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The Greater Community

  • Posted on February 6, 2012 at 8:00 AM

One of the great strengths of humanity is our ability to reach across the differences that divide us to find similarities that unite us.  One of the great weaknesses of humanity is our failure to reach across the differences that divide, and instead to build them up and make those differences seem even greater than they truly are.

In studying my craft as a writer, I am reading Story Engineering by Larry Brooks.  In this book, Brooks writes about the differences between first-dimensional, second-dimensional, and third-dimensional characterization.  First-dimensional characterization is the surface stuff—often determined by how the character wants to be perceived.  Second-dimensional characterization is the backstory and worldview—how the character came to be, through his or her experiences, where and who they are now.  Third-dimensional characterization is the choices and action the character makes, which Brooks argues is how characters (and people) reveal who they really are.

Many people want to be perceived as one thing and they work hard to accomplish this goal by wearing certain clothes, affecting certain manners, sharing certain opinions, and creating a façade which they expect others to see and appreciate.  Yet, when their manners and opinions are tested, when they must act, it is often the influence of their personal history and their worldviews that shape their choices, either in defiance of who they were raised to be or in submission to it.  This may or may not resemble how they wish to be perceived.

When we choose to reach across our differences to find similarities—or when we fail to do so—we show who we are regardless of the first-dimensional affectations we assume.  The community in which we interact is not strictly the autism or autistic community, nor is it strictly the greater autism community.  We interact in a community of peoples with and without disabilities, peoples with many kinds of differences and many kinds of similarities.  Our ability to reach across definitions, labels, and differences defines a meaningful aspect of who we are.  Words are not enough.  We must show ourselves based on our actions.