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Male (43), Edinburgh (Scotland) seeks F soulmate to set up self-sufficient forest garden  RSS feed

 
Neil Layton
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I'm looking for the right person to settle down with on a smallholding somewhere. I'm more interested in woodland gardening than true permaculture (think Martin Crawford or Dave Jacke more than Bill Mollison). I'm open to suggestions on location, but I have my eye on Galicia.

Things you need to know, on the basis of being honest and up front from the start. I'm an aspie with a special interest in ecosystems, and see woodland gardening as an opportunity to design one more or less from scratch while supporting myself and doing something positive for the planet. Like many aspies I do come with a certain amount of emotional baggage (and an overactive fear response: a smallholding would be a much easier place to function! http://www.permies.com/t/32991/permaculture/Permaculture-Autism-Autism-Spectrum-Disorder), but I've had to learn from enough mistakes that I can walk you through the pitfalls of living and working with what is probably a strange neurotype. I think neurodiversity is almost as important as biodiversity (for related reasons). My social skills aren't great, obviously, but I know not to initiate physical contact without asking and do pretty well in a one-to-one conversation. I'm utterly loyal in a relationship. I do a lot better in the woods than in a city. You may need to know that I'm vegan. Systematic persistence comes with the neurotype - I keep worrying at a problem until I solve it, which can only be an asset when setting up a smallholding.

I would much prefer it if the person I start this project with was also my life partner. I seem to be exclusively heterosexual. I'm not good around human children, and expressly do not want any (I don't want to set up a smallholding only to find you leaving because you need to have kids more). I'm not hung up on many of the things most humans seem to be, so details like your height, weight, age (within limits, obviously!) and so on should not put you off. I want to find someone emotionally and intellectually compatible.

I also really, really want to get on with this. I've been badly messed around already, and it was a major setback on many levels, but I don't really feel I can continue trying to fit in with what I feel is an alien (and certainly morally abhorrent) dominant culture. I would most likely get on with someone equally alternative, probably with a left-wing ethos (more Kropotkin and Goldman than Marx, maybe with a good dash of deep ecology philosophy), and not afraid to get your hands dirty.

If this sounds like you, I'd love to hear from you. Please leave a message here, and we can work out how to contact each other securely from there. You don't know I'm not a complete nutter, after all.
 
Burra Maluca
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I am not the one you are looking for, but as a fellow aspie following a similar life path, I just wanted to welcome you to permies and assure you that neurodiversity is alive and well on these boards!

Here's a thread that might interest you - http://www.permies.com/t/32991/permaculture/Permaculture-Autism-Autism-Spectrum-Disorder
 
Neil Layton
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Thank you Burra. I was just reading that thread. I think I'm going to bump it.
 
Cassie Langstraat
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I too, am not the one you are looking for. But I loved this: " I think neurodiversity is almost as important as biodiversity".

 
Neil Layton
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I thought I should add a photo. This is me. I don't have one of me in the garden: this is the next best thing.

me-bridge.jpg
[Thumbnail for me-bridge.jpg]
Me near the Forth Bridge.
 
Neil Layton
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I've had a look at some of the other threads in this forum, and I've noted that many of them have specified a physical type. I have not done this, nor will I.

This is because I fall in love with minds not bodies. The woman who will turn my head in the street is not the same woman who will turn my mind to thoughts of her company, her conversation and her warmth. Yes, there has to be chemistry, but that's not something you can assess over an internet connection. I want to hear from you if you might be compatible - not the same, because we'd be stronger as a couple with different strengths and weaknesses (diversity, again), but if you think we'd mesh.
 
Xisca Nicolas
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I would have stolen the word neurodiversity if I had read you before writing my topic!
I think that people who chose to not follow the regular way of living of the chhildhood culture were helped in those choices by some "shock" that created some distance thus a change in consciousness.
 
Neil Layton
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This is not a term I coined, Xisca:
http://www.wired.com/2013/04/neurodiversity/
 
Pearl Sutton
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I'm not your lady either, but I'm interested in the way permaculture can let me make a world that makes sense to me. Normal reality is both WAY too easy and WAY too complex (depending on which part you are looking at.) Others seem to understand what humans want, but not how to function stack
You are brave to post for a partner, I fear the... emotional chaos? of doing so.
Good luck sir!
 
Neil Layton
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Pearl Sutton wrote:I'm not your lady either, but I'm interested in the way permaculture can let me make a world that makes sense to me. Normal reality is both WAY too easy and WAY too complex (depending on which part you are looking at.) Others seem to understand what humans want, but not how to function stack
You are brave to post for a partner, I fear the... emotional chaos? of doing so.
Good luck sir!


Thanks, Pearl. I have said on many occasions that ecosystems are so much easier to understand than human interaction (see: I do have a sense of humour!). I find humans and their expectations very difficult to understand, while function stacking and patch interaction are relatively straightforward, but I'm yet to see an example of an allistic getting it even close to right.

I think I find it a lot easier having a conversation with someone online and then meeting up with some of the expectations worked out in advance than trying to initiate anything in what most humans consider a "normal" social situation. It means you can negotiate boundaries and have some understanding of how the other person thinks on the level playing field of written conversation before getting into the more complex issues of one-to-one interaction in a coffee shop. There is now no way I'd think about asking someone out who I met in that sort of situation, whereas online I can introduce someone to the kind of person I am and my interests, and allow her to decide whether we might be compatible. I know I wouldn't be suited to a relationship with 99.9% of women, but this way I can find that one in a thousand exception who would find us compatible. It also opens up possibilities privately, in that it's totally inappropriate for me to try to chat up a woman outside my own generation in real life, while I recognise that I might get on better with someone much outside my own age group with lots of other things in common than I'd have any hope of with someone my own age who enjoys parties and shopping. In other words, I think there is usually less emotional chaos doing it this way.
 
Pearl Sutton
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Oh, I am a BIG fan of being able to screen out minds easily with no risk, I have done the online dating thing before, and that part was great. There are a lot of things that I consider a VERY fast deal breaker that can be screened easily.

The emotional chaos is more the idea of saying "here is who I am!" (to one extent or another) and fearing getting either A) liars who will say whatever you want to hear or B) no response at all. Both of those are way too painful these days. I don't have the energy to watch my hopes get picked up and smashed back down again... Been there, done that, got the scars.

Maybe if I get to a stage where I'm more confident about who I am, less in fear of having my self stomped down, I'll try it again. Right now, too scary. I have things I have planned, things I'm doing, things I'm designing to fit MY wants and needs, and I don't care to end up in the traditional female backseat role (again) so until my feet are under me, it's MUCH less work to be alone.

And this probably should have all been a message to you, but someone else might find some value in it, so I apologize for thread derailing and retreat again

I hope you find your lady You seem like a neat guy with a lot to offer
 
Neil Layton
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Pearl Sutton wrote:Oh, I am a BIG fan of being able to screen out minds easily with no risk, I have done the online dating thing before, and that part was great. There are a lot of things that I consider a VERY fast deal breaker that can be screened easily.

The emotional chaos is more the idea of saying "here is who I am!" (to one extent or another) and fearing getting either A) liars who will say whatever you want to hear or B) no response at all. Both of those are way too painful these days. I don't have the energy to watch my hopes get picked up and smashed back down again... Been there, done that, got the scars.

Maybe if I get to a stage where I'm more confident about who I am, less in fear of having my self stomped down, I'll try it again. Right now, too scary. I have things I have planned, things I'm doing, things I'm designing to fit MY wants and needs, and I don't care to end up in the traditional female backseat role (again) so until my feet are under me, it's MUCH less work to be alone.

And this probably should have all been a message to you, but someone else might find some value in it, so I apologize for thread derailing and retreat again

I hope you find your lady You seem like a neat guy with a lot to offer


Thank you.

Not at all. It gives me a chance to give potential suitors a better idea of who I am (and bounce the thread to the top of the list: no ulterior motives here!).

My last relationship started offline, and she turned out to have been brought up in a household where her parents argued constantly, to the point where she was terrified of saying anything other than what she thought I wanted to hear (what I actually wanted to hear was who she was and what she wanted to do so we could work out intelligent compromises like grownups, rather than her doing what she thought I wanted (aka her being a doormat)). Needless to say, all that eventually fell apart rather unpleasantly, but only after I had another hard lesson in what happens when I assume others are being honest. I should have realised (and failed) that she was treating me the same way she treats her mum: just agree.

I think this is also happening with the only comprehensive response I've had to this ad. We need to discuss meat eating and relations with nonhuman animals, but she's refusing to address the question, which bothers me. We have a lot else in common, but unless we can work it out then it's a deal breaker. Part of what I want to be working on is our (which is to say humanity's) dysfunctional relations with each other, the rest of the planet and the life on it, and the sense of entitlement that leads to meat eating is, to me, part of that.*

To me, these "white lies" and hiding relevant information is still dishonesty, and I don't respond well to dishonesty unless you are protecting yourself or someone else who is vulnerable (which I suppose it what my Previous thought she was doing, I think wrongly). I had a discussion with another Aspie I know on here about the near-pathological response of Aspies to dishonesty, and that's a whole other conversation.

Lessons learned!

I make mistakes. Everyone is stronger when both parties can point out each other's mistakes. I have a bad habit of sitting in my comfort zone, and I'd rather find someone willing to work out how to get me out of it than pretend to have the same comfort zone. That doesn't mean she has to be the same as me. I had a fascinating discussion with someone I know with ADHD. Now, our romantic potential is solidly into negative values, but we can have some great conversations about related interests. Two ham-fisted Aspies aren't going to do a great job of building a walpini. On the other hand someone who can feed the ducks, make a batch of jam, check on the bees, then make a batch of lutenitsa while I concentrate on the big ecosystem picture might work very well. Someone pretending to have the same interests and skillset isn't going to work. Someone who does not see the world the way I do might be complementary. That's not back-seating: that's equal but different. The same applies to cross-ethnicity, cross-generation (or both!) relationships. Diversity is strength: every Permie knows that!

I think my take on it is that you can either withdraw and become a complete recluse (so you might as well be dead) or you can dust yourself off and tell the world you're going to die on your feet or die trying to get up. That applies as much to getting hurt as it does to being ignored, and I'm intimately familiar with both. There have been just short of 4000 page views of this thread, and three substantive responses, one of which went nowhere and the other two of which look like going the same way.** That doesn't count the one where it seems to have influenced what may be a great friendship (you know how you are!). I know how it feels to be stomped on. I refuse to stomp back, but I won't tolerate someone else's boot on my neck, or anyone else's: that's key to the kind of post-kyriarchy world I want to live in. That means taking risks. Perhaps one advantage I have is that I have a solid sense of personal identity. I've been hurt (I'm a 43-year-old Aspie: it comes with the territory) but I still know who I am.

So I wish you the strength to stand, Pearl!

*Yes, I'm happy to have an extended discussion about how agroecology relates to bringing down the kyriarchy, here or elsewhere!

** We can't have a conversation unless you reply to the thread!
 
Pearl Sutton
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If I can use you to learn things for myself, and make your thread more interesting to the right lady(!) and bump your thread(!).... I pose a question for someone who communicates clearly things that most people don't seem to think about.

You identify with the asp diagnosis, but most of the rest of the world doesn't know exacty how that looks at ground level or with you in particular. So: in a theoretical smallholding, what are the specific tasks/skills you are excellent at, which are you competent at, which can you basically cope with, which are you capable of but hate, which are you fairly incapable of doing?

I suspect (and hope) you can make a novel of that question (You seem to have excellent communication skills!) If you need more novel fodder: What would be your dream lady's answers to that same question?

Feel free to define the categories clearer, I was looking for the right words to express a continuum of skill levels, may not have found them correctly
 
Neil Layton
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That sounds like a constructive quid pro quo, Pearl.

My first thought is that Ms Perfect almost certainly doesn't exist. I'd rather find Ms Close Enough Who I Click With and Feel Comfortable with, rather than hold out for Ms Perfect.

Yes, I suspect this will turn into a novel. I've been told I write like an Aspie - clearly and comprehensively.

I think this is part of a broader question of who would be romantically compatible and who I'd be able to practically settle down with in that sort of situation (which probably narrows the field) - which are two different questions, but with not entirely independent values. It should also perhaps be said that I know what I want to do, but someone else's vision may be a bit different, and this is where we'd need to work out compromises.

I think we all have strengths and weaknesses. It's just that my strengths and weaknesses are not typical of most people's - and this in itself can be a strength or a weakness depending on context, but this comes back to my views on diversity in general, and how diversity in itself can be a strength. I'm waffling.

It's not just about skills - skills can be learned, at least to a point. It's as much, perhaps more, about personality. Another Aspie might work well with me if all we planned to do was hide away from mainstream society. A party girl just wouldn't work (but I don't think a woman who would get upset about busting a nail would be likely to be reading the forum!). Someone with social skills and social confidence but who isn't wildly gregarious would be someone who'd probably work well with me.

For example, I like to think I communicate very well in writing, and can be pretty good at it with another person willing to be open and honest and say what s/he thinks rather than letting me guess on the basis of nonverbal communication (which I'm really not good at), but stick me in a group and it all goes to pieces very, very fast - which is why the community wouldn't work.

I think looking at it like a pair of cog wheels is a good one. If you mesh, the system works and works well. I just wouldn't mesh well with most people, although I have high hopes of a greater likelihood on here than on most dating sites! If you have say three, then the system can be made stronger (the relationship triad - something I might even in principle be open to), but the more you add to that, the more likely it is to fail if even one component doesn't mesh properly.

See, I can do metaphor!

You mentioned function stacking the other day. Like you, I can function stack, but I would say a theoretical Ms Ideal might or might not be able to grasp function stacking but would have a better grasp of how to interact with strange humans, and might be more confident in doing it - but not need her party time and a constant round of visitors - some friends would be great (isolation is bad news: I know this the hard way), but drunken/stoned parties would quickly do my head in.

I have a head full of theory, and I've been gardening to some degree or another since I was hip high to my mum, and someone with similar skills would definitely be a good match. On the other hand, I'm completely ham fisted, and doing a lot of the other jobs required on a smallholding would be awkward, and I recognise this - so someone with the ability, if not the experience, in DIY would be great. I can wire a plug, and could probably set up off-grid power if I set my mind to it, but aesthetics would be another matter. Equally, this is the kind of thing you can learn. So yeah, if you love DIY and handicrafts, but would or would not struggle in the garden, that would work really well.

This is starting to sound like a job description, which doesn't sound right.

Anyway, the design and planting stuff, and the monitoring of a habitat, these are all things I'm good at (sort of 8 or 9 out of 10), but would be more fun with two. I mean, I watch these Youtube videos, and I can see what people are doing wrong, and to me it's just as obvious as I suppose my social screwups are to others. I can do the heavy shifting, but get bored with it quickly: I need to keep my brain active, so building a walpini would be a job for two. The human interaction of selling surpluses (5, down to 1 on a bad day) and dealing with planning officials (well into negative values!) and so on - that's not good to anxiety inducing, verging on hopeless.

So someone able to deal with planning crap, or helping with the surpluses, or even doing the bottling and drying - these would be things Ms Ideal would be good at or could learn. I've never spend much time around honey bees, but that's the sort of thing we could learn together.

I also know a forest garden takes time to mature, so someone who could do a part time job for the first couple of years (maybe working from home) would be good: I don't hold a lot of optimism on this score for me, given the unemployment rate for Aspies. Welcome to discrimination.

I've made a lot of mistakes, but I do hope I'm learning from them.

Something I'm increasingly realising is important is that my views on diversity are not just ideology, but something I react to on a deep emotional level as well. It's not just that I react badly to humans who discriminate, or who feel entitled; it's that I feel threatened by it, not least due to having been on the wrong side of it (although I don't think that's the whole story, or every woman who has ever been discriminated against - which is to say most of them - would feel the same way), and I suspect that may be linked to my neurotype, for reasons too long to go into here. So, yeah - be a feminist (I've been heavily influenced by ecofeminism), but be into animal rights and hate racism and the rest too. I tend to get on best with those rare people who feel they belong to the planet rather than thinking whatever they can get belongs to them.

I've noticed that people who feel entitled, or are indifferent to the suffering of others in one area (say, meat eating) tend to express it in other ways as well, and tend to get upset if you call them out on it. I wonder if this is one reason so many people hate vegans - here is someone who cares about not harming others, but are treated as a social pariah half the time as a result. One of the reasons I want to set up my forest garden is because I give a ****.

I mean, I'm okay about keeping bees as pollinators, but less keen on stealing the honey. They get a safe-ish home with protection from varroa and other nasties, and the habitat has its flowers pollinated. I'm okay in principle about rescuing some ducks as slug managers, but don't want to be eating them. Neither of these are necessary.

I've talked elsewhere about climate change, but I've only touched on my view that there is a deeper problem: part of that is capitalist systems, but at the root of that is dysfunctional relationships with each other and with the rest of the planet (and this is in a - very - vicious circle with those "free" market systems). I think it would be good for anyone I was to think about settling down with to at least have some recognition of this. I know there are some like that here. I suppose the deeper philosophy is less important, but it would be nice to be able to discuss these things, even if there are points of disagreement. There will be winter nights in front of the stove.

There is a difference here between compatibility in the sense of some sort of social and political agreement - in terms of what's wrong with the world and how to fix it - and not perceiving the world the same way. I've realised that even my emotional range differs from that of most neurotypicals.

Oh, inclusion. Like most Aspies, I've spent much of my life being excluded. I mean, I can be a hermit, but I'm not very good at it over the long term. I'd be a lot more comfortable being included in things we do off site, from meeting friends to taking a night out at the cinema. A couple of friends for dinner, or in a tent for a week at the bottom of the garden - this is good. Loads of people around constantly - this is Aspie meltdown territory. I mean, I need my space, but there is space in a hectare of woodland, and there is always the potting shed.

On the other hand, as I say, there is "perfect" and there is "room for compromise". I have things that are lines in the sand - mostly matters of ethics - things where there is room for some flexibility (like sociability, where to some extent it might be about getting me out of my comfort zone once in a while) and things where it might just be a case of either or both of us learning new skills.

So yeah: it's not just about practical compatibility, but about the kind of personality I get on with. I know I'm putting off 90-odd per cent of the people who read this, but I'll live with that because it probably wouldn't work anyway. It's the rest I want to talk to!
 
Neil Layton
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It also occurs to me, on the strength of the above, that I'm probably not looking for another Aspie.

Probably. I might be wrong. It wouldn't be the first time, or probably the last.
 
Neil Layton
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It's occurred to me that some of what I wrote above reads really badly.

There are some things that I thought went without saying - things like how intelligence is, to me, key to a functioning relationship (including a s*xual one).

There are also practical things that I can do - even I could repoint and whitewash a wall, for example, and be part of picking and processing crops for storage.

Equally, that intelligence I mentioned is the kind of thing that I'd expect any potential partner to want to use. I'm not even going to make suggestions here: I'd expect her to have her own ideas.

I don't want a farmer's wife! We'd both be bored!

I think it's the difference between knowing that there are things that I'm good at, things where I can sort of scrape by, or where a complementary social intelligence is going to be an asset. For example, where I live at the moment I have books scattered around. Most of them are on 2 1.8m x 1.8m (6 feet x 6 feet) bookcases (I have a lot of books, but I expect many will go to Oxfam). The one built as a joint effort by me and my then girlfriend is less sturdy than the one she built on her own - but they have both stayed up! The point is, I can do these things that require you not to be clumsy, but I'm not good at them. These things will - mostly - stay up, but someone else will need to take responsibility for aesthetics.
 
Neil Layton
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Pearl and I have been exchanging some short messages privately.

One of the points she made is that:

I think part of my question that you have missed is "not all of us know the definition of aspie, especially as you use it" you are assuming we do... is it JUST the social stuff? How you think? How IS that? As far as *I* can see, it's a catch all word (like a bunch of my medical diagnoses) for "something along these lines or in this area don't work right, for no reason we can identify".


I do wonder if I'm digging myself into an "undateable" hole here, but I suppose if I don't talk about it I'll be asked why I wasn't open about it to begin with.

I've tried to answer this question on many occasions, and never really done a great job of it. At one level it comes down to a problem of how you explain something completely different to someone who has never experienced it. How do you explain "blue" to someone blind since birth? There are books on dating aspies, and they have something to be said for them, but we'd need to go through one together so that I could explain what applies to me and what doesn't.

Let me take this apart. The autism spectrum is defined as a "pervasive developmental disorder".

Autism may well be a catch-all, which is why there is so much debate over lumping several distinct neurotypes into one diagnosis (the ICD still talks about "Asperger type"). Asperger syndrome probably isn't a catch all. It is a spectrum, but there are too many points of key overlap for it to be a catch all.

Now, let me get the "disorder" part out of the way. It's not a disorder: it's simply different. A computer made by one manufacturer won't work the same way as one made by the competing manufacturer, and you can't run the same software, but that doesn't mean a computer running Linux "doesn't work right".

It works fine: it just works differently. The analogy is flawed, but it will have to do.

What causes problems is trying to run a Windows emulator on an Apple system. To put it another way, trying to get me to emulate neurotypical function on an Aspie brain just isn't going to work. I've tried - it's buggy, and liable to crash without notice. This is, however, what most people call "functioning", and the fewer obvious bugs and fewer crashes, the "higher functioning" you are. I want to be running my dedicated Aspie software in my Aspie brain (while having no problem with you running your software in your brain!).

The point is that it's pervasive. The differences pervade everything. My brain developed along a different track, emphasising some things and deemphasising others.

To understand it you need to understand the negatives as well as the positives. On any singles profile most people will gloss over the negatives and accentuate the positives, and to a point I've been doing the same, but I've already mentioned my "overactive fear response", so here goes.

A lot of what some people think they know is plain wrong, and many things that would be right about other Aspies don't apply. I'm physically clumsy, have intense focus, and nonverbal signalling is a mess. Physical tics are things I controlled in childhood, except under extreme stress. My sense of humour is best described as quirky. Auditory and visual perception has been described as unusual, and I see a lot of patterns other people miss.

Now, until relatively recently, and even now in the minds of many doctors and much of broader society, the autistic spectrum has been seen in the sense of deficits. For example, the "fact" that I can't read other people's mental states through nonverbal communication (increasingly in question) means that I'm unempathic (rubbish) and do not have emotions (Bullsh*t has the advantage of making good fertiliser).

I spent several years thinking I could not feel love and that therefore what I felt for someone else who meant a great deal to me could not be love.

This is all wrong, and I wish I'd known that at the time.

The present state of research suggests that what is actually going on is that the autie brain actually has more neuronal connections than the allistic brain. It's not that we can't read the nonverbal signals, but that there is just too much incoming data, and the brain has to shut some of it out.

Most humans pay attention selectively. If you are not familiar with this, you might want to try this test, now often used in undergrad psychology classes:


Now, most allistics "fail" this test, for good reasons. You will pay attention only to the information you need. Most aspies pass it (as I did).

Most of my existence, then, is keyed round managing all that incoming data. I hate crowds, I dislike cities, and need quiet time to come back to a resting state later. I love books, the outdoors, wild places, and one-to-one conversations over good coffee.

There are corollaries to this. There are questions being bashed around about the extent to which auties feel emotions differently, but it is clear that some are experienced more intensely. Aspies are notoriously poor at verbally expressing emotions, and there has been some suggestion that this is because they map imperfectly onto the words used in English. It's been said, and I've yet to hear anyone try to refute it in a big way, that the dominant autistic emotion is fear. Among aspies the amygdala, the part of the brain involved in managing basic animal drives, is physically bigger than it is among most allistics. The other drives have other factors that regulate them, but not so much fear.

I'm not arguing. Much of the rest of my existence involves managing the fear. It's why I want my place, to do my thing, without landlords, hopefully on the basis of cooperation with someone else. I have most of my emotions (especially anger) under some degree of control, but the fear is pervasive. I am sh*tscared of things most people don't even seem to think about. If I hear someone being racist, for example, my response is not just to be angry, because racism makes me angry, but fear, because if they are racist this is a good marker for the person to also have regressive views about other groups who are different (like Aspies). I mean, at a philosophical level I think we need to be bringing down the kyriarchy, including where it affects the environment and other species, but it's personal too. It doesn't help that I can't predict what humans will do, and struggle to read intention. Someone willing to allow other animals to suffer so they can have the pleasure of eating meat is also liable to be indifferent to the pain of other humans (and to me, most of modern society is willfully blind to the harm it does to others). I'm not sure of the extent to which that sort of thinking is an aspie trait, but the fear certainly is.

If your best friend is a homophobic meat eater who thinks the country is going downhill because of all the immigrants (although I don't know why you'd have a best friend like that), at some point things are going to turn unpleasant. I'm more likely to run than fight (I'm not good at fighting!), but it makes for unpleasant dinner parties. I am liable to argue.

I've also spent much of my life alone, and know what it does, and I'm terrified of social rejection (which can just make the problem worse, of course). This is something we'd need to work around.

Small talk: there is much in this stereotype. I don't do small talk. I don't understand it, and don't see the point.

Persistence. There is much in the stereotype of the aspie being persistent and not giving up (to the point where I have rules about how often I should contact a friend or potential romantic interest before giving up, in order to avoid turning into a nuisance). The other side to this is that I've always had a tendency to keep working on a problem until I solve it. I remember having a problem with something to do with geometry at school, and refusing to go and eat until I'd cracked it. I'm not usually that bad now, but I don't like giving up. The obvious advantage of this is that if we need to get that wind turbine to work I'll keep at it until it does!

Honesty. There are several theories as to why most aspies have a reputation for honesty and an almost pathological response to dishonesty. If you read Aspie community forum discussions on this there is a general view that allistics are pathological liars. My own view is that this is exaggerated, but perhaps not by as much as most allistics like to think. The first theory of the two that makes sense to me is that our inability to read body language means it's relatively easy for many of us to be taken advantage of, to the point that many of us end up with general trust issues. The second is that aspie social interaction, rather than being worked out intuitively, is heavily rules based: we work out social rules on a cognitive basis. Apparently most allistics don't need the flaws with this pointed out to them. I still don't properly understand what the problem is (it's that "explaining blue" problem again).

Anyway, the point is that most children are taught early on to always tell the truth. Now, I can, will and do, under extreme circumstances, lie, but I'm not very good at it and I need a very good reason, but I had the "be honest" rule drummed into me very early on. I now have a problem with others being dishonest.

I've given a lot of thought to why previous relationships have failed and, some cases where I just got involved for all the wrong reasons aside, three things stand out, of which two are related to my neurotype:

1) Children. This is the exception to the rule, but if your body is telling you to have babies at some point we're going to have the kind of problem that will wreck the relationship.

2) Dishonesty. This is a mess, and I've had some important insights into this since a major loss last year. In my society women are conditioned to go along with what their man wants, or what they think their man wants, and this is often backed up by some sort of threat from the man, either in terms of violence or of being left. In other words, many women are dishonest about their needs and wants out of fear - and I fully understand the drive to meet the expectations of others out of fear of the consequences, because I've spent most of my life on the wrong side of it. In my case, this feeds back into my fear response, which I'll come to, on the grounds that if I'm being lied to, misled or relevant information is being concealed about one thing, then it follows the same may be the case about other things. Fear leads to anger, etc.

I think there is a solution to this problem, which is for both parties to be open about their needs from the start. This probably goes against some people's instincts to try to emphasise similarity to begin with, but this way we can negotiate compromises and solutions like adults (you doing what I want in order to make the relationship succeed NOT being a compromise).

For instance, I hate pubs. Now, you may like pubs: compromise here might mean, say, hanging out with friends in the beer garden in the afternoon, rather than going and getting ratarsed on Friday night.

3) Bad fear management, and putting me in situations I can't handle. This is really messy, because a situtation I can handle at one point may not be one I can handle half a hour later. This is mostly one to be worked around as we get to know each other, but I will do my best to help you work out how to do this. I've spent a lot of my life being rejected socially, and including me is a very important way of making me feel safe.

The other side to this, is that if I am made to feel safe, it enables the other side of all this to manifest. The processing that otherwise needs to be used to be used to interpret nonverbal signals, or manage the fear, or process the incoming data from a crowd can be used constructively.

One example of this is managing complexity. A forest garden with some sort of home on it, perhaps with some means of managing surpluses, is a complex system, not only of planted crops but of all the other ecosystem functions that make it complex. This is where the autie mind really comes into its own. None of these straight rows and companion planting oversimplifications - which I have all too often seen a permaculture label stuck on.

I've been discussing recently the prospects for growing runner beans (one of my favourite vegetables) in Portugal. Most people think this is hopeless, because high temperatures mean runner bean pods won't set. I wonder whether, with stronger sunlight, runner beans might grow well in annual beds in the dappled shade and lower temperatures of a forest garden, thus also providing another nitrogen fixer. Maybe we could breed a variety that might work. This sort of unboxed thinking is what might enable us to create something really special.

The emotional processing can also, I hope, be allowed to manifest more constructively. One of the reasons I want to go and create my forest garden is so I can feel safe, and the only way a relationship is going to work is if I feel safe in it. There may be other ways I can feel safe, but this is the one I think would work best for me.

I suppose one of the things I'm looking for is someone who relishes those differences, and who will accept, even celebrate, yours.
 
Pearl Sutton
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Hi Neil!
Sorry for response delays, chaos here.

I don't think you have talked yourself out of dateable, but that’s me. You answered EXACTLY what I was wondering. I think that “I suppose if I don't talk about it I'll be asked why I wasn't open about it to begin with.” isn't the right way to look at it. You ARE being open, have been all along (which is why I’m ASKING you stuff.) I think any lady who reads this and doesn’t have a clue whether you are someone she wants to consider being with is quite possibly not your target market. (And then there’s me, my apologies, you are too much like me, I’m looking for the male version of your lady, someone to buffer me from the parts of the world I find difficult to cope with, and those are much the same as yours. My experience in relationships with similarly brained men has been that I cope well enough that I end up being the one who has to deal with all the worldly things that he can't, which just makes me incredibly resentful and angry.)(I said something about finding cog wheels to mesh with, when the wheels are shaped the same, one gets ground down, and my personality is such that I am the one who takes the damage from compensating.)

Your answers show that you think, that you are applying your heavy focus IQ to figuring out how to make your brain work for you instead of against you. This is a MAJOR asset, and needs to be noted as such instead of it being a problem. Contrast this with the guy I worked with all day. He’s quite probably asp also, but an incredibly unaware one. He panics at all kinds of strange stuff, doesn't know why, doesn't have a solution if I say “then tell me what WOULD work?” He fits your definition of “buggy and likely to crash” but doesn't seem to realize that he needs to put some thought into why or how to cope with the world. Now re-read what you said. You have thought on it, have worked out what is going on and why it happens and what can be done to mitigate the problems and what might not be the best situation for you. On a 1-10 scale, I give you 50 points

The bit about fear that you talked of is something I have tried to tell people before. The words I use are a bit different, might be a useful perspective. In classic psychology there’s an experiment where you give a rat a snack for pressing a bar, he rapidly gets bored, so you make it he has to press it five times, that’s interesting for a bit, then boring again. If you make it so he has to press it a random number of times to get the snack, he is fascinated, will press it for days. It’s called a random reward response. Now take a rat (hopefully not the same one) and give it a shock for doing something, and it will learn not to do it. Make the shocks random and not connected to anything the rat understands, and it will melt down, hide in a corner and quiver. Random punishment response is one of the worst things you can do to any being with any IQ at all. Now take a kid. If every time he interacts with the world, he is randomly punished for things he doesn't understand, he will be looking for how to avoid it, how to slow it down, where to hide from it. This would, I think, affect the size of the fear response area of the brain. If you read a lot, it affects your ability to learn from text, if you are trying to avoid random punishment, it will affect your ability to learn to avoid bad things. I think (and it’s only me) that unfocused fear is a learned response to not-understandable random punishment. For me, social interaction is generally random punishment. As soon as I relax and be myself, BAM! Punished. And I’m left puzzled, pissed off, and paranoid.

I LOVE the visual of running the wrong OS for the world. I am not sure if I’m asp or not, I’m definitely something, and a lot of what you said resonates. I personally feel that the brain OS most people run seems to be fairly inadequate for coping with intellectual complexity, it’s focused more on social skills than attempting to juggle complex theories and information, usually has one really good marketable skill mixed with it. And social skills ARE complex, maybe that’s why most people seem to lack the RAM to do much else, it’s all busy, and those of us who don’t use our RAM for that have more for other areas. Maybe the reason I can juggle a lot of skills and complex theories and intricate problem solving is because I don't have the added input of unspoken communication in my way. I don't know. I REALLY wish the world accepted us as different machines, good for our purposes, instead of just punishing us for what we can't grasp. I think I’m an incredibly useful machine for what I do, and it sounds like you are too.

One more comment of my own, whether allistics are pathological liars: I think that within their contexts they probably aren’t, but if you try to translate what is said to a different brain type, the pieces and parts that get through are inaccurate. I’d say serious translation errors happen when all the inputs don't line up and only partial information gets through. I have often said that I am deaf to a sense that there’s no word in English for, that’s so obvious and pervasive to those to have it, that they have no word for it, anymore than a fish has a word for water. If you look at it like that, it makes a bit more sense, the compensation and coping techniques that are attempted by the deaf one to try to adapt aren't so strange. And nothing you put in what you said was strange, and it makes perfect sense, and it shows clearly where you react differently, and how you deal with it. And ALL of that is, to my eyes, a MAJOR asset, not a flaw, and I think the lady of your dreams will see it that way too

“I suppose one of the things I'm looking for is someone who relishes those differences, and who will accept, even celebrate, yours.” And THAT is an asset beyond words, when you have learned how to see yourself as you are, and you can use that experience to see someone else for who THEY are too.

I envy your lady, she will be getting a wonderful guy who will work on making things better all the time.




 
Burra Maluca
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I've been discussing recently the prospects for growing runner beans (one of my favourite vegetables) in Portugal. Most people think this is hopeless, because high temperatures mean runner bean pods won't set. I wonder whether, with stronger sunlight, runner beans might grow well in annual beds in the dappled shade and lower temperatures of a forest garden, thus also providing another nitrogen fixer. Maybe we could breed a variety that might work.


Oh now look what you've done - http://www.permies.com/t/53665/plants/Growing-runner-beans-Portugal#439395
 
Neil Layton
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I've been having some interesting discussions with Pearl, both on this thread and privately. She's intelligent, articulate and insightful, and has helped me think about what I need and what I can offer. She seems to be a really nice person, but I think she seeks a man who is very similar to the woman I seek.

She's been asking some incisive questions. I tend to think in terms of practicalities, but there is a whole other class of needs (both mine and those of others) that I tend to think about only once I'm in a relationship and trying to work things out on a day-to-day basis. Maybe that's the wrong way to be doing things, but I think it's much superior to just responding to emotions on an instinctive basis.

All that said, there are needs we all have to some degree or another.

I mean, I'm socially inept (which is something that very little can probably be done about) and socially insecure to the point of outright fear (which would take work, and it's not fair to hide that): I have been left nervous around humans, and their unpredictable rules, their frequent indifference and occasional outright cruelty. I understand these are unattractive traits to many people, and I do need someone who can work around this, and hopefully help provide some measure of healing (which is why I need to be in a positive environment, like a forest garden), but there is another side to this.

I'm not short of positive traits! Together we can offer each other some element of security, perhaps more than many have in an unpredictable world. Also, I'm deeply caring, loyal and honest. There's more, because I like to at least think I'm a good person with flaws. I'm not looking for flawless either: I think I'd be looking for a long time.

A lot of what I've been thinking about, in terms of forest gardening, is what I want to be doing. I haven't given much thought to what you might want to be doing, because I haven't met you. At some point, probably quite early on, we'd probably need to sit down, compare visions, and work out how to ensure we come as close to both of those visions as possible. I'm indifferent about keeping domesticated nonhumans around, while you might want to have lots of rescues running around - these dreams are not incompatible, and we just need to work them out. If I need to be free to do my thing, you also need to be free to do yours - and ask each other to lend a hand. I hope for a very creative space for both of us.

That and, of course, grow together.

I'm caring. Look at it this way: I'm vegan because I care about other animals and the environment. I've been heavily influenced by intersectionality theory because it makes sense to me. I hesitate to call myself a feminist because I don't have the direct experience of being a woman in a patriarchal society, but I do try to be a decent ally. I don't always get it right, but I do make an effort. The same applies to people dealing with all the intersecting axes of oppression found in most modern societies. I have a very strong sense of values. If I care about others I've never met, I hope it's clear I'll care for a partner. My place will always be by your side, both because I enjoy your company (or we're in the wrong relationship) and because, when things go wrong, that is the place of your partner. I have sat by a partner's hospital bed and told her I will stay put until she asks me to leave or the staff get insistent (and I kept that promise). I do have a very strong protective instinct (sometimes too strong - you might need to tell me to back off sometimes) and a very real sense of justice. I care very deeply about how my actions affect others: I get it wrong sometimes, but you can be sure I'm always making an effort. I think one of my biggest problems is expecting others to do likewise - so I'm often disappointed.

I'm loyal: utterly loyal. In previous relationships I've had a couple of opportunities to cheat. I didn't cheat on either occasion (although I learned some hard lessons the first time that someone is bound to get hurt and it's better just to get the matter out of the way). I was told at the time that most women don't understand how hard it is for a man to turn down a woman who's throwing herself at you, in a manner even I couldn't mistake (don't ask: I'll never tell), but I knew it was wrong. I didn't know how to handle the situation, but learned a hard lesson.

Security is an interesting one. Part of the point of the exercise is to be secure, both practically and emotionally. We're never going to be rich, but I think if you want that you wouldn't be here, but we will be able to eat, and hopefully produce enough of a surplus for a few luxuries. I think this is about both of us making each other feel secure - very much a reciprocal kind of thing. At some level security is something I can offer, but also something I need. I also need to feel safe. I'll never be some big, muscular guy able to physically protect you, but equally I'll never be some big muscular guy able to physically threaten or actually hurt you (unless you are particularly petite - but I don't assault people, even when extremely upset). I'm confident in my own abilities, and aware of my weaknesses, and hope you would be too.

I'll always be your friend, and there when you need me. I think this is key to every relationship I've been in - my partner has always been my best friend (with the corresponding loss later, of course).

I'll always try to understand you. It helps if you talk to me.

I'll appreciate what you bring to our relationship: I know I can't do this alone, and understand that nobody can go through life alone.

Dedication: look, I want to meet the woman I'll spend the rest of my life with. It's not always going to be easy, but I'll always be motivated to resolve it when things go wrong. I make no secret about being open about my needs and my feelings. I am not commitment phobic.

Passion: This one is a little more nuanced, in that I need emotional permission to be passionate, but once given, it's there. Hey, it needs to be fun too! I'm not the Messiah, but I can be a (very) naughty boy (this is a cultural allusion, in case you missed it!).

I'm honest - probably to a fault, and certainly to my occasional detriment. Just don't ask me if your bum looks big in that if you are concerned you won't like an honest answer! Ask me if your idea was a good one, and I'll tell you why I think it's great or, if it's not, sit and pick it over until it becomes a good idea. Fair?

A lot of what is known in the Aspie community as social lying (questions about, say, whether I like your new haircut) is understood (where it's understood at all!) as not about the haircut, but about a search for validation. If I say I like your new haircut, then I like your new haircut, but you hear "I like and respect you as a person". Conversely, if I think it makes you look like a shaved poodle, I think you need a new hairdresser, but you hear that I despise you until the end of time, which is (most probably) not what I meant at all.

I can, and will, tell you that I like and respect you, even if we are in the middle of an argument (my experience is that if couples don't argue occasionally, something is wrong, just as it is if they argue constantly). I'll try to remember to tell you this sometimes, just so it doesn't get tangled up in your haircut.

We all need that validation: I just like mine direct, and will give it direct, but I will forget to comment positively on your outfit, so apologies if you think this means I don't like you (which is probably a false assumption).

Equally, I've been in relationships with women who have been dishonest. I know not everyone is the same, but I do expect you to reciprocate! One corollary of this is dependability: if I say I'm going to do something, I'm going to do it, or be proven a liar. If I know you need me, I will be there.

Integrity. Just integrity. This really matters to me. I need my self-respect intact!

I want an equal: I've talked about that. Equal but different, certainly, but most definitely equal.

I want us to be doing something we can be proud of. I don't just want us to be growing our own food: I want us to be out there on the cutting edge of agroecology (I have ideas for two books and a scientific paper, so far), and possibly working on resolving humanity's dysfunctional relationships with itself and the rest of Nature. I'm currently sitting on four ideas of how we can set up our smallholding, of which I can only do one in my present situation. I'd love to hear yours. Being intelligent is going to count, and that goes for both of us!

I'm very much a free thinker. I'm not going to go along with the crowd just because the crowd expects it. I seem to be much less susceptible to groupthink than most.

I like to think I'm good at listening. This was a skill I had to learn, but it is important you tell me what I need to know, not leave me guessing. I will do the same.

I'm seeking love, and can offer it. There is a place in my heart for someone. It's not a space I need to be filled, but it's great when it is!

I have demons, but they have bled as much as I have. I'm not perfect, but I'm trying. Apparently I'm "gentle, caring, and compassionate", "kind, honest and genuine" and "you have a big heart". You can ask for more, but hopefully for someone it's enough.
 
Faren Leader
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Gosh Neil,

I've just read through this entire thread and I sure wish I could be your lady. Alas, I already have a human child, and due to that human child's relationships with my his dad/my ex-husband I won't be able to move out of western Oregon (US) for at least another ten years. I wish I could find someone who would like to join me in this beautiful Willamette Valley I've been blessed to live in nearly all my life, and have the kind of partnership you've described so eloquently here. I do not wish for any further children. The earth has enough humans already. My son is amazing but was a surprise pregnancy long ago when I was only 21.

Admittedly, I ache a little when I encounter someone online whose writing I resonate with so much and yet they live on the other side of the world. However, I hope you won't interpret my words as any kind of coerciveness or guilt-tripping. You sound like pretty much exactly what I've spent the last handful of years looking for, and I even find you to be handsome from your photo, but some differences just can't be bridged.

I wish you well and hope that you find your "Ms Close Enough Who I Click With and Feel Comfortable with".
 
Neil Layton
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Hi Faren

Thank you for that. I also read your profile and thought that we'd almost certainly get on, but probably wouldn't get on romantically because there are just too many things in the way to make it work. I am going to send you a PM though, because you sound like the kind of great person I'd get on as a friend with.
 
Kitty Leith
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Hi Neil,

Skimming through your posts, I can see that you are a Sapiosexual. As am I. It's a good thing. I think we are a lot alike, except that my job is dealing with planning agencies, etc., (they don't make my head explode so much as the architects and clients I work for) and am just not interested in what people who are not my friends think about me. I just want a laboratory to build whole house systems in the same way you want a laboratory to create forest garden systems.


To Neil's profile readers,

In Neil's defense, as a fellow aspie, I would like to put forth that a relationship with an Aspie can be as good as any. And I think the fact that Neil KNOWS his short-comings may make his relationship potential even better than most. I've had two long-term relationships, one six years and one twelve years. I think I can speak for my past partners in characterizing my aspie self as being: low maintenance, honest (sometimes brutally - but hey at least it's real), communicative (though weirdly often in writing), easy-going, accommodating, realistic, fair, rational, kind, and considerate. Perhaps not the most exciting in the whole world, but how sustainable is that? I think a person who is in relationship with an aspie should be comfortable with themselves, because sometimes we are absorbed in our own little worlds and need space. But on the flip side, we respect the space of others equally.

Were he not in Scotland, I'd be calling him up immediately.




 
Neil Layton
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Thanks Kitty.

I'm actually sitting about a kilometre from Leith.

Anyway, I do think that you and I might well get along really well - if nothing else the desire for a house system would be complementary with a desire to create a forest garden system. You sound like a really interesting person, but I think the barriers would probably be too great. I suspect you'd get on with the same kind of man as I'm hoping for in a woman. I'd definitely want to have coffee with you in order to find out: if nothing else I think we'd get along as friends.
 
Kitty Leith
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Well you know, Neil, I don't seek romance as primary motivation, which is where our methods differ. I think sustainable love is something that grows over time and shouldn't be forced, so establishing any relationship without proximity to truly meaningfully know and experience all aspects of a person seems like putting the cart before the horse to me.

I am looking more for that eco-village of two, and not because I want romance, more just to insure enough community to provide mutual aid. I'm much more interested in a working agreement and relationship and if romance developed, which it might, which it probably would, then it would at least be natural or grow naturally. Ha ha. I find the whole idea of romance on-line lacking. But when one is as specific as I am, one must cast a wide net - even if it is just to test a working only partnership.

My adoptive father was Scottish, hence the name...Never been to Scotland - it looks beautiful, and also like the sheep have done a number on the ecosystem...I get why you seek more fertile regions.

Sigh. Maybe there is just one of us in each state. And we just wave to each other...

 
Neil Layton
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Thanks for that, Kitty.

I don't really want to be too prescriptive, for the simple reason there are just too many variables. In the past I have travelled great distances for a potential partner, only for it not to work out for one reason or another. In all cases they were great people, but it just wouldn't have worked, so I agree there is reason to be cautious, but I think also to be open to possibilities. I like the idea of an eco-village of two, but what happens when you find a partner, the other person finds a partner, they decide to reproduce, you find yourself outvoted or unable to reach compromise on something crucial, and so on until it all falls apart?

In an ideal world she'd live in Edinburgh, and we'd spend 6 months or a year spending time with each other and dressing in each other's shirts and so on before deciding to make the leap together, but we don't live in an ideal world, and maybe if we did we wouldn't even be having this conversation.

There are so many questions to which the answer is "maybe" or "it depends". I don't know - I've been thinking about Europe and North America, but maybe she lives in a tropical country where they've been forest gardening for generations. I have no idea about how easy it would be to visit and see how we responded to each other, because I know nothing of her circumstances.

Maybe pure self-sufficiency is not her dream, but we'd be able to compromise on it. We don't have to be off the grid. We don't have to be on it. Maybe she wants to be an artist or a jeweler or write books for children while I do other things. I don't know: I haven't talked to her. Many things are possible.

There are countries I'd move to, and countries I'd consider moving to, and countries whose border I wouldn't want to shadow. Different people in different places have different rights to settle in different countries with or without an EU citizen (and if you are half off the grid half way to the arse end of nowhere that may or may not matter). It's possible I might meet someone who is otherwise 100% compatible, but for whom there is no chemistry. Distance is going to complicate things, but we no longer live in a time where we have to content ourselves with someone from the next village. There may only be one of us in each state, as you say, but that still means several hundred of us scattered around, many of whom will eventually find their way here.

You are, by the way, correct. The sheep (or more accurately the big landowners with their sheep and their deer stalking and grouse shooting and all the other things rich people with utter indifference towards anything but their own pleasure and profit get up to) have done a number on the ecosystems here. I could get into a long rant about land ownership in this country, but I won't.

 
Kitty Leith
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I don't think I'm being prescriptive, just realistic.

but that still means several hundred of us scattered around, many of whom will eventually find their way here.


This is definitely a happy occurrence of late. It's nice just to know others are there, waving.
 
Neil Layton
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Kitty Leith wrote:I don't think I'm being prescriptive, just realistic.



Perhaps, but non-mainstream thinkers look for other non-mainstream thinkers in non-mainstream places.

And, for what it's worth (re: Trump, Clinton, Trudeau, Cameron, Turnbull, Merkel, Orban and other right-wing, authoritarian extremists) I have full British citizenship and the right to reside anywhere in the EU, at least for the moment! This may count for something!

 
Kitty Leith
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Huge. Market that and you won't have enough time in the day to answer all your messages.
 
Neil Layton
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On its own, the wrong reason to settle down with someone, though.
 
Neil Layton
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It's come to my attention that some of the language I've been using is similar to that used by Christian Patriarchy - that women are "equal but different", but in practice subservient.

This is not what I'm getting at at all.

In my defence, such attitudes are increasingly rare this side of the Atlantic, and I've had no direct contact with them. I find the idea of there being "boys' jobs" and "girls' jobs" to be, to be very polite about it, quaint. This is the "be nice" version: there is another one that uses different vocabulary.

There are two sides to this. One may be an implication that I'd expect a female partner to be taking stereotypically female roles.

No. Just no. I mean, I've spent my adult life doing my own cooking and cleaning. When I've been in a relationship these jobs have been more or less split equally. I don't expect that to change, and the prospect that it might hadn't occurred to me. Equally, I'd expect all the low-skill labour to be split on a more or less equal basis. If we're doing research, and that was also something you wanted to engage in, then that's something I'd be actively encouraging. There is a growing drive to place Permaculture on a sound scientific footing (see: https://www.permaculture.org.uk/research/4-international-research-network - I want us (not me, us, unless you have no interest) to be part of this, although I have issues with the lack of peer review). The same goes if you want to be part of the design process. That's something I'm good at, but should not inherently exclude you. I love the idea of us getting creative together.

The other is that those of us with variant neurotypes have typically been treated as subservient to mainstream society. That's not going to work either.

Playing to your strengths does not mean taking a stereotypically female role. Playing to mine does not mean a stereotypically masculine one. It merely means that different people are good at different things and, in my experience, gender is not the primary influencing factor. Social assumptions are, and I think it's fairly clear I reject many or most of those.
 
Neil Layton
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It is, so far, a small sample, and I'm sure there are other things getting in the way. It's increasingly clear there are plenty of people on here who came to permaculture from mainstream agriculture, and have a lot of baggage from it. My baggage comes from gardening, ecology, environmentalism and Deep, Dark Green philosophy.

One thing keeps coming up in conversation.

How do I see me working out with someone who isn't vegan?

With respect, I can see why people ask this question, but think it's too restrictive. I've written this post in order to explain why - and the reason may not be the one you think it is. I'm not going to rant on about meat being murder. It's also not about bashing non-vegans. It's about what I think, the kind of person I'm comfortable around, and the kind of life I want to live.

It's taken me nearly a fortnight to write this, on and off, and make it more or less coherent, but I think it's important.

I really want to emphasise that what follows is my position, and I'm ideally looking for someone who is at least compatible with that position. I do not want to get into a debate here about whether that position is "right" or "wrong". I have a perspective on living lightly on the planet and trying not to harm others. I'm more than happy to present it here, because it's relevant, and I'm quite happy to discuss that perspective privately: I do not want to get into a debate on this thread (for a start because we'd end up breaking site rules). If you want to have a discussion about something controversial, please PM me or start something in the cider press. This is not about anyone else being less than perfect, because I'm less than perfect. It's about one of the reasons I'm drawn to permaculture: the prospect of doing less harm.

That said, I care, deeply, not just about nonhuman animals. I like to think it's one of my more positive attributes.

Being vegan, to me, is not some isolated "choice" that I've made. It's part of a broader picture. I've touched on harm above, and my views on the shortcomings of modern society, but maybe didn't give it the focus it deserved. At its simplest, I seek the route of least harm, and that mostly means a herbivorous diet. I do not necessarily always find that route, it's true, for all sorts of reasons, which I try not to confuse with excuses. I can't justify exploiting nonhuman animals any more than I can justify slavery.

This is not about some sort of hair-shirted asceticism. We can live simply and comfortably, sacrificing junk for beauty. I'm not an ascetic. I love good food, just for a start. I can be downright snobby over coffee (another industry with some nasty labour abuses). There is, however, a big difference between sustainable and austere.

I've never been good at keeping things simple. Simple is for politicians, not ecosystem managers.

Most of us were brought up following a set of ideas, many of them unstated, about the "survival of the fittest", as Darwin said, and how you need to "compete" to get to the "top", and how it's "natural" to use and exploit those "below" you.

Except Darwin didn't say that (it was Herbert Spencer, looking for justification for his discredited evolutionary, social and economic theories), this is a gross misreading of evolutionary theory (especially as it stands, which now emphasises cooperation), and an appeal to nature is a fallacy anyway.

I've made no secret of being a big believer in diversity, not because it's "natural" (whatever that means) but because it works and provides greater stability than a monoculture. In my case, it provides a level of inclusion mainstream society lacks, but I digress.

Back on topic, I want to talk about power or, more accurately, I want to talk about co-operation.

There are, broadly, four main ways organisms relate to each other in an ecosystem. I'm simplifying somewhat (and most people reading this will probably know this), but these are:
Mutualism: both or all organisms benefit. Within species, this is known as co-operation.
Commensalism: One organism benefits without benefit or detriment to the other(s).
Parasitism: one organism benefits to the detriment of the other.
Predation: one organism consumes the other.

As I've mentioned, it's a common fallacy that the fact that something is natural makes it morally right. Many things are natural that most of us generally agree are morally wrong. Any number of animals practice infanticide. In other words, questions of right and wrong have nothing to do with things that are natural. You simply can't judge "right" or "wrong" purely on the basis of whether or not it's natural: a mistake the pseudoscience of economics has been making for decades.

We need a different metric. To me, this is thinking that emerged from my own examination of how humans relate to Nature, but others have reached similar conclusions from different perspectives, and many feminist thinkers such as Karen Warren and others such as Murray Bookchin have written on the subject. I've always been strongly inclined towards an egalitarian society. Before you ask, yes, that does mean sharing a position with intersectional feminism: I will happily share your barricade, and I think there is much to learn from ecofeminism without necessarily accepting its essentialist tendencies. I'm also aware of an ongoing debate within feminism about whether it's possible to be a feminist and not be vegan. It's not for me to take sides on a debate within feminism, but I'm interested to see many of the same questions being raised.

So, I want to attempt to use a different metric: not is it "natural", which is a conceptual mess anyway, but is anybody harmed or exploited, and can that harm be minimised or averted by taking a different course of action?

Again, it's not about "right" and "wrong", but about tending towards one side of what will always be a grey area.

Our entire societies are predicated on harm and exploitation. The laptop I'm writing this on is simply the last link in a chain that began with violently stolen goods, ripped out of the ground in someone else's back yard, often at gunpoint. Virtually everything we do and everything we buy is in some way morally compromised. We just don't like to think about it. I don't want to morally compromise myself in an abusive relationship with you (you would rightly take exception to me being a sexist, abusive POS), but the corollary of that is that I want to be working on setting a good example in all the ways I relate to others.

That includes, but is not limited to, not eating meat. To me, meat eating is tied into malignant capitalism and the exploitation it depends upon, the dominance by humans of the rest of Nature, the patriarchy and the toxic masculinity associated with it, ableism and the discrimination against (and lies told about) people like me, our food production and distribution systems (owned by global finance - see malignant capitalism) that see some starve and others become obese and so on, and on, with the equally toxic (mainly right-wing, authoritarian) ideologies that come with it. The notion that all oppressions are interconnected, and that similar processes of objectification occur among woman, nonhumans, the natural environment, the disabled, and so on (and on) is mainstream feminist theory that I find hard to refute, even if I wished to do so. I don't claim to be the first person to have made these observations (discussions about the similarities between the objectification of women and the objectification of nonhumans have been going on for decades) but, to me, Permaculture is part of an alternative.

The kind of people who scare me are not immigrants, or Muslims, or homosexuals, or whoever the target is of today's Two Minute Hate, but people who are willing to use their existing power to exploit or harm others - those high on the kyriarchy who may not even be aware that they are harming others. The problem is that homophobes are also more likely to be, for example, ableist and xenophobic. They're also more likely to be indifferent to the needs of those weaker than they are. I'm scared of authoritarians. I support the kinds of massive social change that seem to scare them. I'm scared of the kind of people who look - to me - like they don't care.

That's not to say that someone who, say, drives a car, is inherently evil, but that they may be in a position of some form of social coercion, where they feel they don't have a lot of choice in the matter. That doesn't make it right, but that we need to be moving to a position where we all do less harmful things. That said, admitting that you are imperfect is not an excuse to keep doing harmful things. It's the difference between the realities of a situation meaning that we don't have much choice (such as planning law making the construction of our own wofati unrealistic) versus wanting to raise and kill animals (nonhuman or otherwise) because you like eating meat.

This also leads to another question: the Kitty Genovese problem. At what point can I no longer stand by when those close to me are harming others? I have a big problem with abusive, exploitative behaviour, and I don't think you can hide behind "personal choice". As Arundhati Roy (Power Politics, 2001) writes: "in the midst of putative peace, you could, like me, be unfortunate enough to stumble on a silent war. The trouble is that once you see it, you can't unsee it. And once you've seen it, keeping quiet, saying nothing, becomes as political an act as speaking out. There's no innocence. Either way, you're accountable."

I think you can point out that we're all in generally coercive situations leading you to make decisions you wish you didn't have to make in an imperfect world (this applies to me), and you can admit to being screwed up by that same world (this applies to me as well), but if you "choose" to harm others, there's a problem, and that goes for me as much as anyone else, because I'm accountable, as much for my silence as for my actions. I want to put myself in a position where I don't have to choose between intolerable options quite so often, and I would ideally like to meet someone else who feels the same.

This is not me dropping out and otherwise ignoring the problem. I've mentioned I want to do a lot of writing. That has implications in terms of exploiting others, as I've mentioned. Perfection is not achievable.

Making an effort is.

Why is that so hard?

The question, then, is not how we can make a relationship work if you aren't vegan, but how can we help each other move away from relationships in which we are ****ing over other living things and raping the planet. It's not will I respect your choice to harm others, but how do we come together for mutual advantage in a complex system, one in which we attempt to preserve or enhance the diversity, integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community in which we live, and what compromises are we willing to make in the process. You don't have to buy into the philosophy (although it would be nice): just be keen on the idea of doing less harm and more good.

And why can I, at least by convention, say "raping" but not "****ing"? ****ing is fun for all concerned, or you're doing it wrong, and the fact I even have to raise this point indicates we're doing it wrong.

I'm seeking, then, to build relationships stacked more towards the mutualism and commensalism end of the spectrum than towards the parasitism and predation end. That's a moral decision, not an appeal to Nature. Relationships that are, in their ideal, mutual, enthusiastic and consensual.

We're never going to manage that ideal. It's an imperfect world. I think we can move towards it.

It is possible to claim that in eating anything one is involved in killing and, while plant sentience is unproven, humans spent many centuries assuming other animals could not suffer. One of the reasons permaculture appeals to me, however, is the emphasis on perennial plants for food. In any case, eating animals who have eaten plants is not seeking the route of least harm.

I am not enthusiastic about a situation in which I help you produce less protein on more land while causing more harm than several perfectly viable alternatives. I'm also unenthusiastic about spending money from the proceeds of our work on meat.

That does not mean I'm going to insist on not having nonhuman animals running around. Organisms in our forest garden (and diversity will be a big part of this - I always wanted to run a nature reserve, and a forest garden seems to be the next best thing!) can be expected to act according to their natures - we have the ability for moral reflection and most of them, I currently have to assume (perhaps wrongly), do not.

If we keep bees as pollinators, we can provide them with a safe place to live and forage, in return for pollination. This is not an exploitative relationship. It's a mutualistic one. Stealing the honey is parasitism, and more complicated.

The same broad principle might apply to keeping rescued ducks as gastropod eaters, although the slugs and snails might not agree. I'm also hesitant because they eat fruit and seedlings.

If you want lots of rescues around, that's not going to be a source of argument. It's not a priority for me, but I'm fine if that's something you want to do. It is a problem if those rescues are meat on legs to you. I've heard at least one Permie justifying his actions on the basis that "his" pigs have "one bad day". I don't think I can justify giving a pig one terrible day (with the environmental consequences of keeping pigs and the consequences to me of objectifying pigs) just so I can eat pork.

I think it would be an interesting exercise to examine why I feel that sense of accountability about my complicity in things I have a serious moral problem with, while others seem able to ignore it. I don't think it's related to my neurotype, because other Aspies seem perfectly able to act like most neurotypicals in this regard. It would make an interesting discussion, and one I'd love to have with somebody, even if you don't think we're compatible romantically. PM me, if you think this is interesting.

I don't expect to be perfect, and I don't expect you to be perfect. I'm never going to be perfectly ethical and neither are you. I have baggage, and expect you will have some too. I make mistakes and misjudgments all the time, but surely there must be somebody who wants to make a life with someone who is at least trying (failing, sometimes, I'm sure, but at least making an effort) not to hurt anybody, human or otherwise? I don't see why I should be doing just the bare minimum to extend care as far as you. That's too much like acting only in my own self-interest.

Why do so few people seem to share this value? I'm the one who's supposed to be autistic!

So, to summarise, I accept the principle of people care, but do not limit my definition of people to humans. I think we need to be setting limits to consumption, and that means an end to inefficient means of food production, and I think we need to be developing healthier relationships with each other, and that does not just mean within our own species.

I've talked about what I think, but there is also what I feel. It's very easy for me to get myself stuck in this almost reductionist mindset, thinking about the mess the world is in, monitoring and counting the life in our habitat.

I also feel the situation the Earth is in, in a way that I don't want to describe here. I think one of the reasons most humans have this level of indifference is the fact that we have lost this direct connection, and it's something I want to restore at least for myself. Maybe they realise that reconnection will cause pain, or at least cognitive dissonance. Even so, I want to reconnect. The corollary of that is that I also want to be in a more intimate, emotional relationship with the land, as well as with you, which is a lot more difficult for me to express. I can't have that emotional relationship if we're then going to go around killing other animals. I want to be able to spend warm nights under the trees, preferably with you. This also matters.

Over to you. Talk to me.
 
Michelle Corbett
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Hi Neil,

I giggle as I read through most of this with an eye to the intelligence and the honesty. I was married to an Aspie for 20 years until he found someone else while I was in university and was told I was no longer the person he wanted. sigh. Oh and I'm currently in Toronto, Ontario, Canada..need to change the location tag. lol.
Having been married that long I have some learned responses that may help. I love permaculture, he did not.
Hugs sweetie, you have this.
 
Neil Layton
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Thanks Michelle!

Sadly I think many of us have had our hearts broken. I certainly have. It's one reason I'm keen to make things work in the face of difficulties. I don't like giving up.

“I think... if it is true that there are as many minds as there are heads, then there are as many kinds of love as there are hearts.”
--- Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina


Just thought I'd mention that.
 
phil rooksby
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Hi, just saw your posting. Check out my site (http://elpocito.wordpress.com). Have been on a similar path (with similar problems), and already done Galicia. There are lots of issues about living in Spain you need to know about first, so I think it is probably not the place for you. More like France or Portugal. Get in touch and we can talk (ps I don't have internet access, so it may take a while to reply). All the best, Phil.
 
Neil Layton
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Thanks Phil. I've sent you a PM.

I don't have my heart set on Galicia, by any stretch of the imagination, and I'm certainly aware of at least some practical issues with Iberia in general. I'm wide open to alternative suggestions and preferences from a hypothetical partner, and indeed specific opportunities elsewhere (one of which I'm actively following up, and might solve many problems more or less overnight - although some personal stuff has me hopefully temporarily stuck here).

At various times in my life there have been possibilities of me moving to New Zealand, India, the US, Canada, Peru, Bulgaria, Spain, Ireland or Portugal, most of which I'd still consider for the right opportunity and in one, arguably two but I'm reluctant about Ireland for various personal reasons, cases I still am (actually, it's a great opportunity, if I can make it work, and I've already been told a future partner would be welcome there).

The list of countries I wouldn't move to is probably shorter than the list of countries I would consider.

At one point I and a partner who seemed equally dissatisfied with modern society considered buying a van, packing it full of our stuff, and keeping going until we found somewhere to settle. That sort of fell apart, and probably wouldn't have been a good idea, but it might show just how open my mind is to alternative options. We even mooted packing rucksacks and walking to the Balkans. That idea lasted twenty minutes one simmerdim in a tent on Westray, but it would have been one hell of an adventure.

One of my biggest worries at the moment is a bunch of misinformed xenophobic jerks taking the UK out of the EU. I like my rights of travel and residence.

There are reasons for Galicia (none personal), but I'm not about to deliver an ultimatum that we must move there (or indeed any other ultimatum, for that matter), especially if someone else has a better idea, one of which, as I say, I'm working on.
 
Wendy Howard
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Hi Neil

Just about everything you describe as being "aspie" are traits and values I resonate strongly with, yet nobody's ever diagnosed me that way. Maybe I am and maybe I'm not but I really can't see as it matters much. It's a pattern, not a thing. Patterns are fluid and changing and can't be contained by definitions.

Just a thought ... rather than waiting for Ms Close-Enough to come along, why don't you just go ahead and get on with finding your land and getting to work on it? It sounds like you're in a similar position to the one I was in (in Scotland as well) a decade ago. But for me the urge to find land to get to work setting up a self-sufficient forest garden was stronger than everything else. So I did. I can't say it wasn't a bit scary taking this on solo (with 3 children) in a foreign country where I didn't know the language, but I've never been more glad I did. The kids have now grown and moved on, I still don't have a partner, but I no longer have any thoughts of finding one. Between the incredibly deep satisfaction I get from working on the land, seeing the soil and vegetation get healthier by the year, and the friendship of people I've met where I live, there's no longer any longings for things I don't have. I've become my own soulmate I guess.

Best of luck!
Wendy
 
Anna McIntyre
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Hi Neil
I've just joined up to this site, and I'm just starting my journey into sustainable living.
I'm not looking for a relationship but I am looking for like-minded local people to meet. Not one of my friends is interested in this way of life and I feel like a lone loon at times.
Like you I plan to move somewhere else and start a smallholding of my very own, though I have a lot to learn before I'm at that stage.
My first steps include taking courses, doing internships, and meeting the right sort of people. I know you have way more experience and might not be interested in meeting someone who knows next to nothing, but I can still talk about this subject almost endlessly.
I'm over in Fife and I'm in Edinburgh once a week usually (for my class on Herbology at Botanic Gardens).
Would love to hear from you.
 
Neil Layton
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#Wendy: I think you've touched on an ongoing philosophical question that I don't have simple answers to. I tend to be fairly comfortable with the label in the way I understand others aren't, but that's a multiple-coffee discussion. I'm not even saying I necessarily disagree: it's the kind of thing I'd enjoy a wet afternoon talking about.

I'm in the process of overcoming the barriers to going and finding my own place anyway. I'm following up a specific opportunity (currently very frustrated with some barriers here). It's not a simple process, but there is no way I'm going to let that stop me. It might be interesting, if you are amenable, to have a discussion about how you overcame some of the practical barriers.

#Anna: You sound like a great person to get to know, especially if you're in my neck of the woods. I'm sure there are things we can learn from each other, and hanging out with like-minded people is always a positive thing to do. I'm going to send you a PM.
 
Wendy Howard
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I don't think there are any simple answers Neil! Even after multiple buckets of coffee and a couple of pints in between.

Very happy to have a discussion, though there weren't really any significant practical barriers for me. Everything just fell into place, like it was all meant to be. In fact, if there had been a lot of barriers, it would have made me question whether that particular opportunity was the right one to be pursuing ...
 
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