10. Non Solus: Resemble, Reveal & Reflect

The road we take to our daughter’s school is closed today. We will have to go another way. Pru our puppy, who is named after Prudence the charioteer of all virtues, is in the backseat curled up with her sister. To minimise her barking, we have brought treats for the walk to school. Pru is lifted out of the car because she is too small to jump out on her own. She barks as she is transported to the ground. She is nervous and is going to let this sleepy English village know that she has arrived. I cringe in embarrassment. The treats help Pru focus on me. She tries to assert her pint-sized authority by walking ahead of me, I stop and wait for her to come back to me. It’s a slow walk, but a little better than yesterday. I start to focus on Pru instead of the waves of children and parents as they pass us by. I think my focused attention is helping Pru. I think it helps me a little too. 

Earlier that morning I wake Pru. She is often the last to get up. Her yawn and downward dog stretch are impressive. She rolls over on her back for belly rubs. Benjamin Franklin’s words, ‘early to bed, early to rise, makes a man happy, healthy and wise’ are completely lost on our dog. Pru yawns as I carry her downstairs. She has mastered climbing the stairs but is too scared to go down the stairs on her own. We eat breakfast and Pru chews on the rug. My Autism-Spectrum Quotient Test score of 42/50, I took yesterday, plays on my mind. Could that be right, 42 seems high? The night before I see that another American man has been killed at the hands of the police in the United States. I climb into bed feeling deflated like Pru’s chewed up dog bed that sits by our bed. Pru curls up and goes to sleep. Pru snores and I begin reading a book about the importance of right brain thinking. The author mentions empathy‘s home is in the right hemisphere of our brains. He mentions how autism effects one’s ability to be empathetic because it effects the right side of the brain. I feel even more deflated. Do I struggle with empathy? 

I wake in the middle of the night and think about empathy. The next morning, I tell my husband, the fellow, that empathy doesn’t always come easily for me. When I see an act of injustice that injustice is sometimes all I see. The anger of the injustice can point us in the right direction, but anger alone will not get us to where we want to be. Like Prudence, I want to be someone who resembles, reflects and reveals the truth in life. I have been working on a project and I begin to doubt whether I’m the right person for it. In my mind I see a pattern but it lacks pieces. I see a pattern between English merchant ships, in particular slaver ships, and how they were insured during the 16th to 19th centuries and the way police departments and prisons are underwritten and insured in the United States today. Do these underwriters and insurers have ethicist that sit on their boards or is profit the only ballast of these insurance companies, at the great expense of the American people. 

After scoring 42/50 and reading about the importance of ‘right brainer’s’ I wonder if I’m the person that should be looking into these things. Do I really care about my fellow Americans that are affected by police brutality and incarceration, the victims and the police themselves, or do I just care about the injustice? I don’t know most of these Americans. I think about all I have read. The professors I have conversed with. I want to be of use but I’m not a shouting out in the street’s kind of person. In the middle of the night, I think of Wintley Phipps. I think about how he sings Amazing Grace like no one else. I think of Charles Darwin’s quote, “if everyone were cast in the same mould, there would be no such thing as beauty.” Wintley Phipps voice is beautiful and the words he sings are true. I love his voice and the truth it reflects and that is enough for me. I tell this to my husband, the fellow, he nods his approval and finishes brushing his teeth. 

After doing the school run, I go for a walk without Pru. The walk is 3 miles round trip. I don’t feel like bribing or carrying Pru that distance. I walk alone and listen to Wintley Phipp’s sing Amazing Grace. I go up the country lane that winds out of our village and cry most of the way. I hope that I don’t pass anyone I know. They might see me and think I’m losing it, maybe I am. I cry and listen. I think about my father-in-law who is being moved to a nursing home as I walk. He has Alzheimer’s and needs more care than my mother-in-law can give him at home. He is forgetting his past; he is forgetting who he was and who he is. Who are we if we lose our memories? What becomes of someone who has no knowledge of the past? Who are we when we collectively won’t look at our past with honesty? What happens to our future if we willingly ignore the past? 

I feel better but think how utterly weird I am. What does Wintley Phipps singing Amazing Grace have to do with English merchant traders from so long ago and insurers of police departments and prisons on the other side of the Atlantic today? Later that afternoon Pru barks at a leaf that is dancing round in the wind in our garden. I watch the leaf and tell Pru to hush. I worry she might bother our neighbours. The leaf dances and I wonder which American wrote Amazing Grace. I think it is probably someone from the South, maybe an enslaved American. I think of when President Obama sang it in Charleston. 

I read that Amazing Grace was a hymn written by an Englishman named John Newton (b. 1725). A man who worked on slave ships and became a captain of slave ships. In a terrifying storm at sea, he had a spiritual conversion and eventually became an Anglican cleric and later an abolitionist. His testimony on his experience aboard slave ships would lend to the slave trade being outlawed in England. John Newton had been encouraged by John Wesley, founder of the Methodist Church, to join the clergy. John Wesley was a fellow at the same university my husband is today. Pru stops barking at the leaf and licks my salty tears. Salty like the Atlantic Ocean. I think of John Donne’s question from No Man is an Island

No man is an island,
Entire of itself
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less
As well as if a promontory were
As well as if a manor of thy friends
Or of thine own
Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee

After reading about John Newton and listening to Wintley Phipp’s sing Amazing Grace again, I look up the root of the word ‘autism’. I read that Latin and Greek roots of the word autism are ‘self’ and ‘alone’. I do not feel alone. I hear Wintley Phipps voice. I hear the voices that will not be drowned. I hear the bell that tolls from across the salty Atlantic Ocean and the bell tolls for me. 

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