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Father's Day and "The Reason I Jump"

You Are What You Art blog #1

My dad tried to get me to summarize Charlotte Joko Beck’s “Everyday Zen” one summer when I was home reading it. I said, “Dad, that’s like, the opposite of the point of the book!” Actually though... I was just being lazy.

My dad regularly pushed me to articulate my ideas better and to communicate more clearly. He also told me once that he listened to my first album start to finish one afternoon and just cried. My dad was a curious, deep thinker who paid attention. #youarewhatyouart is detected to my him; here goes!


“The Reason I Jump” is a non-fiction account of a 13 year old non-verbal autistic boy from Japan. Though he’s high on the autism spectrum, Naoki Higashida's teacher worked with an alphabet graph to help him write this stunning account of his world.


This book broke my heart a few times; Naoki writes about how frustrating it feels not to have control over his body or his emotional outbursts, and how devastating it is to see the pain he causes his loved ones by being the way he is.

The short story he wrote at the end of the book left me weeping. But his words and his account of his inner workings are also surprisingly beautiful, he writes;


“Sometimes I pity you for not being able to see the beauty of the world in the same way that we [people with autism] do. Really, our visions of the world can be incredible, just incredible… When you see an object it seems that you see it as an entire thing first, and only afterward do its details follow… for people with autism, the details jump straight out at us first of all, and then only gradually, detail by detail, does the whole image sort of float up into focus.”


There are practical explanations about the kinds of things he and autistic folks like him find upsetting as well as what is helpful, so this book would be tremendously illuminating for anyone with an autistic person in their lives. He answers questions like “Why do you need cues and prompts?” and “Why can you never stay still”?


I think the book is also deeply illuminating on a universal human level. Naoki says toward the end that if he had the choice to “be normal” - if someone found a cure for autism - he might well chose to stay as he is. “I’ve learned that every human being, with or without disabilities, needs to strive to do their best, and by striving for happiness you will arrive at happiness… So long as we can learn to love ourselves, I’m not sure how much it matters whether we’re normal or autistic."


I'm gonna repeat that cause it floored me: So long as we can learn to love ourselves, I’m not sure how much it matters whether we’re normal or... fill in the blank.


I’m reminded of a Krista Tippet interview with a man who had lost his arm and both legs in an accident decades earlier. When people ask him “do you miss having two hands?” he replies “do you miss having three?” His point being that his reality is no less real than anyone else’s.


Our lives are whole no matter what form they take. And I think we also feel incomplete no matter what the circumstances.


This is the part that’s so slippery for me… that I am whole and broken, complete and incomplete.

sending love and thanks for reading!

molly


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