Voice Against Value” by Swift; May 2021

“To meet diagnostic criteria for ASD according to DSM-5, a child must have persistent deficits in each of three areas of social communication and interaction plus at least two of four types of restricted, repetitive behaviors… Highly restricted, fixated interests that are abnormal in intensity or focus (e.g., strong attachment to or preoccupation with unusual objects, excessively circumscribed or perseverative interests).”

Deficits. Restricted. Excessively. The way they wrote this, you’d think they felt sorry for anyone who had to deal with us. “ASD” is the kicker. Disorder. That’s what they call the sense of purpose with which I live my life.

Fixated interests define me. Abnormal in intensity or focus, that’s me. I took a specific interest in animals as a child. I imagined myself to be one. I narrowed my scope: birds. I was the family’s bird expert. I was pedantic about it. That’s who I am; pedantic. “Fixated” is what they call it when a child zeroes in on every little detail, analyzes, speaks above their age, sees above their place. “ASD” is what they call it when that child loves it. I know birds. I can tell the difference between a jackdaw and a crow based on tail shape; I can name birds of prey from flight profile, differentiate between all three waxwing species by primary covert feather plumage.

I am a raven, restricted. I am an osprey, fixated. I don’t know how it happened. How my brain understands itself is unknown to me, and where my soul comes from is of no interest to me. What I know: I am avian, doubly avian. To some people, all birds are the same. What’s the point of being two of the same thing? Not if you look closer. Ravens and ospreys are nothing alike. The difference is in the hunting and scavenging. In the mindset. The shape of the beak. The form of the wings, and the slotting of the primary feathers. The minute differences between fan-shaped tail and fan-shaped tail. Whistle versus croak.  Crest, hackles, spine position, skull shape, elongated elliptical wings.

To some people, all people are the same. Everyone thinks and feels exactly like they do; how convenient for them, isn’t it? Why be autistic when I could simply be like them, normal? Why be avian when I could simply be human, like them? Not if you look closer. Raptor, corvid and man are one. The self is in the wings, from the downstrokes to the barbules. In the ripping of beak and catching of talons and dexterous human hands. The shape of the piercing eye. The mutable form of the soma, and the inevitable calculating of the mind. The minute differences between neurons, heart and spirit. Voice against value. The soul is held in the skeleton, the arcane in the nerves of the body.

What’s the point of being two of the same thing? Is that all three are, in fact, the same thing: oneself.