Monthly Archives: September 2012

Country Roads Take Me Home – a pictorial essay (repost)

Country Roads Take Me Home – a pictorial essay

Almost heaven, West Virginia
Blue ridge mountains, Shenandoah river
Life is old there, older than the trees
Younger than the mountains, blowing like a breeze

(Daniel and I canoeing the Cheat River while on a recent vacation back to St. George West Virginia.)

If John Denver is ever fully forgotten from within the context of the American musical lexicon – the last bit of him that will pass away from memory are the lyrics from his seemingly immortal county music ballad Take me home country roads.

I say immortal, because it is said that outside of a theological understanding of life after death that you’d hear taught on a Sunday morning, the next best hope for the attainment of immortality is that an artist might create something that would seemingly contain a part of their soul – and that that thing might potentially continue to exist and relate that soul and essence long after he or she is long gone.  One might point out that many moons have come and gone since that fateful day that Denver forgot how to throw the switch to change fuel tanks on his experimental aircraft – but regardless of how he died; he does live on in his music. And if he is ever forgotten, I would think that it will still be quite a long time in coming, as – at least for me – for those words have more then just a special meaning; they represent a special place. When country roads take me home, they do in fact take me to a place in West Virginia.  They take me home to a little out of the way place called St. George.

St. George is a tiny mountain community that is nestled deep inside the mountains, and is seemingly a place that time forgot. It has the distinction of being the oldest settlement in Tucker county and was actually once the county seat, until a gang of vigilantes broke into the court house and took the country records and the court house bell to the nearby town of Parsons in 1893. I use the word seemingly – because there is much about this place that hides what is and what once was; what has been seemingly touched by heaven – and yet, perhaps even in a way, also touched by hell. You have to stop and talk awhile with the people or be from there yourself to get a feeling for the depth of history that this little out of the way place holds.

(Vittie Lipscomb; A grandfather and three of his Grandchildren)

My childhood memory is full of trips to this sleepy little place, and I can remember so well, pulling up to Grandpa and Grandma’s house. I remember that I always slept on the top floor of their house in a room chock full of books and generations of National Geographic magazines. It all seemed so idyllic and I can scarcely say that I honestly don’t know if I ever fully appreciated the wonder and sweetness of that pure mountain air as a child. With great clarity I remember walking down Center Street, past the other quaint little houses, down to Lipscomb’s Grocery, which was run by my grandfather’s brother, Elmer. We would buy candy and I would survey the racks of Wolverine boots that Elmer kept in stock and sold to the hunters that would buy their goods from him. I remember grandpa speaking of an albino deer that had escaped many a pursuant hunter and I remember him taking us all up into the woods – and suddenly finding it there, standing in a field, where my grandfather knew just where to look – standing like a majestic, mythological creature from a different time and place. It was there – and suddenly as quickly as we had seen it in all of it’s wonder and awe inspiring glory – it was gone.

(My Grandfather Vittie Lipscomb (on on the right) and all his brothers and sisters, gathered next to his brother Elmer’s Country Store in St. George)

(The home my grandfather grew up in – now a hunting lodge)

(My Great Grandfather Father and Great Grandmother, Daniel and Rosa Lipscomb)

Gone is a word that seems to capture the essence of so much and of what represents St. George and the surrounding mountain areas to me.

Country roads, take me home
To the place, I be-long
West Virginia, mountain momma
Take me home, country roads

My dad tells me that his dad used to joke that cows from West Virginia have two legs shorter then the others, incurred from perpetually grazing on the side of a mountain. In looking at the fields of grass going up and down the steep mountains of the land – this does not seem like all that unlikely of a proposition.  The mountains and the terrain of the region are incredibly mountainous; but not so mountainous as to ever have escaped the loggers’ axe. Two inventions propelled the logging industry into the reaches of the West Virginia wilderness, the steam powered band saw and the Shay Locomotive. The band saw should be a self-explanatory term; but the Shay is worthy of at least a few descriptive adornments – if not for anything other then it’s uniqueness in locomotive history. Most locomotives that grace modern childhood imaginations or Western movie scenes are the traditional wheel/pulley/stroke configuration. These steam-billowing behemoths could race across the expanses of the Great Plain’s desolation and in doing so, invariably pulled the two initially disparate coasts of America closer and closer – long before the dawn of modern space age travel and communication made that possible both transportive and communication-wise. But these types of locomotives, while good for speed, were not as much adept at hill or mountain climbing.  Their strength could peter out on the larger hills and mountainous terrains endemic to the West Virginia landscape; hence the foundational basis for the age old children’s rhyme “the little engine that could.” Most traditionally driven steam locomotives that would seek to assert themselves against West Virginian mountains quickly switched from I think I can, I think I can – to I sure can’t. All this changed with the advent of the Shay. The Shay gladly ceded the right to quick interstate travel for its title as official mountain climber of the railroad. It did this because of an ingenious mechanism wherein the steam pistons of the train were connected to rotating worm gears that then turned the main wheels of the train. This allowed for a great deal of torque to be applied to the wheels, over and above that which was typically produced via the traditional method of locomotive propulsion design. And while they were no speed demons by any notion –  and in fact possessive of a range of unique liabilities, such as a propensity for wreaking all types for rail deformations upon the tracks they strode, they climbed the steepest of grades with relative ease – compared to their conventionally-driven cousins, who’s drive wheels would often slip so much that railroad folklore is replete with stories of the rails beneath them being reduced to glowing molten sludge by the great steel wheels endlessly spinning under huge loads when confronted with the immense inclinations of the mountain rails. Owing to the rotational reduction of these worm gear drives, the Shayes had a lower steam cylinder/engine to drive wheel/drive train ratio – to borrow from a gear head/4×4 enthusiasts vocabulary – and so just as lower geared trucks can be found puling freight in and out of the mountains of West Virginia today, these lower geared locomotives were used to conduct the gritty business of logging the dense ravines and mountains in what became a logging free-for-all by so-called Timber Barons; wealthy industrialists with the money and the know-how to turn the stunning West Virgian landscape into windfall corporate profits. The Shay locomotive, and the steam-driven band saw, mixed with a lot of ingenuity, greed, and a lack of virtually any government oversight – stripped West Virginia absolutely bare of her old growth forests.

The largest tree, documented to have been cut down, was a white oak thought to be over a thousand years old, which was hewn down from the town of Lead Mine in 1913.  It had a diameter of 13 feet 16 feet from the base, much like the fabled red woods of California. One can only wonder of the amount of glee such a sight must have generated when first seen by eager loggers – and yet the loss of such a magnificent element of creation; the true value cannot be calculated. There are stories of hunters in those days who would venture into the woods, only to encounter timber so thick, that a deer could not pass between the trees. Such dense growth of such impenetrable nature often extended for miles, and many a hunter would wander in circles trying to find a path back out, eventually dying of starvation- trapped in a maze of impassible old growth forest. Such a daunting peril is virtually unimaginable today. Many of the small towns in and around St. George like Lead Mine, Parsons, and Elkins, show how these timber barons came in and did their business and left veritable ghost towns behind them.  Every valley and every mountain can been examined to see the remnants of an old rail bed, and everywhere you look – you can see trees, but if you know your history, you may know that life is old there, older then the hills – but the trees aren’t – they were stripped bare and the entire region thoroughly denuded.

However beautiful the land and the trees of West Virginia are – it is yet a pale resemblance to that which was found by the early settlers. All that can be seen is only the growth of trees that have grown since the logging industry burned itself out and there was no more money to be made because there were simply no more trees to be cut down. Wherever you fall on the political spectrum in terms of environmental protectionism, it is a wrenching testimony of the power of greed and unregulated industry taking advantage of not just a people, but also a land in a way that can never be restored nor any recompense comprehended.

It does not do justice to try to describe in mere words the glory of The West Virginia wilderness that fell to the loggers’ axe. The postmodernist theologian Leonard Sweet makes mention of the part of West Virginia that he calls home, The Canaan Valley area – now the inhabitation of skiers and mountain bikers and the like in a number of his books. The name is pronounced kah-nane, rather then the biblical pronunciation of kay-nan. But regardless of the linguistic twist; it was named after the biblical land; because when it was found – it was seen as noting less then a beautiful and bountiful land of no less then biblical proportions. This land too; all of its majesty and old growth forest – was cut down as well.

But it is not just man that has left an indelible mark upon the people and the places of West Virginia.

All my memries, gather round her
Miners lady, stranger to blue water
Dark and dusty, painted on the sky
Misty taste of moonshine, teardrop in my eye

I remember riding the bus home from school and hearing the radio newscaster speaking of catastrophic flooding in parts of West Virginia, that fateful day November 4th, 1985. For some reason I remember the entire walk from the bus to my parents front door; finding my mom sitting at the table with a look of anxiety upon her face and the words, ‘son, your dad and I are worried about your Grandparents in West Virginia’, upon her lips.

When word finally came through to us, the depth of the gravity of what had happened was truly overwhelming. Within days – we were piling into the car and pensively on our way there; profoundly aware that there was no tangible way to prepare ourselves for what we knew we were about to witness.

My grandfather had been warned to get out – but he was stubborn, and refused to believe the Cheat River could rise as high as they said that it might. In addition to his ruminations on bovines, my grandfather had also made note to us that the Cheat river was known to lull a lot of people into unassuming assumptions regarding it’s potential nature in diverse regards such as depth and swiftness, and in the manner of these same qualities – it had lived up to it’s name and cheated many people out of their lives. I can only assume that my Grandfather did not take his own advice when told to leave and held to his own treasured assumptions about the river which he had known all his life. These assumptions came to an abrupt end, when he was awoken by the panicked yelps of his hunting dog outside – who was standing up to it’s snout in water, on top of its dog house. The river followed my grandfather through the front door, following the untethering of his trusted companion. It literally followed them up the steps to the second floor and then literally up the ladder into their attic. He told us later of the strange sound that the huge freezers he kept downstairs sounded like: the banging and the awful, ominous, tumbling sounds as they floated up and hit the ceiling and then began to dump their contents of frozen deer meat out, as they flipped over and open. An echoing, cascading thunder that echoed through the house – one that was at the same time both unnerving and unmistakable- though never heard before and never heard again. It was the sound of a feeding river; ravenously devouring everything it touched; the hundreds of jars of my grandmother’s carefully canned vegetables; the fruits of the countless hunting expeditions of my grandfather – everything they both ate – everything they had collected over a lifetime -both borrowed and owned.

It is sort of an unwritten and unspoken, yet acknowledged thing – that if our own house ever catches fire, and we can only save one thing- save our own well-being and health; that it would be the crochet that my great grandmother made that hangs in our own house now, but also hung in theirs. It was on the second floor, and was hung very high near to the ceiling. When the vile, brown waters receded – it was shown to have reached all the way to only a few inches from the bottom of the frame. It was probably the only item they that they owned that remained untouched by the flood waters.

(Picture of my Great Grandmother’s Crochet.)

We have no idea how old their house was; but when it’s ruins were surveyed, we pulled newspapers – which served as an elemental form of insulation from the harsh West Virginia winters, long before the advent of fiberglass – from between its broken, pried apart walls. Many of them bore advertisements of Dr. So and So’s liver pills- the kind that you used to see on Wendy’s dining tables, no doubt from the late 1800’s.   My grandparents no doubt owed their lives to the quality of the turn of the century construction of their abode; for a soon as they had made their way into the cramped reaches of the attic; they felt the house groan and shudder – and looking out through the attic window – and saw the distant landscape shifting over the horizon of the white crested muddy torrent – the grinding and bone jarring shaking the ensued confirming to them that the age old stone foundation of the house had given way – and like an untethered boat – their house was washing downstream, slowly being torn apart by the raging waters. If my memory serves me correctly – their house washed down stream about 50 yards, until it lodged on a huge stump; it’s structural integrity virtually destroyed, as the entire front of the house was pulled out like a can or box top. 10 or 15 more yards, and the house no doubt would have completely disintegrated into the waters, taking with it all those National Geographics, my grandpa, my grandma, their three dogs and their cat; all of whom were rescued in one boat by those who knew that they were still in the house. Grandma would not leave without her cat – and grandpa would not leave without his dogs. Together they were all rescued – and none were left behind.

A photographer later snapped a picture of Vittie and Thelma Lipscomb standing on the stones that once led up their porch. They were still wearing the clothes that they had on when they were pulled out the attic. In the far distance one can see their house – an entire side of it pulled away, the rooms within, open and exposed; furniture caked with reeking mud. Everywhere there is mud, mud, mud – and destruction. For some time their weary gazes populated newspapers far and wide and became a testament to the pain inflicted upon a people accustomed to hardship and adversity; this time cast upon it in yet a new itineration thereof.

(My Grandparents, their house – with the entire front almost pried off – resting in the background.)

They calculated that 18 feet of water had come tearing through the town of St. George and a host of other like-wise little towns along the Cheat’s path; but this is only a guess; as it is documented to have been 21 feet just down the river in Parsons; where the flood stage is something like 11 to 13 feet. It destroyed the old bridge that I remember so well – and left only the broken stone abutments as mute testimony that it had ever been there. If you look up St. George on the Internet using any of the modern satellite imaging tools; when looking down at St. George, you can still see the small gray pillars next to the new bridge where the old one once stood. The irony is that they themselves had been built using the foundation stones of the old courthouse, the bell to which and legal papers within had been stolen in decades prior. Now the wild hand of Mother Nature had come at a gunpoint of her own and stolen the bridge itself and so much more along with it. The newer bridge next to it had withstood the force of the waters, but it was itself violated in a unique way; as when the waters receded – they revealed a no doubt two-legs-longer-then-the-other-two West Virginia heifer, wedged tightly between it’s steel beams; whose disproportionate legs hung 18 something feet up in the air. I often wondered if man or time honored methodologies of natural decomposing rummaged it from its lofty allocation. This image, along with that of my grandparents, garnered print ink far and wide.

The new bridge after the flood.

(Picture of old bridge abutments; the stones of which were taken from the old courthouse.)
(Further remains of the old bridge to St. George. In the distance are the offices of a rafting company Blackwater Outdoor Adventures; the takeout area and a customer are seen in the distance. If you are in this area you should check them out.)
(The view of the bridge remnants as seen from the BOA’s takeout. )
Country roads, take me home
To the place, I be-long
West virginia, mountain momma
Take me home, country roads

The Amish came and in their own time-honored tradition built homes for those who had lost everything; and my Grandparents where recipients of their outpoured generosity and sweat. But the single story house that replaced what the bulldozer eventually claimed was just a shell of what had preceded it in size, nature and beauty. Grandma and Grandpa’s house was long gone –and like the forest, they too were only in the memory and the photographs of those few who knew of them and those fewer who actually remembered.

Walking down Center St. in St. George – I surveyed the homes, ones that were once so quaint and meticulously well-attended. Now weed saturated lots reside in many of their steads. Other homes that either survived or were rebuilt are seemingly infrequently well-attended to. Parts of St. George are still well-taken care of; but all of those along Center St,  seemingly still bear the muddy touch of those waters, as they must have washed away with so much, so many things, but also the trust that such a thing could never happen, and the lingering fear, that regardless of the word spread by purported experts: that the flood was one that had to be thought of from within the context of a “once in a thousand years flood” – there seems to be a visibly manifest fear – that it happened once – and could therefore could happen again. The town has never been rebuilt to the same essence– it has never been restored to its beautiful, idyllic glory. The St. George of my youth was cut down by a flood that could not have been imagined – the true cost of which, much like the loss of the old growth forest in and around it, may never be calculated.

Much of what remains is like in kind to so much else; it lives in pictures, in memories, in a different place then the ground my eager feet jumped out onto after the long drive from and out of the city, when we left it to go to West Virginia to see Grandma and Grandpa. On some level – I knew that Grandma and Grandpa would pass on to their respective rewards; but I never thought that anything would steal that treasure trove of National Geographics from him, once hinted at possibly being an inheritance. Somewhere, probably buried in a field – lays the moldering remains of the innards of the mantle clock that my mom wanted; it’s antique wood no doubt long returned to the earth from which it came. I remember walking around the tangled, broken mess that was left of St. George when we drove up to try to help Grandma and Grandpa as they sought to reestablish some resemblance of a sustainable existence, having been – for the moment – consigned to cabins at a nearby YMCA camp. I walked through the fields along the river that had only a few months prior been ripe with corn; and were now, were ripe with the remnants of lives; property, cars, homes –and everything that the water had uprooted and taken with it. Washing machines – small children’s’ toys; I wondered what things were hidden from view that people were missing more then those things easily repurchased at a local store. For many years, there were ongoing stories of watches, jewelry and even an occasional hoard of coins that were from time to time discovered amongst the wreckage. I have no doubt that that river still holds secrets, that perhaps with some coming spring’s rains – it might someday choose to reveal the unexpected to the long since detached from the events of that day, unsuspecting passerby.

If only I had known that so much, so much more would pass away – I would have savored every movement. I know I would have pushed aside my ADDHD propensities and I would have undistractedly acknowledged the full experience of every detail of West Virginia as it once was to me. But you never know – you never truly know, either by the graceful hand of God, or a cruel trick of fate; you truly never know what you really have, not just until it is gone – but sometimes when all of that of which it is, is all so swiftly passing from between your fingers – into memory and mere photographs; being washed down by a sometimes cheating river of life – into forgetfulness – either to be discovered and remembered by someone, or – as is much more likely the case – to be locked away from remembrance forever, buried under the mud of time and progress and a world distracted by the here and now of its own needs and priorities, which so much seems so much like the same indifferent-to-the-future attitudes of those who squandered on their own accounts what they had, what they remembered – what they had to give, long – long before I ever forgot to try to remember that which came to be so precious to me.

I hear her voice, in the mornin hours she calls to me
The radio reminds me of my home far a-way
And drivin down the road I get a feeling
That I should have been home yesterday, yesterday
(St. George Academy standing in quiet repose.)

Along Center Rd, just down from where my Grandparent’s house once stood, there is an old school house, standing among the gravel and the weeds that surround it. We stopped there to see it and to read the historical marker that bore witness to both its age and a snapshot of the history behind it.

It was built in 1885– no doubt by a relative connected back through the ol’ family tree, a certain fellow by the name of William H. Lipscomb.  Interestingly enough, the old school house had survived the flood; and it’s survival was credited to the fact that a construction crew was in the process of moving it closer to the road. It is theorized that being jacked up as it was – as one does with large buildings when they are moved about – that the waters passed beneath the structure and spared it a fate shared by almost all the buildings surrounding it. Whether it was by grace, or by fate, or a construction workers inadvertent inclinations – the wrath of the flood passed by it and left it intact. A look through the shimmering glass gave a view of a vast treasure trove of historical knickknacks and documentations, all ordered, numbered and carefully presented as though awaiting a steady stream of museum visitors – ones that never materialized to darken it’s door. During a conversation with Keith Lipscomb, the son of my grandfather’s brother, Elmer Lipscomb – who once owned the old store – who now himself served as St. George’s Postmaster – we mentioned that we had stopped by the old school house. His eyes lit up, as we had failed to have the foresight that the town’s Postmaster no doubt knew everybody who was anybody – and therefore a somebody who might have a key.

He did.

(Relaxing with our relatives; Keith and Sheila Lipscomb.)

A few moments later, we were taking the short drive over there, on our way to get a key. With the turn of the lock – the old school house opened its doors to us, and we walked in with the dust of centuries seemingly undisturbed beneath our feet.

(The steps going upstairs)
(The upstairs)

I speak figuratively- as it was all very clean and tidy. But it certainly felt like we were going back in time. The faces of a thousand pictures peering back as us, back from times long past, places long changed, people long gone on. I opened up one book, saved from a centennial celebration that took place in the 70’s  – and there, sure enough, was a hand drawn advertisement for Lipscombs’ grocery.

(An advertisement for Lipscomb’s Grocery from a booklet printed during St. George’s bicentennial celebration – found among the many documents in the old school house.)

There were pictures of the old Courthouse, long before it had been broken into and relieved of the county seat. I saw a picture of the old bridge, who’s stones I would reach out and touch the next day, while canoeing with my brother through those deceptive and jealous waters of the Cheat. Soon we were joined by another group of people  who had never been in the old school house either, and were eager to take advantage of the now opened door. The soft conversations of our family and the others looking over the contents of the old schoolhouse were gently and unexpectedly punctuated by the old school bell tolling. My youngest brother, Daniel, had evidently found the rope, and had given it a few sharp pulls – and its voice soon began to echo throughout sleepy St. George. I wondered how long it had been since it had spoken. I wondered how long it had been closed up, and unopened to curious visitors like ourselves. In the old days, a ringing bell heralded either a celebration or imminent danger. I looked out over St. George, as the old school house bell softly peeled throughout the town –  and thought to my self, St. George are you listening? Is anyone listening?

(The Courthouse in Parsons – in process of being restored. It is here that the county seat wound up after being absconded at gunpoint from St. George’s courthouse.)

Along our circuitous route, we eventually stopped at Fairview Cemetery; a meticulously cared for collection of graves nestled far, far up in the mountains.

Herein lay both one of my Great Grandmothers & Great Grandfathers, Daniel S. and Rosa C. Lipscomb.

(My great grandparents)

My Great Grandmother died in 1986, Daniel Stearns, in 1944, while my grandfather was far away in the war. He was never told of his father’s death, and only learned of it after returning home. That Uncle Sam was remiss in reporting to a son his father’s death in even a remotely timely fashion – remained a sore spot for my grandfather for the remainder of his life.

A few feet away lies the headstone of my Great, Great, Grandfather and Great, Great Grandmother, Lina A., and Stephen M. Wiles. I remember seeing my Great Grandmother, but my mom remembers my Great, Great Grandmother holding me.

(My great, great grandparents)

Only a few miles away, along a mountainous gravel road called Hile Run, can be found another remote cemetery where a too-many-greats-to-recall Grandfather, Levi Hile and his wife rest. Before we came home, we spent sometime winding around the roads that circle St.. George. Later – we learned that we were mere miles from the grave site of Ambrose Lipscomb, a great to the umpteenth power grandfather of mine who had served in the Revolutionary War. There are too many Lipscombs slumbering in these mountains to count. Generations of the family tree are planted in the ground up here; in more ways then one.

In rest, here is also found the ominously conjoined gravestones of Kenneth Hebb and his daughter Melissa Ann

Ken Hebb bought the old country store from Elmer Lipscomb, who rests with his wife only a few yards a way – which is now a small Church of God storefront; bearing little resemblance to the small country store that I remember it as.

(Elmer Lipscomb’s Country store as it is today, Church of God storefront)

Mr. Hebb suffered a heart attack while driving with one of his daughters, on the way to the hospital to see another one of his daughters – who was in the midst of childbirth. In the same day, a daughter brought forth life; and a father and his youngest daughter passed into eternity. There was a coal truck involved; everything else is just details that can be summed up in their shared day of passing from this life and the words that grace the back of her gravestone next to her father; inscribed next to the image of a phone with it’s receiver off the hook; Jesus Called.

A little bit of hell – a little bit of heaven. As my brother and I paddled down the Cheat, we’d from time to time step out and explore a river bank. Along the way, here and there, lay the occasional, proverbial tire and some odd end of something or other. One we chanced upon what looked like a thoroughly rusted and battered water tank of some kind. I wondered if it was something that had been casual discarded by some goofball, as is the case with so much other river detritus. But it could not be ruled out as some kind of secretly held reminder, coughed up by the river from where it had been hidden after being taken by those muddy waters that fateful day. Had it been inside somebody’s home? And was this all that was left of it and everything else owned by the person who had once perhaps purchased it – a rusting, barely recognizable remnant of a past that only the river could testify of, were she to ever speak – 90 percent buried in river rock? If I remember correctly – they never found my grandfather’s scout after it was washed away. Logic would dictate via the laws of physics that the entirely of a fairly sturdy 4×4 would not entirely necessarily dematerialize or melt away under the affluence of water alone. Was his truck merely found somewhere down stream and expediently crushed at a recycling plant somewhere with no regard to documentation of VIN numbers or anything; or – does it lie somewhere, buried under the tons of rock that were surely shifting about en mass – just where does Grandpa’s trusty scout lie? I stood before the twisted, dented wreckage of something from somewhere and pondered what other things lay beneath the rock. It was a beautiful day – and in almost all parts of the river, we could get out and move about, were we desirable of such activities. The quietness of softly gurgling waters belied their capacity for wanton destruction. Such beauty– always had; and always will – save the building of massive dams such as TVA has done to the Tennessee River – serve in the continued capacity to provide a deceptive mask: their capacity to deliver unbridled hell. But perhaps the river cannot be faulted entirely; as perhaps she merely does in fact speak to us, not of her deeds and capabilities – but more so not just her nature, but that she flows from a land, the essence of which must surely serve as her defining lifeblood. For she is both beautiful and deadly, life giving and life taking; truly a little bit of heaven- and a little bit of hell. Under the encroachment of such accusations, she, and perhaps the land itself, would not shirk such admonishments – but might merely point out that such is common to not just to them, but to the larger business of life itself – that everywhere there is history and that history is both a story of hope and despair, overcoming and subjugation, long life and futures cheated. I can sing the song of the river and I can love soil of the land – not just because I am rooted in her history and those who have both loved and contended with her; but because I am also deeply connected with the hopes and despairs, love and pain, tragedies and successes of those who have been connected to life here, both with me and before me in this little out of the way place.

(Canoeing the cheat with my parents)
Country roads, take me home
To the place, I be-long
West virginia, mountain momma
Take me home, country roads

You have to be from a place to know the full depth of a place. You have to be human to be able to plumb the expanse of that place’s history and its stories. When I return to St. George, it is more then just a pilgrimage; the roads that lead there take me home – not just to a place that can be called home, but also to a place that I understand. When I am there – I am deeply connected, and though I spend the largest portion of my time in a veritable concrete jungle, when I am there – I feel a part of the place. I both understand, and feel understood. And in such manner – I can tell people that I am a damn Yankee , born in Deaconess Hospital, in the proper confines of the big, dirty steel town of Cleveland Ohio; and when I am there, I know her stories too; the smell of the open market, the sound of a thousand buses and pedestrian’s shuffling feet – but another place also calls my name; and I both answer and speak with her – in a native language and fluency that all who are touched by her both know, speak, and respond in.

Everyone should know where they are from. Those bereft of such knowledge are among all men most destitute in ways that cannot be soothed by any rich man’s assets nor any skillful handyman’s product.

In History of Tucker County by Homer Floyd Fansler, published in 1962 and later supplemented by History of Tucker County by Cleta M. Long – which was published in 1996 (both denizens of my library shelf), Fansler includes a poem written by the first principle of St. George Academy, A. W. Frederick – who oversaw the old school between the years 1885 to 1886. Fansler notes that Fredrick left the school to go to what he thought were greener pastures; but his own aspirations did not work out; and he spent his later years thinking of his years in St. George.  While Teaching in Myrtle Creek, Oregon, he penned The Saint George Academy and sent it to his former students. It is clear in parts – yet enigmatic in others; with both clear and unknownable elements and thematic components: potential references, as noted by Fansler, possibly to other teachers and events that Frederick experienced when he taught at and administrated the old Academy. Here, Frederick is conversing in history; conversing a shared and private language, in ways unintelligible to those removed from his own shared-with-his-friends experiences, much as we are often in relation to own own.   He too was connected back to a place – that all roads seemed to lead back to – and regardless of how far his life and teaching vocation would take him – home would always be in a little place called St. George.

The Saint George Academy
By A.W. Frederick

We remember, we remember that old building, now askew;
There we figured out our future, we were young and it was new;
But it matters very little what it was or how it looks,
For outstanding and momentous was our battle with the books.
In long years of school endeavor never was a better found;
All were helping each the other – each for self, but all hands round.
In that old hall academic right was regnant, kindness won,
Culture lured by high ideals smiled on duty fondly done.

There it was we reared our castles earthward up with skyward reach,
Felt the strength of human weakness, civic gospel learned to preach;
There we sought and found expression, found ourselves as things of worth –
Found the many things of value that enoble this old earth.
As the teachers are the school is, and the school the teachers make
Or mold through cooperation; so a brief survey we take:
One so stately, soulful winsome gave the scions her heart,
Buds to bloom and bless the children, taught them choose the better part.

One was called away by sorrow, she bereft a father dear;
And her helping hand withdrawn ceased to bring us help and cheer.
One a Hercules in effort, true as Lee to duty stood,
Yet as gentle as a Zephyr breathed around him deathless good.
Like the hand with ring of magic, one threw lights upon the screen,
Glad if others were transfigured and himself remained unseen.
We, the teachers have depicted, one and all would fain recall,
Were it not some films are wanting, pictures turned against the wall.

In our union and communion there is purpose, there is plan;
As with clustering constellations so with spirit ties of man.
There is no death! The stars go down to rise upon some fairer shore,
And bright in Heaven’s jeweled crown they shine on forevermore; –
So it is – inspiring doctrines of the Christian faith we learned;
Who of us have mystic knowledge, know beyond for which we learned?
We remember, we remember, the Academy when new,
There we figured out our future, sought to find a key and clue.

May we never forget the roads that lead us back to where we belong; and if we grow deaf – may its call be the last sound we grow mute to; it’s memories the last of that which shall pass from our memory; the emotion of it’s joy and pain the last thing that we are able to still feel and know.,_West_Virginia

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Essay: Adventures in Aspieland; Coming to Terms with my “bad wiring”


(Originally Posted October 6 2006)


Essay: Adventures in Aspieland; Coming to Terms with my “bad wiring”

It is probably an overused statement – ‘The Lord Works in Mysterious Ways’- one that is sure to invoke the rolling of eyeballs by the more practical folk amongst us; but regardless of whether it is a catch-all for both the unexpected and the fortuitous – it doth remain ever the same: He does. Psalm 139:14 says that we are wonderfully and fearfully made; but for some of us who are set apart from the “neuro-typical” we are, in addition to these things, ‘quirkily’ made as well. Recently, I had a moment of realization, after practically stumbling across it in an inadvertent Google search; the source of why I have, all my life, tried to “fit in” but have seemingly never quite completely succeeded. I appear to have what is called Aspergers Syndrome. But I am getting ahead of myself…

It all began a period of time ago. I will not say whether it was a long time ago or a short while; as I will protect the identities of the guilty and the innocent; but there was a certain young lady who had caught my attention. After pestering her with text messages and long drawn out e-mails that are an embarrassment to even mention; I had the opportunity to actually sit down with her in relative privacy and make my case for why I wanted to ask her out. I had implied it in text messages and e-mails – but had heretofore failed to step up to the plate and make a bold statement vocally. The internet and it’s various and wondrous forms of communication have forever changed the way that singles find each other, flirt, communicate, relate and potentially fall in love – but there will never be any combination of ones and zeros that will ever replace the sound of your own vocal cords vibrating out the message: I like you and I want to go out with you. And so – unexpected as it was in the moment – I had my chance, and I aspired to make full use of it.

Any reader of this blog can no doubt recall the magic moment in a given romantic comedy when the guys “makes the play” and finally – perhaps after failing to do it over and over again – finally gets it right. We all remember when Bill Murray finally gets it right in Groundhog Day, Billy Crystal in When Harry Met Sally, and no one can forget Tom Hanks in Forrest Gump telling Jenni – “I know what love is.” And so I was there, talking to my friend – in what should have been a magic moment; but if it were a movie, suddenly, unexpectedly – it was as if all the writers had walked off the set. It was not that I had no lines to remember; I had no lines to say…they were not written – I had nothing to speak. In other words, in that supposed to be that certain aspired for magical moment…I flopped. Later in the day – I stood looking in the mirror, wondering to myself – is there something wrong with me? Why could I not emotionally articulate myself? It was an incredibly awkward moment – and it takes great honesty to even write about it or confess it. At 34 years old – I seemingly still did not know how to talk to a girl; at least in the way that a guy should learn to talk to girl. I prayed about it- and added it to the list of things I felt like the Lord needed to speak to me about.

This He would – in the most mysterious of ways.

For the benefit of those who don’t know me, or have not known me since I was a kid – I..m a normal appearing guy. I’m a highly functional adult, with most of the things that would figure into a picture of a successful individual; perhaps even an overachiever. I helped start and still own a successful web development firm that has been in operation for 8 years. I have two college degrees. I have held the same job in a local hospital’s lab; a stressful, demanding job that requires nerve and intelligence. I have watched fellow coworkers be hired, make mistakes and get burned out or worse yet, fired. I make decent money – and have been successful in real estate investing. I drive a newer model Cadillac – of which I own more then the bank does. I am decent looking – and I am working on getting off the few extra pounds that spending long hours cranking out programming code in front of a computer screen can earn you. I have a close-knit group of friends that miss me when I am working too much and who let me know it. I think I am pretty normal – but that has not always been the case.

As all these self-doubts began to further unfold – I went back and dug out my old mental evaluations that had been done on me as a child. I had not read them in years. Truth told – I don’t know if I had ever really read them. I knew they existed. I had seen them. My mom seemed on rare occasions to occasionally reference them; usually when I had exceedingly frustrated her with a single-minded, determined focus to get something done – despite all things to the contrary – she would say, I have a paper that says your like this; you’ll stop at nothing to get what you really want!.. But this time, I sat down at my desk and gently opened up the yellowing parchments from twenty five plus years ago and read what the child psychiatrists had written about me two something decades ago. It was unnerving – reading them. They described a tortured child who would beat his head against the wall, claw at his face and tear his hair out at what seemed an immense frustration with the world and how to relate to it; interviews, sessions with the Doctor that had to be canceled and rescheduled because I was so out of control; a birthday party, where as more and more people arrived, I became more and more excited until I reached a moment of what seemed like a neurological spasm – and ran up the stairs of the house and then down them – and then out into the brightness of day waving my arms in a spasm of energy impossible to contain any longer. There was the doctor that took me off Ritalin because my other doctor that had put me on it was “a navy doctor and they all take antidepressant and all their kids are on Ritalin” – or so he said – and after which, how I had done the unthinkable: failed kindergarten – until I was put back on it and rescued from the mental oblivion of ADHD that left me a lonely, misunderstood kid.

Denial. For the record, that is a six letter word; but it rather should be a four letter one – there were at least a lot of four letter words that came to mind when I was reminded by someone of my ‘learning disability’ as I got older. Such a joy it was – when the day finally came – that they finally let me go to classes all day long by myself; freed finally and forever from the ‘special ed’ classes that I was forced to go to. Such joy it was for my parents, also, when they called us all in – and told us that because of my diagnosis and faithful adherence to all the steps and processes offered by the state for my despised disability; that the federal government would pay my way through college anywhere I wanted to go for any degree; and if I graduated from college and could not get a job – they’d pay for another degree. Denial. I am not learning disabled. I am not ADHDHDADH-Whatever. I am not taking that money. I am not taking that label. I am NORMAL. Normal is a formal term – I have thus learned of late – more appropriately articulated as one who is ‘neuro-typical’ – or “NT” for short: possessive of a normal neurological state. This I have always wanted to be but seemingly have never quite been able to achieve.

Somewhere along the way – I finally stopped pulling my hair out. First literally and – then a decade or so later – figuratively. My first year of college I found what I know can only be described as my first real acceptance into a structured societal group; until that point, I had been a perpetual outcast – only accepted among other societal discards from the various yet standard, culturally-corralled stereotypes – not themselves totally neurotypical; assemblages I encountered throughout my early adolescence: geeks, nerds; the socially withdrawn; these were my cohorts – my understanding friends.

But eventually, I made it into a group – and many numbered among them as “normal” people; that first group of people wherewith I first experienced the concept of “social integration;” I still know a number of them, though it has been 14 years since they became my friends. Time came and passed and did the inevitable; social groupings reformed, old ones dissolved and many of the people within them went their different ways. I found another group to be a part of as the last formal vestiges of the previous passed into organizational entropy.

I experienced growth in other ways also. In high school I joined Junior Achievement and over three years slowly, painfully, gained the ability to make a presentation, to interact with groups of people, and to not just fit in – but to lead. Much later, by way of the goal of surrounding myself with successful people – I would surround myself with entrepreneurs, and they would rub off on me – and with the coming of the Internet, with its myriad of ever evolving possibilities; a good friend of mine and I saw opportunity – and took a giant step. Eight years of sales presentations and business meetings later – I hardly remember the abstract fear and tantalizing terror that such a prospect had in my previous years evoked from within the very center of my soul. I have come so far: I have a social fabric of friends and business and leadership skills – so far as to perhaps be able to fail to remember my fragile foundations. Yellowed pieces of paper and the tales that they told reminded me of my past. Long before it became a popular diagnosis – the over-reactive, falsely-assuming doctor had already been made cognizant of its fast approaching wave of popularity – I was a severely ADHD child. Whatever I was now – I had overcome great challenges to be where I was.

I stood, looking in the mirror after my ‘this is why I like you’ debacle – and I thought – could this have anything to do with all of that? I have had moments of realization; realizations of denial. I have sat in front of a computer screen and taken all day to crank out code that should have taken 30 minutes. Read a few pages of that book, cleaned my office for once, shaved, organized my financial papers, responded to e-mails – did everything but what I wanted to really get done. I’m still ADD; I’d think to myself; you never really outgrow it – you just learn to deal with it and focus, that is what they all say. You do learn to focus – constantly. I made the mistake of describing the ability to be easily distracted as a gift to someone by mistake; that if I grew bored in a conversation or situation – perhaps one of those dreaded company CQI in-services – I could almost instantly take myself somewhere completely different mentally – somewhere far, far way. I have expressed in confidence to a handful of people my disappointment with my past choices regarding not taking full advantage of my college grant; opting rather to let my hard-headed denial shape my college/career path. I have asked a friend I grew up with who is now a doctor about halfway through his psychiatry residency; dude – should I be on Stratera?

They say that time heals all hurts. I think that it eases a lot of hardheadedness as well. It brings certain realities into focus that you would have preferred to have left blurred and denied. I believe that the Lord God has an interest in our physical lives; not just our spiritual. I believe that the Lord God desires healing for those things wherein we hurt; even if the hurt has been denied for untold years and unspoken reasons. I believe in a God that can take brokenness and speak wholeness to it; and in the process uncover treasure where once there was only pain.

Without boring you with all of the exegetical theology behind such a notion – one, that in today’s modern evangelical culture may come off as being outmoded or unorthodox – it is my belief that God works this way more often then He works through other ways and means: He accomplishes the revelation of His Wholeness though Brokenness; He reveals the fullness of his Joy through Despair. We are not always quick in noticing His paths to these purposes. Perhaps we, at times in our lives, never notice them at all – though they abound everywhere. Sometimes, though we do…perhaps when asking to see the obvious.

Not too long ago I was surfing the Internet. I drove a 94 thunderbird until it had 286 thousand miles and had lost all resemblance of ever having had a paint job. The two most amazing concepts I came across when I bought my Cadillac were what it’s like to have a car with a paint job, and what it feels like to drive one with shocks that work to boot. It was not that I could not afford shocks. I was just too cheap to buy them – and since a rough ride did not really bother me that much, I never thought twice to replace them – I just drove slower over rail road tracks, and went elsewhere mentally when fussed at by my mom or somebody at having to ride a bit rougher somewhere; no big deal for me and the ever faithful thunderchicken. But I’ll put them on the Deville – when it needs them, through, I thought to myself while my pastor-friend Craig Ervin was stretching himself back in the caddy’s cashmere leather seats and saying “wow, what a smooth ride – nice”, as he then further elaborated that if I ever pulled up in the thunderchicken again – as I had so many countless times before – he would refuse to get in. He would only ride in ‘Pearl’ as he thus christened her, for the pearl paint job she sports. The name for my car stuck. So did the idea that I’ll get those shocks no matter who much they cost – when Pearl needs them.

So, in a nutshell, that’s how it happened. I was looking up “2000 Deville air shocks” just out of curiosity in regards to how expensive they would be when they would be replaced. Google is such an interesting creature by its very nature; the results that it returns are usually more interesting then the very thing you’re looking up; this is a notion shared by the ADD and the neurotypical alike. On the second page, about half way down in the results that Google served up to me, were words – that in a way I cannot explain – jumped out at me.

Asperger’s syndrome –
Asperger’s syndrome is a developmental disorder that affects a child’s ability to communicate and socialize with others. Early specialized interventions can … – 23k – Cached – Similar pages

Can -what? I Thought. I clicked on the link. I looked up Asperger’s on Google directly and spent several hours filtering throughout the recesses of the Internet; everywhere from to those who blamed it on mercury in childhood vaccines. There was a lot to be found out about it. Turns out that Asperger’s has a 30 percent co-morbidity with ADDHD (30 percent of all ADDHD children are also positive for Apserger’s Syndrome). Some experts say that Asperger’s and ADDHD are actually the same thing, just manifesting different symptoms in different ways. Others say that they are separate medical disorders. Regardless – there is not a brain scan or blood test that can be performed for either; and Asperger’s is classified as spectrum Autism Disorder or High Functioning Autism, whereas ADDHD falls more along the lines of being classified as a learning disorder. Great. I’m Autistic. Hello – I’m Matthew, a.k.a. Rain Man. Pardon me while I go get the phone book and start memorizing it. There are lists of the classic symptoms of the syndrome; and after a time of denial; I realized that I was matched up with a considerable number of them, some somewhat – others very much so; enough that there was a great likelihood that to some degree I was that lucky 30 percent of ADDHD’rs to also have Asperger’s – or be an “Aspie” – as I continued to learn the online community of them refer to themselves as. How could this have been missed – if this is the case? I thought to myself. Turns out that there is a tremendous amount of research going on into autism (and these autism “spectrum disorders” as they are referred to) and there is so much that has only recently been learned and as much remains to still be discovered. I am 34 years old and was 7, when my diagnosis was made 25+ years ago, Asperger’s was hardly known about; if I was not full-blown – or even visibly full-blown to the right people in terms of my treatment – then I probably easily slipped through the diagnostic cracks. No one with Asperger’s presents all the classic symptoms. Most are very functional people. Some are outright geniuses – Andy Warhol, Einstein, Thomas Edison – their biographers have gone back with the Asperger’s criteria in hand and found that in all likelihood they and a large number of movers and shakers in the past were strong candidates for it.

Of course the world is full of unrepentant hypochondriacs who constantly pour over the web and create detailed lists of all the illness that they have. I wonder if the advent of the Internet created any perceivable bump in the numbers of patients treated for hypochondria amongst the practitioners of mental health. There is for sure a period of mild hypochondria that many people entering the medical profession experience during their training and education; while learning the ins and outs of various diseases – a cough registers somewhere the fear that it could be the beginning vestiges of some awful, encroaching disease. You grow out of that; well, most of us do. Once, more then a decade ago when I had first started working in the lab initially as a phlebotomist, I had the distinct misfortune of being stuck by a needle while drawing blood from a combative patient who was later, after the routine screening workup because of my exposure, found to be HIV positive. I tested negative – but only after waking up in the middle of the night, broke out in a sweat, after having put too many blankets over myself on a cold winter’s night – thinking to myself; oh, dear God, this is a symptom of AIDS overwhelming my body’s defenses; I’m seroconverting…

No – I never did. I never tested positive for HIV. But it made for some really nerve-wracking trips to have myself checked out. The issue is this- a bit of knowledge can be a dangerous thing. A lot of knowledge can be downright frightening. You simply guard yourself against the terrors of such machinations by establishing within your mind that the laws of probability state that if you stop what you are doing, fly to Vegas, and blow every red cent you and your credit cards can cough up on slot machines: chances are you will be one thing: busted butt broke. And likewise if you start coughing; you don’t have interstitial lung disease, your not coming down with AIDS just because you woke up sweating one night (even if you were stuck with a bloody needle) and you’ re not Asperger’s positive just because you have all the symptoms… This is a hypochondriac moment- I thought to myself. The most I’ve ever come to it since that sweaty night after the AIDS needle stick thing. And then I remembered my prayer that I had offered up regarding my befuddlement at just trying to express how I felt about someone to them. What I felt was real wasn’t it? Was it just nervousness – or was it something more? Apies have difficulties expressing themselves sometimes because they feel love differently; more logically and cerebrally then emotionally. I remembered a friend teasing me as a child that I would grow up to be a mad scientist. The time I challenged a neighborhood friend to a game of monopoly – if I won, he had to be my friend – if I lost, I would never bug him to be my friend again – I lost. Aspies cannot read body language that everybody else communicates and reads subconsciously; the hidden language – was I deaf and mute to it? If the laws of probability in regards to me having Asperger’s and hitting it big in Vegas were the same – would I be on my way there right now? Maybe – with some of my money, not all of it – potentially.

The ongoing natural tendency to use big words in speaking when simple ones would sound much better; Aspies tend to use vocabularies way beyond their years. I failed kindergarten and 6th grade, but they told my mom that when I was failing the 6th grade I was on an 11th grade reading level. That’s just because I read a lot, right? If the laws of probability in regards to me having Asperger’s and hitting it big in Vegas were the same – would I be on my way there right now? Vegas? Probably. That when I told my mom about this- she told me that I had autistic-like mannerisms; facial ticks; and that I was forever walking on my tip toes. Check, check, check – Vegas? I’m already packed.

No one can offer conclusive evidence that I don’t have Aspergers. But there seems to be an overwhelming body of evidence that I was strongly in its grip as a child- and may well yet be still, even as I walk throughout adult life. But unlike interstitial Lung disease or AIDS, Asperger’s is not something that I would dread ever being told I probably have; at least now that I am educated in regards to it’s nature and effects. To those who have it and to those who work with those who do, as they grow up and face the diverse challenges that ADDHD’rs, Aspies, and others alike – and neurotypicals unalike face as well – it’s not really a curse – it’s a blessing. Of course it’s much more likely that rather then winning any popularity contests, you might rather be the object of the scorn of your peers; you might have to work harder at expressing yourself, perhaps in different ways to those you might get a crush on; and you might not always be able to trust your gut instincts when it comes to certain things – but if you are an aspie – somewhere, potentially hidden away from obvious view; in a place you might have never explored – there is a gift. In the brains of neurotypical individuals; if the wiring therein were thought of in terms of a house’s wiring – then everywhere you plug something into a wall socket you’d get the normative 110 volts. So you could plug in and play the radio that resides in the clock that wakes you up in the morning – or your Yamaha 300w foundation shaking stereo system that wakes up the neighbors three doors down. Point is – big or small endeavors; your still running 110 volts; and there is allot that you can do with that. In an Aspie’s brain, however, you’d find – to your surprise – that certain plugs are seemingly miss-wired. A test with a voltmeter would reveal one wall socket to be 12 volts; only enough to power a boom box or a flashlight; others would reveal themselves to be wired for 220 volts; enough juice to power a concert’s sound stage – or to power searchlights bright enough to not just light up a room but an entire downtown block. That’s the gift of Asperger’s – the adventure to be found in discovering that you have bad wiring in the power distribution of your brains capability provisioning. Some things are tough for you – and you can still do what you need to do albeit with extra effort. Other things – when you search and find them – will be found to be things that you are positively awesomely good at; better then anybody else could ever be, outside of tremendous effort – which for you comes effortlessly in comparison.

An Apple advertising campaign in recent memory began with the words here’s to the crazy ones – but aside from a maker of computers expressly offering its hardware/software to creative professionals – who often have already come to terms with the reality that they are a bit touched – most of the rest of society is constantly expressing itself in terms of a desire to be normal. The truth is that most of the creative and innovative movers and shakers in our world fall far from that description; and the rise of computers, technology and the internet has served to make all the more evident and acceptable what some have always known; geeks really do rule the world. What I found most interesting in what exploration I have done is that there is a tremendous amount of research going on in regards to the link between creativity and intelligence and non-neurotypicallity. Do a Google search on the words ‘Ashkenazi’ and ‘over-clocking’ and your find scholarly papers exploring the persecution of the Ashkenazi Jews and speculation in regards to if their constant fight for survival has contributed to an increased degree of intelligence from the normal population and also the prevalence of select physiological disorders and neurological diseases and can also be found. Anybody that ever put together computers before the advent of cheap custom built computers like Dell and HP; can remember putting together their own ‘Frankensteins’ and the potential ability through the selection of dip switches or by other various methods to speed up the megahertz of a given computers clock cycle or speed. Sometimes the results was a faster rendering of a photoshop file – sometimes the result was a fried computer from the effects of the increased heat and strain upon the computers neuro-like electronic infrastructure. Is it a gift to be over-clocked as long as you’ve got the fans blowing and can dissipate the heat or other oddities that come from such a non-typical setup?

This much is known – sometimes normal is quite boring. Sometimes having a bit of bad wiring is not all that bad of a thing. The universe is constantly demonstrating itself to be a far more complex state of affairs then ever previous thought. Michael Behe popularized the notion of irreducible complexity, in his book Darwin’s Black Box; arguing that in almost every layer that science decodes, there is yet another layer of complexity elusively awaiting discovery. What if personalities and intelligence are of the same nature – there were mediating elements at work far beyond not just our perception but also our control. There are scores of movies – the Island of Dr. Moreau for example – that tell haunting tales of one man..s quest to improve something, the result of which proves to come back circumspectly to both haunt him and eventually destroy him. In The Island of Dr. Moreau, Dr. Moreau finds a way to mix the dna of humans and creatures, trying to build a smarter, better, more genetically advanced person – and what he creates, rather, are legions of monsters some brutal others fragile – but all perpetually self-tormented. In the video game and the fictional/futuresque sci-fi movie it spawned, Resident Evil, a monolithic Microsoft-like purveyor of health enhancing pharmaceuticals invents a virus that does more then just rejuvenate aged skin – it brings the dead back to life and a typical zombiefest struggle for the future of humanity ensues as the virus gets out and the infected, reanimated dead escape from the underground laboratory called the hive where the horror born of hope was created.

So do we risk such a thing tinkering with the inner workings of the mind? Was the horror of the Holocaust not the logical outworkings of the then popular theory of Eugenics? Whereas such demons were before unleashed in the realm of politics, in the pursuit of a master German race – will we ourselves unleash that same dark genie from his dusty bottle once again -this time rubbing upon it in the name of science?

At the time of this writing – a demon-driven gunman recently walked into a quaint Amish schoolhouse and massacred innocent girls, thrusting the quite, unassuming Pennsylvanian Dutch into the unwelcomed limelight of the national news media. The Amish celebrate community through uniformity -whereas most of America celebrate community through individuality. We go great lengths to be different and included and they go great lengths to be the uniformly same and consider that to be the bedrock of their culture of faith.

Somewhere between the Amish and The Island of Dr. Moreau, I think, there has to be a balance. We should not tinker or seek to purposefully reproduce problems in the intricate machineries and fine wiring of our “fearfully and wonderfully made” mortal coils; neither should we reject and gloss over that which is there – I believe – sovereignly by the hand of God. This is where I have to swerve, unapologetically, to God’s planned design and His sovereign will for our lives. Brokenness for brokenness’s sake is non-instrumental and entropic both in it’s immediacy and in it..s ends; whereas – for the Christian and the heathen alike – brokenness by the will of God will almost always achieve a purpose, and even sometimes a blessing; more so to those who trust in God – but not exclusively to believers either. Nihilism is the wreckage of relativism upon the rocks of the absolute; nothing ‘just happens’- all is ordained and foreknown in the eyes of the one who both created and loves us. We ourselves may produce entropy-inducing chaos by our own hands – but the transcendence and immanency of God cannot allow Him to do any such thing with any such results. He is the God not just of order, but of disorder. Brokenness and despair are His secret servants; and they reveal His majesty and accomplish His work in their own secret, often to our own eyes, bewildering ways.

In 2nd Corinthians 12:9-10 Paul writes

And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.

In 1st Corinthians 1:26-31, he further states

For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, [are called]: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, [yea], and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence. But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.

And so I resolve that whatever old or newly discovered weakness I may or may not have; I know that there is strength to be found either spiritually or naturally or in both dimensions from it. And whereas I was conceived somewhere in Cleveland Ohio and not on an island in the lab of a mad scientist; neither am I a zombie – thought long nights of programming and lack of sleep can seem to induce the appearance – if I ever do find out I’m somehow I’m really either, I’ll stick to sushi over brains and try to still be a halfway sharp dresser. To God be all the Glory regardless of the situation.

And as a footnote – my love life – yes, Aspies love too and those who love them, love them and cherish them for who they are and the way they are too. I am greatly loved and I love. And I am dating/pursuing and – usually – find my words and emotional self-expression just fine; unlike the episode that launched me into the before-mentioned time of self-reconsideration. I would never want to be too good at wooing somebody anyway – but as they say; “hate the game not the player” – right? Perhaps it was God pulling away my vain words to reveal my own unrevealed, heretofore unknown brokenness; somewhat healed but still present, as an answer to a prayer that I prayed to know all of Him – both in my wholeness and in my brokenness.

Sola Dei Gloria

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Advocacy/Networking Groups:

Clinical Research/Information Orientated Sites:


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