When Sawyer was about seven he found me watching an episode of The Simpsons in our kitchen. In this episode, instead of the usual intro, we saw an animated evolution of man from monkey, to Neanderthal, to Homer (ha, ha), and then back to monkey. When Sawyer didn’t get the joke, I told him it was a play on evolution, and when he asked me what evolution was, I told him about how we were once all little amoeba swimming in pools, but one thing led to another and now here we are watching reruns of The Simpsons on computers.
“Oh,” he said, and thought a minute. “And what will humans evolve into?”
In all the discussion and debate on evolution I’d heard and read, never once had I heard or read this question, and my first thought that evening was, “That would be you, my boy.”
It would be tempting to view the children we call autistic as anti-evolutionary, and for this I lay the blame gently at the feet of science itself, which, upon observing this impulse within all of life to create more and more and more of itself, naturally asked, “Why?” The answer, as I have often heard it, is “We evolve to survive – or, to be more accurate, to avoid death for as long as possible.” In this way, evolution is nature’s way of extending a game we are all born to lose.
This is the kind of accidental nihilism that comes from viewing life as entirely mechanical, a world where everything can be broken and where death is just the moment where we all break beyond repair. Which brings me back to those kids on the spectrum. If we are here on earth to not-die for as long as possible, then the kids we call autistic are probably screwed. They seem to lack all survival skills, and this sometimes terrifies us. These children we love are the sickly zebras the lions are laying in wait for.
What if, however, our scientific minds viewed this evolution thing through the wrong end of the telescope, so to speak? What if evolution is not creation’s movement away from death but toward life? Will you ever feel more alive, more on purpose, more what you actually are than when you stand in love, when you are doing what you love, listening to what you love, talking to the ones you love? Is it really possible to have too much love in your life? Are we not forever seeking more and more and more of it, the same as creation is seeking more and more and more of itself?
And is love any purer or any cleaner than when it is unconditional? In fact, the moment we put conditions on our love it ceases to be love at all. The moment we say, “I will love myself when I am thin enough, or successful enough, or married enough,” we have made love a test we must continually pass. Who better to teach us to love unconditionally than these children, whom we love from the moment we hold them swaddled and fresh to this world in our arms? Who better than children who cannot pass any tests?
Sometimes raising children who cannot simply toddle happily off to school, who must be driven to therapies, for whom we must spend hours researching on the internet, who keep us up at night, who demand a level of care we had come to associate with infancy – sometimes these kids seem to be depriving us of our lives. I have certainly felt so. Yet all of those things I must do for Sawyer are merely conditions under which I have declared my love of life is not possible. As I withdraw those conditions, usually one-by-one, life reveals itself, the same as Sawyer has bit-by-bit revealed himself to me.
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I am the author of Fearless Writing: How to Create Boldly and Write with Confidence, and Write Within Yourself: An Author's Companion. Learn more here.