I want to begin with this: I don't know. Mostly anything. Even what I do know, I don't know. To inhabit the assembly that is Isaac, as I do, is to begin with wonder. The double meaning here is intentional, and both sides are key: from the moment I open my eyes, I wonder. Even in familiar spaces that I pass through daily, even when I take the faster path on paving stones of assumption, nothing is fixed in my mind. I exist in this world extending a constant invitation to All That Is: who are you, today? how are you feeling? what do you need? I think I know your name, but please let me know if I'm wrong. I want to know. I want to be kind. :) You can start to feel the other side of "wonder" here, in that language: I experience all of those answers in wonder. I find it all wonderful.

I think autism gives me an innate comfortability with holding knowing and not-knowing together, cupped between my hands. They belong together. I led with "I don't know" because it's the leader of the two, the catalyst, maybe, or at least the first motion. But my brain and body demand pattern and consistency, and so even as I speak those words and watch them suspended in the air -- I don't know -- I must apply them to themselves: I don't know that I don't know. Perhaps I do know? I hold them together, knowing and not-knowing, in a kind of shifting super-position. Like a liquid, gently heated from below. As the base layers warm, they rise. As the surface layers cool, they fall. The cooler nature of knowing settles to the bottom, in comfortable and quiet stillness. Meditating on the facts and figures and concepts and precepts it knows, it rests, and is pleased to do so. In time, though, it finds itself (imperceptibly at first) warmed, loosened and gently agitated (by what, Isaac? what is below? where does the heat come from?), and in the process it begins to question itself, finding itself flirting with the buoyance of inquiry. We become what we observe, and as knowing considers the idea of a question, it rises. Its temperature rises with it, and what was knowing finds itself rolling and undulating its way up and up in a fully unique and never-to-be-repeated solo performance of dance. In an impossible instant it breaks the surface -- and is delightedly aghast at how very much it never, ever knew. The expanse is breathtaking. It is now not-knowing.

I don't know about you, but not knowing is exhausting. Thrilling, yes, and exhausting. So much work. (Please conjure up a mental image of that sweat-smile emoji.) A party (or a war) cannot go on forever.

At some point, and honestly perhaps immediately but infinitesimally, not-knowing begins to cool. Perhaps it shoots one final time into the air, as dolphins do, twisting onto its back and collapsing, happy and tired, back onto the water. (I'm mixing my metaphors here. It's cool, I know that I don't know what I'm doing. Playful-wink-emoji-with-its-tongue-stuck-out.) It floats there for a moment, reflecting on what it has seen. Can't help but find some patterns in everything that just happened, of course, and so ideas begin to form. One can't really appreciate something without isolating details and linking them to each other. Wondrous, rapturous overwhelm is fun but love also requires focus and (dare I say) consistency of concept, both of self and other. And so not-knowing fondly recounts to itself everything that just happened, and without even meaning to, begins to contentedly sink below the waves. There's no danger here. Not-knowing is made of the same stuff, the same liquid (sorry for calling it water earlier) that it passes through. The transit downward is gentle, soft. It finds itself rocked this way and that, soothingly, and may or may not notice that the forces lulling it to sleep are other knowings on their way up. But whether it notices or doesn't, it finds itself eventually at the bottom, staring up at the surface in reverie. What a ride that was. What did we learn? What do we know? Because we do know -- all of that just happened. Grateful for what it found, knowing rests with its treasures.

You know what happens next.

This is how I experience being. All the time, all at once. I honestly love it. It is joy, and tragedy, and teary-eyed bewilderment, and euphoria. I've been finding myself counting "the gifts of my condition" (that's what I've been calling it, and them), and there are so many. I love being me -- earnestly, completely.

This isn't a book about autism, except insofar as I am autistic and so this is absolutely and necessarily a book about autism. By that token, it is also a book about being gay, and being an engineer, and being a pianist who isn't really a pianist so much as someone who learned how to express and externalize his emotions through music. It is about being lonely, and it is about finding oneself in the constant company of astonishing ... hmmm. What do I call them? I don't have a single word for this (though I would love to find a collective noun, those are fun). I find that every thing around me -- literally everything: person, place, or thing -- has an ineffable essense, and a personality that I can get to know. And not merely the trappings of personality, either -- to me, every single thing genuinely has feelings. Hopes, dreams, desires and distastes too. I am pleased to meet them, and the vast majority of the time they are pleased to meet me too. Sometimes it is a brief friendly nod to a tree as I pass by; sometimes it is an object in my home that has grown restless and needs to find new company. Or, to explore that latter point, maybe I find that something from my attic (more on that later probably) has something to say to a human friend of mine, and so off it goes, in their hands. (Subject to the human's consent and interest, of course.) I mean this very seriously: to me, everything is alive. Everything is ensouled. There is great variety in the speed and substance of these lives, but they are lives nonetheless. This book is about how I live in this world, the home that I've made here, and the welcome I have found as I open my front door and set out into the light.

This is a book about wonder.


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