Thursday, June 19, 2008

If Genius is not Normal--What Is?

What do you say when you hear someone has autism? Hard to know it good news, bad news, or just interesting news? One of the top ten reactions I used to hear when telling others about my son is something like this, "Oh, is he really good at math? Is he one of those savants?" Well, no I don't believe he is. Reid is not savant but he is smart and skilled and capable. I am not a genius either but God thinks I am a MonaLisa!

Stephen Wiltshire, featured in the video above, is an architectural artist with unbelievable talent and a mind which clearly puts him in the autistic savant category. His achievement is inspirational and unattainable to us. Like the miracles recorded in the Bible, stories of savant accomplishment strengthen our faith and hope by their superlative extreme. Seeing mountain tops can lift us up from the valley. Even if we don't climb to the top, our eyes are set higher by knowing someone else has.

When Temple Grandin speaks, she often shows a slide of Albert Einstein's brain scan to illustrate that his genius was in fact, abnormality. Can you embrace what that really means? Would you rather be normal or a genius? Would you rather have a genius child or a normal child? The very questions strike are absurd? Alternatively, why don't we eliminate "normal" from our vocabulary? Who among us is normal? Who strives for it? Who is satisfied with it? Not one of us is normal in the eyes of God.

Brittany Maier was born fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of God with a sizable chunk (or maybe just a sliver) of His passion for music. She was also born blind, premature, and autistic. I think it is important to view savants not as freaks of nature or purely in amazement. We need to let them inspire greatness and mutual respect in us. The Wisconsin Medical Society has an awesome site devoted to savants. Perceiving others among us as talented changes their future, their self-perception, and our interactions. Try it!

"God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him." Genesis 1:27

"With your own eyes you saw those great trials, those miraculous signs and great wonders.
But to this day the LORD has not given you a mind that understands or eyes that see or ears that hear." Deuteronomy 29:3

"Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows." James 1:17

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