living is 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" in the wake of such events. I am an autodidact; I am completely without formal music education. Not because I don't acknowledge or respect schooling. My diagnosis has made it very difficult for me to be present in certain settings and cope with what others perceive as mundane and trivial. I couldn't concentrate. I couldn't have people around me. This is probably why I cannot manage to have 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. I experience euphoria and despair, unlimited elation and bottomless pits. 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.
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, Tourette's syndrome and ADHD a human face, even if I walk the tightrope alone.
As far back as I can remember I have perceived my work as a breathing situation: inhaling impressions and exhaling music. Without breathing, you cannot live. Knowing that I might leave a lasting fingerprint on the world renders my life manageable and un-pathetic.
Inhabitant of Berlin, Germany, Planet Earth, Space, ???
Beppe is diagnosed with Tourette's syndrome, Asperger's syndrome and ADHD. The social limitations often connected to these diagnoses might perhaps explain why Beppe could not pursue a conventional musical education.