"Stupid" People

This was my unsolicited follow-up to an online discussion about teaching AS kids "cause and effect":

I sent in a post yesterday that described how I thought when I was young that most people my age were "stupid" because they had interests I didn't share and because many of them held onto ideas I considered irrational.

This morning it occurred to me that I left something out. During that period of my life it was especially important that I lived among adults who believed deeply in respecting (and acting respectfully towards) all people. It happened that my parents and their closest friends (with whom I got along better than with my age peers) were Quakers. As Quakers, they believed that "there is that of God in every person." Even if a person seems bad or stupid, they treat that person respectfully (while oppsing nonviolently any bad or stupid behaviors that may be damaging to others or to society) because even that person contains a "divine spark."

One belief that was given me and made sense is the idea that no one person can know the whole Truth about reality. The Truth, if we could ever find it, would have to be put together from the diverse small-t truths contained within each life. When we reject any person, even if we find we need to do it to protect ourselves from their behavior, we also are cutting ourselves off from the unique truth hidden in the "divine" core of their life. This is something to lament. Any time we cannot sustain a respectful (mutual) relationship with anyone, we are reducing our own access to knowledge and understanding. Because even a "stupid" person knows something I do not and cannot know. Every person, even a "stupid" one, has a unique experience of the world and therefore learns something that I could, in turn, learn from him/her if we were able to relate constructively together.

The crucial thing, I think, is not that I was told these things but that the adults around me both believed them and modeled them. They showed me that people worthy of my respect treated other people (including peole I saw as "stupid") with respect. They didn't accept abuse or let bad behavior pass unchallenged. But the manner of their response (the way they resisted badness) expressed respect for the essence of the other person even as the bad behavior was rejected.

It may have been more important for me (as an AS kid) than for many of my peers that the adults around me were (and behaved like) adults. I wasn't able to "pick up on" subtleties and emotional subtexts. My relationship with the world was intellectual, and I valued sensible, rational, intellectually mature people. Predictable people. The framework of universal respect for human potential supported me through the periods of my life when it was hard for me to find anyone my own age with whom I could share what was important to me. And although I didn't turn out to be a deist, I continue to live according to the moral and ethical precepts I learned from my parents and their friends. This, I think, is what saved me from becoming a sneering elitist sunk in dissatisfaction with an imperfect world. :-)