People who are weirder than I am

No, I am not referring to other bloggers, I mean Allen Shawn (son of William, by the way, former editor of The New Yorker, and brother of actor Wallace).  He is deeply phobic, about many things, and his new Wish I Could Be There: Notes from a Phobic Life outlines the phenomenology of his fears.  I learned:

1. The greatest thing he has to fear is fear itself.

2. The imprinting of painful memories, such as knowing to avoid a lit fire, can backfire and create persistent phobias.  His phobias are remarkably specific.

3. There is a deep and poorly understood connection between phobias and the more general phenomenon of neurodiversity.

4. Self-awareness ain’t no guarantee of nuthin’.

5. He claims that people placed in concentration camps (Theresienstadt) became depressed, but that their phobias usually disappeared.

6. The author has a deep interest in atonal music, which supports my hypothesis that it is mostly the neurodiverse who enjoy this art form.  Other people simply can’t hear the patterns, and furthermore the music gets on their nerves.

Half of the discussion is deadly dull, but it is still one of the more interesting books so far this year.


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