Fachidioten is a German word which basically means fact idiots and is a diminutive form of address for a nerd. I use it because I like it (and it fits!)
Aspies, by their very nature can be fachidioten, fact idiots in that they can have very specialized knowledge about certain things, and can regurgitate information, but the social laws around knowing how to use information can often be absent.
Fact idiocy allowed me to retain vast storehouses of knowledge on various very specialized subjects, and has given me some of my place in the world by a sense of ‘knowing’. I found myself fascinated by the symbol sets human beings use to describe their meaning, their sense of place and purpose in the world, and in many ways this led to my fascination with Western Esotericism. Western esotericism is a field of experiential knowledge through practices that touch upon the mythical. It can also be a great playground of endless ideas and mental masturbation. In some realms it is deeply analytical and self reflective, while in others it is so much about the ‘feeling’ that it is a breeding ground for superstition. I have always loved the space for reflection, and information, and schematics about the universe and how it may work. I have also tempered any drive towards superstition with the reflection “Isn’t it wonderful the meaning maps that human beings weave as a narrative to live by”. But with that dissecting coldness is a deliberate distance – Isn’t it fascinating, but it neglects a more important question – is it useful? How will this enhance my life?
I definitely encounter people whose lives have been enriched by thoughts and ideas put into practice, but they are also the people who have the kind of heart first belief that calls me to caution because it is superstitious or over zealous – basically it is not of the head (and I am very much of the head). I need my coldness and distance. Having specialised knowledge like this has offered me a home of sorts in a community where knowledge and information is often co-modified or at least respected – that person has a degree of respect through their knowledge and experience. However it is often those with a more simple approach to life and to people who are happier, more human and who have compassion for some of what I carry within my intellectual ivory tower. Ironicly it is often those not like me who get me because they have a well developed capacity for empathy.
As a fachidiot I am often respected for what I know, but when I stop and self reflect I wish I was a simpler person (ie less complicated, not to imply less clever), with simpler things in my head, and as a result a happier person because that coldness of thought has also led me to be disconnected from people, disconnected from the social sense of the situation and a duck out of water. Though I belong to a community of mutual interest, and it has given me a kind of social context, beyond the information the number of genuinely meaningful social encounters I can have is limited to a very small group of people indeed, and as I reflect, I can see my social shortcomings in otherwise social contexts. Of course I am social, and can get through a few of the pleasantries, but beyond the veneer I struggle to create a space for social flow. I have come to terms with the fact that I am not personable (or at least not in a traditional sense) and don’t pretend to be. I can of course try, but the more I try the less personable I am because it lacks genuineness and has bucket loads of that social awkwardness that fills the void of that gen ne se quoi of social function. Some people get me, some people really don’t, and some people think its personal.
Over the past 18 years of my life I have also been visited by the black dog of depression, again and again and in the last few years it has felt heavier. While for a long time I have considered this to just be ‘constitutional’, there is something beneath that – my sense of disconnection from other people. While fachtidioten trade in ideas, these intellectual ivory towers can be profoundly lonely. Fachidioten lack context of where to put their knowledge, and so while respected in highly specialised fields, outside of these fields their strengths are definite weaknesses. One of the long term consequences of the black dog is the shiny obsessive interest in things becomes more dull, and my capacity to retain information is less and less. My memory is definitely failing me in the last few years, and I have MASSIVE trouble systematically retaining new information. I recently experienced my shortcomings in this area and that both upset me and panicked me a bit, because I have used these qualities as social crutches and as a comodified currency for a long time, so long that I’ve fundamentally identified with what I know, and the social position this lends me.
All of these ideas come to the fore for a number of reasons. The loss of capacity to remember is a sharp reminder of how much I have comodified and built relationships on knowledge, on the words, or the stuff that fill the interaction and not on the more subtle and intangible thing that lives in the space between. I have also been faced with this in the form of my aspie understudy who similarly codifies the world into knowledge. He is 13, the child of friends, and is constituted in a very similar way to me. At the moment he is TOTALLY obsessed with the topic of sex (what 13 year old isn’t?), but it is the technicalities, the data, the terminology that fascinates him. The aspect of relationship is not the point of interest. Luckily I can pawn him off on his mother (I am SO not answering that!) or tell him there’s lots of time to find out about the world, and he doesn’t need to know EVERYTHING all at once. This fascination is a typical mirror to my own literalism and constitution and it makes me reflect. As a grown up I try to convey to him the importance of friendship, empathy, interaction because these are the things I have struggled with, that I know he struggles with, and that I try to better exemplify. Sometimes being right isn’t the important thing – the facts are not as important as the context. What makes up human beings, friendships, relationships and all that messy humanness is a subtle, intangible thing that I only slightly grasp in my better moments.
I have also spoken with his mother about what faces him, her fears, my experiences and realities in having a similar constitution – otherness, bullying, my own struggle with empathy (and the long road to getting somewhere close to it), the sadness that can come from ivory towers, and the genuine wish to connect (without quite knowing how). I reflected on the fact that these specialised pockets of knowledge can also give you a tribe of mutual interest and garner respect, though its never quite the same.
As I get older I want to be better at being me, humanly. I am a fachidiot but I want to be more than that. My fascination with esotericism is a search to understand what it means to be human, to grasp at what for me is ethereal (while for others it may be accessible), to touch upon the ideas of kindness, empathy, humanity in its fullest sense, so that it might come to live in me, that it might topple me from my ivory tower and place me comfortably amongst and between people. I am who I am, but, perhaps like everyone, I want to be more. I can’t change my fact idiocy (believe me i’ve tried) but there is more to being human than just data, there is context, and that is the work ahead for me.
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