These days everything green around my house is “Sheldon”. A remote control car, a bowl, a shirt, a marble. If it’s green, its name is, inevitably, “Sheldon”.
The “original” Sheldon is a tortoise. He took the place of the geckos in my son’s first grade classroom. Apparently, without any fanfare, the rather cut-throat insectivores were replaced with the more docile herbivore. Of course, when I write it that way, the implication is that the harsher reality was intentionally replaced with a more gentle one, but, truly, I can only surmise the reasoning behind the switcheroo.
Regardless, the live crickets that invaded that first grade classroom with their constant chirping (until unceremoniously consumed by the geckos) are now a thing of the past. My son is thrilled with the tortoise but terrified of him at the same time. When I volunteer in class, he asks me to look at Sheldon, and take photos of him. When I walk close to the glass terrarium where Sheldon resides, my son’s hand in mine, he starts to shake with fear, and then runs back to his seat. Fear and fascination go hand in hand for my son in so many aspects of life. In fact, I don’t think he’s really much different from anybody else that way.
Life is full of fear and fascination. Especially with harsh reality, you know? Most of us are introduced to harsh realities by learning the meaning of carnivores and insectivores. As we grow older we learn darker truths that shock and shake us to our cores, but leave us watching – looking for news, like watching a train wreck or learning of a horrific shooting. And in every dark reality, there are those who want to analyze, to reason out the unreasonable. Because, the fallacious argument goes, if one can reason the unreasonable, one can prevent it from happening again.
Ah, but there’s the rub, eh? Things that make no sense, don’t make sense because we talk about them. 1+1 does not equal 3 no matter how much we talk about different scenarios that seek to rationalize it. Sure, sometimes, we can see precautions to take – ways to make it harder for the acts to take place. Sometimes though, talk is just futile.
People do it anyway though, and some put a lot of thought into it. Their mantra is the most dangerous of all because with a tiny ring of logic, one can be sucked in. Others talk from a place of panic, jumping to conclusions. They scream the sky is falling. My son brought Sheldon into our lives just as we heard screams of an unfathomable tie between autism and violence – No, Henny Penny, the sky is not falling.
And for us, the cries circled, while my son focused on a tortoise in the midst of it all. The tortoise – a symbol of slow, thoughtful, persistence. The first thing that always comes to my mind is the hare. We can hurry like a hare, to react, comment, jump in a fray. We can be first with the speed of the hare, but do we know where we are going? Is it so important, in an age of instant social media, to be trendy, ‘on time’, to discuss the shade of the falling sky?
And what about now? Have most people already moved on from fear, pain, depression, the attempt to come to grips with how anyone could fall for a false ideal that autism could be tied to senseless violence? Is it no longer the flavor of the day?
Are the Henny Pennies done shouting about the sky? And as for those who know better but still try to quell the cries- do they feel satisfied? Have they dispelled their own anger at the vulgar nature of the falsities? Are the onlookers done remembering those who were lost?
We are a fleeting lot, humankind. We feel deeply and then tuck the feelings away. All of us deal with hurt and pain differently. And some of us don’t deal with it at all. Some have not yet learned a way to cope and return to some semblance of existence that can still give us joy alongside grief and disgust.
For me, I think I’m green, like Sheldon. I’ve my own way to deal with my grief and my disgust. I’ve got a faith that gives me the foundation from which to absorb the most jolting of shocks.
Most of all, I know the reality of my son. My beautiful, innocent child who gives unconditionally and with the ease of simple forgiveness to others. No anger, no violence but only love, and that comes deeply intertwined with his autism. How anyone could try to pin the opposite of love together with that diagnosis my son holds, is beyond any understanding. It’s 1+1 =3. Wrong. Simply wrong.
There will always be a hare running a race, or a chicken screaming that the sky is falling. There will always be someone to believe it. The hares, the chickens, and their entourages end up out of breath and lost- no where.
But, as I see it, most people are like the tortoise.
My belief in most people is that we see the good in every person regardless of race, creed, religion, sex, or disability. We evaluate each other individually, as unique, doing or not based on the core of who we individually are, not because we fall within a group, or a stereotype of a non-existent fiction of characteristics, ‘describing’ that group.
Most people aren’t duped into believing the sky is falling. Others will hit the brick wall running alongside the chickens to prove to them the sky is not falling.
But to me, the best will simply plod along, ignoring all the labelers and those fellows who spit upon the labels, saying a prayer, understanding that sometimes there is no sense and no reasoning, in aberrant behavior and no convincing those who follow the chickens.
My son is afraid to trust that Sheldon is safe but is excited by the shell and all other parts of Sheldon’s totally different life form. He wants to learn more to help him feel safe. Wouldn’t it be something if his innocence could rub off on others? Instead of screaming falsehoods, they could feel with their fear, the fascination of learning as a way to quell fear by finding truth.
As for the grief? We must all build foundations that operate as our shells to protect us from our vulnerabilities.
Yes, Sheldon has much to teach me as the new year settles in, and I return to my routine. I won’t forget him when something jolts me. That tortoise serves as the reminder of the very foundation that keeps me sane.