I’ve always been the kind of person who has an obsessive need to know things, a trait that is probably due to Asperger’s Syndrome. Hence, when I decided to convert to Catholicism back in 2005, I read everything I could get my hands on, especially blogs and message boards. These two sources formed a crucial part of my “Catholic education,” so to speak, because I had become convinced that the most of the parishes in the archdiocese were “unorthodox” and would obscure or leave out the “Truth” as I understood it to be. However, as I have mentioned before, these blogs and message boards fed into my pre-existing problems with debilitating anxiety.
Some time ago, I saw a documentary on the Jonestown Massacre and recall hearing a survivor say that he decided to travel to Guyana against his better judgement because he thought that living on the agricultural compound would mold him into a better person, and help him become overcome the shortcomings that he perceived to be present in his life. While Jonestown is an extreme example, I think this general sentiment of putting one’s hope in an outside organization or guru-type figure to help “straighten one out” is common, and is one reason why so many people are attracted to groups, religious or otherwise, that are categorized as “high demand.” In the context of Catholicism, I think that the rigors of monastic life or what I call “high demand lay spirituality” can be attractive for people who are suffering from some kind of mental illness or emotional imbalance.
I’m going to be taking a brief break from critiquing religion today so I can talk about an issue that’s on the minds of everyone these days: opera and the women who sing it.
If you haven’t been able to read between the lines thus far, I’m just going to explicitly state right now that I have Asperger’s Syndrome. Some skeptics seem to think that Asperger’s is a “trendy diagnosis,” especially when you have so many people doing the self-diagnosis thing. However, having Asperger’s Syndrome is only “trendy” if you’re someone like Bill Gates, who is already rich and famous, so any “quirks” can be immediately translated into a sign of genius. Girls and women with Asperger’s Syndrome or who are elsewhere on the autistic spectrum are practically invisible in our discourse. Many people have some clue as to what can be done about a geeky autistic boy who liked computers and math, whereas a geeky autistic girl who can name every post-War of the Roses British monarch and likes to learn Latin (like me) is always going to be an oddity.