Max's shop of horrors

Warning: imagination testing site. Enter at own risk

Month: March, 2015

From Can’t to Can

In the 19th century, a bloke named Dionysus Lardner proclaimed that “rail travel at high speed is not possible because passengers, unable to breathe, would die of asphyxia.” If you talked about bullet trains back then, they’d think you were tripping. (An understandable assumption; back in those days you could pop down to the chemist and to pick up some cocaine or heroin to help get over that pesky cold)

In the 1950s, when a worldwide campaign to eradicate smallpox was proposed, many labelled the idea “impossible” and “a waste of money”. By 1980, the disease had been wiped off the face of the planet; UNICEF has estimated that this has saved approximately 5 million lives annually since.

Not so long ago, it was thought that nothing could exceed the speed of light. Surprise surprise, myth busted.

History is a continuous cycle of “I Can” beating “I Can’t”. The secret is to refuse to accept the limits imposed by others.

The Digital Cocoon

It’s a story we hear a lot; the person on the autism spectrum who retreats into the sheltered comfort of the virtual world to escape the perennial grinding stress of the “real world”.

After all, in the world of ones and zeros, things are clean and orderly. Things make sense. Sure, it’s no perfect haven; online harassment is a constant threat, but compared to reality’s myriad of sometimes unbearable tactile, visual, aural, and olfactory stimuli that come thick and fast as lasers in a 1990s arcade shooter, it can seem like a comfortable womb of anesthetized tranquility. 

Here’s the thing though; in this day and age, how many of us, autistic or not, can say we never take shelter in the digital realm, whether it be television, video games, or social media?

This is not a spectrum-exclusive tendency, it’s a natural human response to an often hostile environment.

People love to talk about technology taking over our lives and destroying social interaction, but the withdrawal into media is hardly a new phenomenon:

technology

The key, as with most things, is moderation. There’s nothing strictly wrong with chilling out to a bit of Super Mario, Facebook, or Game of Thrones. We all do it. Well, nearly all of us. We just have to make sure it remains a pastime rather than our natural state. If it has gotten out of hand, ease off gradually, as if you’re lowered the dosage of a medication.

Yes, it’s important not to quit reality altogether, but there’s nothing wrong with taking breaks from it.

Acceptance can be harmful

First off: THIS IS NOT A POST ABOUT AUTISM. I am NOT saying that we should not accept people on the spectrum for who they are. Alrighty, now the disclaimer’s out of the way, I would ask that all torches, pitchforks, and rotten tomatoes be declared upon entry. If you feel the need to voice outrage, the comment section is right below, for your convenience. 🙂

Acceptance can be a wonderful thing. I’m a huge believer in showing  tolerance of other people’s sexuality or race, for example. Then again, chocolate can be a wonderful thing too, but that doesn’t mean there are no downsides to wolfing down a whole block faster than you can say “Easter afternoon chocolate hangover”.

The problem with acceptance is that it can discourage self-improvement. If we accept that we’re “perfect as we are”, then we don’t feel the need to better ourselves. It becomes an excuse not to make the effort to be the best that we can be.

For instance, a year and a half back, I was quite overweight. What I needed wasn’t acceptance, but a wake up call, which I got from the parent of a friend, who commented on how much weight I had put on. This motivated me to do something about it, and push myself to get back into my healthy weight range. Given my family history, acceptance could well have seen me dead in my forties of a heart attack or stroke.

This doesn’t just go for physical health either; in every area of our lives, there’s always the temptation of setting comfortable limits, to splash around in the shallows instead of braving the epic waves further out.

I get it, it’s stressful (not to mention terrifying) to face the fact that we’re in the driver’s seat of our own lives, and everything is on us. That’s one hell of a responsibility, and let’s be honest, it’s a relief to just toss things in the “too hard” basket and be patted on the back for “accepting yourself for who you are”. But like strapping the Wii remote to the ceiling fan to beat the marathon on Wii Fit, you’re only cheating yourself.

If it’s something you genuinely can’t change, then by all means accept it, for your own peace of mind if nothing else. But don’t let the lure of acceptance hold you back from becoming the best possible version of yourself. You owe it to yourself not to settle for less.