Thing is, we weirdos just don’t get it, and some of us do try very hard. Empty your mind, they say. What on earth does that mean? Vian’s rant to himself in the moonlight after he sees Madelin with Lander at the end of the third chapter is my own stream of consciousness, based on something written elsewhere but not published, and it’s a very bitter rant. But the thing with the Quakers did actually happen to me. Quakers, of all people! It’s true, there might indeed have been something a bit odd about the particular meeting I attended, which I shall never name in writing. They don’t know me as HH anyway, those that are still alive by now.
But the Quakers weren’t the only ones. I’ve been to meditation centres, that cause cèlèbre the School of Economic Science, as well as a taiji school in London, yoga classes, psychoanalysis, counselling – including a group my own counsellor invited me to and then shouted at me during a session – I mean the works, and (ok I’m sensitised but) I felt rejected and actually despised with real hostility from all of them.
And that was because, as I now understand, I am a seriously obnoxious so-and-so and the Aspie thing, which I only discovered recently, just made it worse. I’m not a nice person, and not for want of trying, but I do have friends and I never cease to be amazed that such wonderful people seem actually to like me. Just as some of my characters seem to like Vian.
So I’m not trying to be a Richard Bach or a Paulo Coelho, writing uplifting fantasies that touch people’s hearts and have a message in them. I can’t stand preaching, and don’t intend to compound the felony by doing it myself. I just want to explain how difficult it is for me, and others like me, to get their questions answered without putting people’s backs up. Because they are real questions. We put our heart and soul into them. We really need to know what they are talking about. And when they come back with a loving and giving Zen story (yes, I’ve read them) or quote the Daodejing at me (yes, I’ve read it) I want to punch them. They don’t understand. It’s obvious to them, or at least they claim it is to please their teacher. They can’t see that it’s opaque to me, and not because I ‘need to be logical’ or ‘need scientific proof’. I’ve read quite a lot of stuff in the philosophy of science in my younger days. Like Vian, I can do metaphor and irony, even allegory, like the best of them. And I love the Daodejing, and I don’t ‘take it literally’ – I see the paradox it’s trying to point out. Take a look at verse 38.
So, what is Vian’s next move, after Coals of Fire? He’s come out of his sheltered life and having to grow up – and he’s already turning forty. He’s physically compromised after the episode at the farm, and he’s no longer unbeatable in combat. He’s got a high-maintenance girlfriend whom he loves to distraction, and he wonders whether his love is good enough. He doesn’t really have love nailed, and his confidence is still precarious. But does anyone have love nailed? We get told that ‘neurotypicals’ understand this stuff – if that were the case the human race would show some competence. I’m almost thankful that competence is astonishingly rare. If we were competent we’d have wiped ourselves off the planet long ago. Oops, that’s me being bitter again. But I hope you know what I mean.
Vian needs to ditch the bitterness. Getting older helps. We’ll see.