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Re: GG: Timothy Maloney interview -- world first for f-minor

Dear f_minor palz,

I'm tremendously uncomfortable not with Maloney's interview or opinions, but more generally with the temptation to find a disease that "explains" such extraordinary talent and intellect as Gould's. I think it's a subset of a very unhealthy general trend to hammer down the few great people of a generation, to compromise their achievement, to drag them down to our size or, just as satisfying, to shrink them to a diseased state.

Perhaps it's we who are suffering from a disease in which we're frightened by the shadow of great achievement, great intellect, great individualism; one of the symptoms of this disease is to compromise great achievement or at least to pidgeonhole it. This week some of us may be succumbing to the temptation of cramming it into Asperger's Pidgeonhole, whatever the hell that is.

"Show it me in the Book!" the old Presbyter used to say. I would say: Show it me in the numbers. Is there a positive quantifiable diagnosis of Asperger's Syndrome; is there some clear quantifiable indicator, like blood chemistry, brain structure anomaly, that separates (in this case) great musical artists who have AS from those who don't?

As described here, AS sounds fishy, suspicious, hazy, vague, subjective and even trendy -- will AS make the Time Cut? Will it remain a useful diagnosis 25 or even 10 years from now? The  history of psychiatry is, alas, a history of tremendously temporary diseases -- but in their 15 Minutes of Fame, each was considered credible enough to hospitalize people and perform terribly invasive procedures on them. In the years before his likely suicide in the 1950s, Alan Turing was court-ordered to receive sex hormone injections (which generated breasts) for his Disease du Jour -- homosexuality -- as were thousands of others in the United Kingdom. And it should also be pointed out that Soviet psychiatrists were entirely sincere caregivers when they tried to "cure" dissidents who objected to the Soviet system -- putting them in shrinking wet canvas straitjackets was one thereapy. I have great respect and admiration for psychiatry ... but here I think we are grasping at one of its less stellar and less successful areas, perhaps at one of its more fraudulent or charlatanesque corners.

Gould's purported AS makes it a strange disease indeed -- a disease that doesn't lessen the human condition, but rather enlarges and enriches it, for the sufferer and for millions whom the sufferer touched. Was Gould's personal life a mess? How's yours? Was he unhappy? I look at his adult life and see huge volumes of absolute Rapture. Doubtlessly interspersed with unhappy passages. Hmmm ... that sounds like a reflection of Chopin's music ... or contrariwise ...

To take just one of the Seven Warning Signs of AS: intellectual curiosity. Need I go into this worrisome symptom further? Are we all carefully scrutinizing our children to make sure they don't show any tell-tale signs of intellectual curiosity?

There's something ghoulish about popular posthumous fishing for just the right disease to Explain It All. Perhaps the most charitable thing I can say as we poise to pursue this thread is that Life just consists of lots of Inexplicable Things. But they aren't diseases or syndromes. Some of them are just wonderful things like Gould.

By the way -- raise your hand if you like being criticized and if you take it well.

Bob Merkin

AF:     And these were as a result of the Asperger¹s Syndrome, do you think?

TM:     I think it all fits the pattern, as far as I¹m concerned. Now I must
confess I¹m not a medical professional...

AF:     So what would some of these characteristics be?

TM:  ... So, among the traits:

**      an inability to interact normally with other humans;
**      intolerance to change;
**      a prodigious memory;
**      amazing powers of concentration;
**      remarkable talents (many times);
**      elaborate rituals and routines that such people go through;
**      some physical clumsiness;
** some stereotyped movements (we can come back and discuss these in more

AF:     Mmm.

TM:     **      ...unusual responses to sensory stimuli, and unusual
preoccupations or obsessions;
**      intellectual curiosity coupled with what I call moral severity, and
**      inability to take criticism.

        There are numerous others but those are the ones that I dealt with.

AF:     Well, they all seem to apply to Gould, don¹t they? -- every single
one of those things.