Monday, May 3, 2010

The Odd Idea Lecture

The Odd Idea Lecture by Alexander Duncan Lowe

To have all the answers doesn't give you direction. For not knowing answers you will only suffer the consequences. So what is there to do? Consequences can be bad and good. Why choose bad consequences for yourself or act when you cannot see the consequences of actions? This is a sideways sort of way of talking about being responsible or not. It is always hard for me to proceed in any happy way from ignorance.

How can one be responsible? Responsible to whom? We do not innately know how to be responsible. We have to learn how. Being responsible takes practice. Usually small responsibilities are the building blocks to greater responsibilities. I think initially, examine yourself and concentrate on being responsible to yourself for learning what is important to do as a human. All of us are dumped into this world without a compass giving direction or a way to chart a course. So start from ground zero - yourself and the predicament you find yourself in. We must do something. Ultimately one can become responsible to self and community.

First we start to examine and change our behavior then later our behavior with others. How do we do this responsibly? It would be great to feel responsible and to be competent in directing self and for functioning properly in this world. If you want help in this then pick the brains of others in how to do this. Do not ignore the wisdom that has been passed down to us from the past. Remember that terrible things have happened time and again in the past. So this takes time and effort to get it right - the way you think the right way should be. But of course, how can you judge whether any of your own ideas are right or not? One has to be flexible in mind to see things from other viewpoints. There is a lot of "yes, you should do this" or "no, you should not do this". It's a cause for rebellion in many a child growing up. It's not the number of times yes or no is said. It's what helps us grow that counts. It helps when parents interpret to their child what mankind has passed down. But parents are busy people also with many needs to fulfill some of them conflicting. There is lots of advice in how people should behave to each other which really work. There are a lot of people to help with this evaluation. There are a lot of conclaves of people of narrow minds who have power over whether we can do this or that and can guarantee we will not succeed.

So one resolves to see things from other viewpoints and chart some course to take. Promises are necessary at the start because one cannot predict the future results. Likewise with failure forgiveness is essential. Since one cannot change any past failure it is sensible to forgive yourself and others for mistakes made. If not forgiven or reconciled, growing and improving is stopped. This is quite certain to happen and is very disabling given the short time we have to get on tract. Strive to grow and learn from all failures and make new promises again and strive again. You have to challenge to your level of growth and look for more growth opportunities. The consequences directing yourself in this way brings the beneficial consequence of life having some meaning. It makes sense to not waste any time. It's a worthy engagement of effort required for a successful responsible life and it brings its rewards. Sounds easy, doesn't it? Abstract? So what is there to strive for?

Why not strive for that which is attainable? What do you want to strive for? I wanted to be happy and happily married. I really wanted this. I mentioned this to Dr. Kamman and he made note of it - Hey it is worth working for I thought! More on Dr. Kamman to come into this to explain myself better. So in high school I wasn't so happy nor did I feel that I would ever be happily married and have those satisfactions of having a good family and community life. I really needed to know about this stuff and enough of myself to know how I could bring it off. Only by knowing this stuff could I strive effectively for such a thing, and in the process learn a lot about life, and enjoy life.

How can you learn about yourself? For me it helped that one of my father's medical school classmates was a psychiatrist and close friend. I had a great faith in the field of psychiatry and Doctor Kamman was that person I could respect and learn from. So in 1947, I requested to go and talk to him. I told my father that I wanted to bring peace and harmony to my family. My step-mother had been having trouble dealing with my sister Mary and my father was busy with doctoring. When I went to Kamman, I had some specific questions about myself that I needed to have answered. Was I crazy? How can you know what the ingredients of a healthy love relationship is? For evaluation, I was given an ink blot test. I really wanted such a test, which I thought I could not be manipulated easily thus trick him. The results were quite revealing to me. We had many candid conversations about what was revealed. I took a new interest in my future. Eventually, I could in my imagination divide up - chart the rest of the time from 1953 to the end of the century. I could imagine myself in medical school (the ink blot test said I wasn't too dumb) and I had married Marlys (as my relationship with her was I believed healthy enough to endure) and then I could see myself in Medical school, graduating, and working as s doctor and also I could see the times that my kids would be born, grow up, and get married. Also the times for my grandchildren to be born and if I continued to live long enough to see some of these fateful decisions being discussed here. I imagined that in the 2000's would be the time for my dying.

From Kamman, I learned how to recognize an idea as odd - not helpful - of those ideas I had. He waylaid me at the appropriate time with an example of such an idea quite odd. He said simply, "Isn't this quite odd that you are going to have your kids read the Wall Street Journal and you don't have any children yet." It was silly to bother to obsess with such a thought. I hope that I can continue with skill enough to keep from being considered a rigid or silly person. I am eternally grateful that others (Marlys, my children, my parents, my patients, Dr. Kamman for 6 years, my teachers, etc.) have challenged my ideas so that I must reflect on how sound they are or not. So good questions to be asked are whether that is an odd way to look at things, is it supported by sound reasoning or not, etc. What is sound reasoning? Do I have odd ideas that I am not aware of? How much have I injured others by my way of looking at the world or by the way I have behaved in this world? I find now the world is such an interesting place to have been dumped into and with people I have been privileged to know.

Can you evaluate your own ideas and choose the odd one from that which is not odd? Have you ever thought you had an odd idea? If you never see any of your own ideas as odd would be quite sad. You would be inflexible if ideas are not examined and if you needed not to be able to change how to view the world. To be thus limited also affects the way responsibilities to self and others are taken on. At issue is your challenge and your response to being alive today.

Of course you live in different times than I did. Technology has changed a lot, jobs are different, opportunities are different because knowledge has exponentially expanded since 1946, making it necessary to manage information on a new level of awareness. Marshall McLuhan wrote many books on changes bought on by changing technologies - past and more recent changes. I lived through this great revolution in growth of knowledge. Since one is obsolete on graduation from school, then life long self education is required to prevent obsolesce which keeps you from all the good jobs. Take note, all the interdisciplinary knowledge being produced today. There is intense activity and many discoveries being made from expansion of knowledge. So expand your horizons to enjoy this new way of looking at our world. But with this comes acting in a responsible way for you and the world to survive.

These revolutionary technological changes are still being studied today. What will happen interconnecting on a global scale more universities and research laboratories. How about what is to happen interconnecting in all the other ways now being considered. We have not even a hint of the scale of changes to come in our lives. These changes affect everyone's future, every creature on earth's future, and deserves your attention. It's time to get cracking. I assume you want to be happy some day. It may take a move to a more enriching environment to learn what you need.


My dad gave me this lecture to proofread before passing it on to another family member. It contains all of his talking points of his "Odd Idea" lecture that was another mainstay lecture - along with the "Nine things for a successful relationship". Yesterday, was my dad's birthday. When people die, they don't really have birthday's anymore, but the ones left behind remember the lost more clearly. My siblings and I, and I believe my mother even more, mourn our father and husband on the day of his birth. We miss the wonderful man that he was. The kind, eccentric man that we called dad.  I thought it would be appropriate to dig out one of his "lectures" from my storage box to honor him. And to bring tears to my family when they read it. Tears of joy, love and loss.

After my diagnosis, I saw Asperger's in my father because of his lack of friends, his inability to know when it was time to leave and I saw it in his special interest in Geology, woodworking and photography. But this lecture. I see Asperger's all over this too, even more evident. I see it in the language. I see it in the questions my father asked as a child. I see evidence of his theoretical mind - similar to mine - where knowledge trumps feelings. I see it in my father's in my insistence on thinking about how others might feel. This was the way he was able to adapt in an NT world. It was the way many Asperger people adapted before there was an official diagnosis for the cluster of behaviors that is called Asperger's. 

Aspergians my age - in our 40s or older, have navigated life well enough without the diagnosis. The diagnosis helps calm the fear inside. I understand and am more aware of my physical responses (feelings) and more aware that my behavior sometimes sets people on edge. My father was always gentle. He grew up during the war (WWII), I have ration books that were his in my storage space. In these times, children respected adults. Did what they were told. Their happiness was not a concern. In an environment like that Aspergians can function pretty good. There are clear cut societal rules that can be followed and you will find success. You don't have to understand the rules - just follow them.

Now-a-days, somehow Americans have taught their children that they are "special". Rules apply to everyone but their children. Their children are spoiled and have no common community held "rules" of behavior. Aspergian children must be much more confused than I was when I grew up. I knew that my "right from wrong" and the punishment I would receive at home was similar to my friend and enemies "right from wrong" and their punishments were the same too. We were much more civil than the world is today. So maybe kids need the Asperger's diagnosis. It will help them to understand the rules of society.

My dad was born May 2, 1930. He spent his entire life in South St. Paul, MN. He was a family Practice doctor and delivered many of mine and my siblings friends. He was a well respected member of the community. He was a true democrat, but he kept his political affiliations quiet and donated money to the republicans when they came calling at the door too. My father married the girl of his dreams, my mother Marlys Calhoun. She was born March 2, 1931 in Minneapolis, MN, where she spent her whole life until she married my father. They had 6 children, and 32 grandchildren. My mother is still living, she is cherished and has 4 great-grandchildren. 

My father died on my daughter's birthday, September 6, 2004. We celebrate her birth and we acknowledge that Grandpa didn't mean to die on her birthday. It was just his time. We loved him. 
Mom and Dad in high school had met at their family lake homes.

Dad and Mom in their golden years.


  1. i could hear grandpa reading that whole lecture in my head. :D

  2. Thanks, Susan for the post; however, I have to disagree w/your diagnosis. Dad was the last person on earth to have aspergers (not that there's anything wrong w/having it)...he was the most emotionally engaged person in our whole family! He had loads of friends...Vogts, Stalocks, Halls, his partners, Olson's from Canby, buddies from the geological society, more! HIs patients adored/respected him, and he had great raport with them. He had many hobbies, like we (his kids), woodworking, photography, his kids. He had a healthy curiosity of the world, space, science, interpersonal relationships. He was always tuned into us, his kids, and his sisters. And, I don't think his feelings/actions were an "adaptation"...they were honest and raw and appropriate.

  3. Julia, I wrote a wall of text in response, but when I hit post comment, I got an error.

    It seems you are thinking of Asperger's in the stereotypical way people think of high functioning autistics.

    Everything you say about dad is true about me too.

    I hope that you don't think that when I suggest that dad had Asperger's that I am in some way denigrating his character. I am not. There isn't (or shouldn't be) a stigma attached to being Aspergian - it isn't a mental illness - it is a biological brain structure variation that has probably been in the human race since the beginning of time.