Sunday, March 02, 2008

Pretty Lady's Super Power

Darlings, Pretty Lady is feeling much better, though still a bit woozy. Thank you all for your very kind messages.

Having been wandering in delirium-land for the better part of a week, Pretty Lady hasn't quite caught up on all her desultory blog-visiting; thus she regrettably missed dear Brucie's Mutant Super Power Roundup. She is so disappointed that she is going to share her own personal super power with you now.

When Pretty Lady was in second grade, there was a boy in her class who spent most of the school year under his desk. Once when he was absent, a sanctimonious girl made an officious speech about how 'we all need to help Terry,' which made no difference in how we treated Terry upon his return. Terry, even then, seemed beyond help.

By the fourth grade, Terry had graduated to sitting on his desk, for the vast majority of time, but still did not do his homework or interact with other humans. Terry's intelligence test scores, allegedly, were Just Fine, so the teachers dealt with his 'stubbornness' by screaming at him. This made no difference in his behavior, so Terry eventually went to public school, where he was suspended for kicking a teacher who touched him.

This entire time, Pretty Lady did not understand why everybody was yelling at Terry. It was perfectly obvious to her that Terry was just like that. You did not converse with Terry, you did not touch him, you did not expect him to do the impossible, such as look you in the eye, articulate his words, turn in his homework, or take his hands out of his ski-jacket pockets. This was, perfectly obviously, beyond Terry's psychological and neurological capabilities.

Decades later, it came to Pretty Lady that Terry obviously suffered from some form of autism. She doesn't know what happened to him; he is either living in an alley next to the garbage cans, or a successful programmer. These are the only two possible options.

At one time, Pretty Lady found herself working the Information Desk at the main San Francisco Public Library. In practical terms, this meant that the cream of the craziest people that the craziest city in the world has to offer came streaming toward her in an uninterrupted horde, and presented her with their concerns. Pretty Lady found that she was able to tune into nearly every one of these people, discover their needs, formulate a plan, communicate this plan, and send them away with a purpose.

In short, Pretty Lady's super power is a capacity to empathize and communicate with crazy people. Also with old people, young people, sick people, terrified Chinese immigrants, angry people, psychotic people, strung-out people, belligerant activists, pathological manipulators, neurotics, and incompetent bosses--at least for two or three minutes. Long enough to formulate a mode of simple communication and inchoate understanding.

This super power of Pretty Lady's is not an unmixed blessing. Not only has it precipitated a great many Unfortunate Relationships, but it creates unrealistic expectations in potentially dangerous hangers-on. Ergo Pretty Lady's reservoir of stalker stories is unusually large.

Conversely, the only sorts of people with whom Pretty Lady is unable to empathize are the bland, smug, rigid, unimaginative, illiberal, and unempathetic--in a word, with the 'normal' people. She simply has no understanding of what it is to lack both passion and empathy. It sometimes seems to her that these people lack souls entirely; that they are mindless automatons carrying out their programming without consciousness or feeling.

Furthermore, it frequently seems to her as though these people regard the cultivation of empathy for others as positively immoral, as though understanding people were the same as excusing all dangerous, evil, or antisocial behavior. As though to make an effort to put oneself in another's shoes, even for a second, even for the purposes of communication, were to taint one's own character irretrieveably.

And Pretty Lady has no patience with this attitude. For to her it is perfectly obvious that 1) we are all children of God and 2) we are all in this together. Behaving as though it were within anyone's rights or abilities to revoke humanity from another human is hubris of the highest degree; it is usurping the rights of God.

Which is, most certainly, ungodly.


Dinosaur Mom said...

I played the super power game with a gentleman of my acquaintance and was surprised that he would want the power to read minds. It then dawned on me that lots of people can't. Not that I can exactly, but I share your gift or affliction or whatever it is. I too am a magnet for teh crazy.

Desert Cat said...

I'm actually surprised when I find other people who can. Because it is pretty uncommon. And I can't always. It depends on a lot of things, not the least of which is how loud a person is thinking.

But I recently listened to the idle patter of people's thoughts while they are driving to see if there was a speed trap ahead on the highway in the usual spot. People set off all kinds of alarms when they see a cop parked on the side of the road. It's usually pretty easy to tell, as long as my own thoughts and feelings aren't too turbulent to hear through.

In short, Pretty Lady's super power is a capacity to empathize and communicate with crazy people.

I guess I fit in then. I don't know that I'd qualify as dangerous though.