Sunday, November 7, 2010

Making being neurotypical work FOR you, Christian edition

Pretty much by definition, the overwhelming majority of the population is neurotypical. I suspect that many of my readers are as well. Because I'm religiously obligated to love you, I'm here today to offer you some encouragement if you're working out your salvation with fear and trembling.

You've got one huge advantage over me---you're neurotypical, which means you're at the center of mass of all the theological advice that's been heaped up over the centuries by the communion of the saints. You're the bullseye of the target, as it were. Let's turn to a genuinely difficult problem, the central one, in fact, for a Christian:

How do I love God?

For some of you, loving God is as natural as breathing. Lord I envy thee. Others of you have such profound self-deception that you can convince yourself that you love God even when your actions indicate to an outside observer that you must not. Many of the rest of us have to struggle in the darkness in the fear and trembling that Paul spoke of in his letters. Its this group that I'm speaking to.

Fortunately for you, I've got something to offer you today. It comes to us by way of our good friend C. S. Lewis. Lewis understood the neurotypical very well:

"Do not waste time bothering whether you "love" your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone you will presently come to love him."

See, you, as a neurotypical are wired to like people better that you've done favors or nice things for, not those who've done such things for you. It's perverse but it is true. In an awful lot of instances, this REALLY sucks for you, because most of the science & art of manipulation that has been developed over the centuries since Adam has been aimed squarely at YOU. You run what amounts to the Windows OS that 99% of virus authors write for, the non-neurotypical is like the OS/2 or Linux OS. This unfortunately doesn't work worth a damn for me, because I'm not wired that way, I'm wired to like people better the more they do for me. So, I'm selfish and you're ungrateful, or more likely, both of us are selfish and ungrateful, we just have different degrees of predilection towards each vice. Pray for me as I also pray for you.

Praying for others is, for the neurotypical, a way of 'hacking' yourself to love them more, and in so doing, to love God more under the whole 'least of these my brethren' rubric laid out by Jesus. It's a spiritual aid in your walk that's available and efficacious for you and I encourage you to use it. Actually helping your fellows is another such aid, and in that I'll borrow from Lewis again (from the Screwtape Letters if I recall correctly) and advise you to keep your charity as close to home as is feasible. Help the people in need in your own church or social circle---your love for them will be concrete as opposed to abstract. Abstract love is generally no love at all, as when one practices 'Telescopic Charity'. They are very much your neighbor in the sense that you are told to love by Jesus in the Gospels. This love is also how the lost are supposed to be able to recognize Christians.

Now I'll give you the biggest one of them all, harvested straight from Matthew 6:21. That guy Jesus really understood the neurotypical heart...I mean, you'd think that he had a hand in designing them or something :-)

For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also

Translation, give your treasure to advance God's kingdom. For most of us, in a modern nation, that means tithing. For a neurotypical, I'd suggest giving enough so that it hurts a little---i.e., it cuts somewhat into the money that you'd otherwise spend on the various luxuries that you desire. I say 'a little' because God is VERY clear in Paul's letters that you're supposed to take care of your family, and that if you do not when you're able to do so, you've denied the faith and are worse than an unbeliever. But this is really the nuclear option in conditioning yourself to love God if you're neurotypical. It mashes the 'I've made sacrifices/done favors for you so I MUST love you button' and triggers your sunk-cost misprocessing cognitive bias to boot. God must really love the neurotypical. If this helps you, you're welcome to it, and if you like, you're even welcome to pass these insights off as you own.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It's not about you. It's about Christ for you.