Wednesday, February 21, 2007

I need you so much closer

A week or two ago, Andrew Sullivan posted a link on his site to this extraordinary article in the NYT. I just now got around to reading it, and it literally made me cry, it's so touching.

Mr. Tammet and Abby.
It's about Daniel Tammet, a well-functioning, but autistic 28-year-old man. He is classified a "prodigious savant," one of only about a hundred in the world, who are classified as mentally disabled people who have tremendous, "almost preternatural" skills.

He wears his gifts lightly, casually. When he gets nervous, he said, he sometimes reverts to a coping strategy he employed as a child: he multiplies two over and over again, each result emitting in his head bright silvery sparks until he is enveloped by fireworks of them. He demonstrated, reciting the numbers to himself, and in a moment had reached 1,048,576 — 2 to the 20th power. He speaks 10 languages, including Lithuanian, Icelandic and Esperanto, and has invented his own language, Mantï. In 2004, he raised money for an epilepsy charity by memorizing and publicly reciting the number pi to 22,514 digits — a new European record. In addition to Asperger’s, he has the rare gift of synesthesia, which allows him to see numbers as having shapes, colors and textures; he also assigns them personalities. His unusual mind has been studied repeatedly by researchers in Britain and the United States.

Mr. Tammet also happens to be gay, and lives a quiet life in Kent, England, in a small country house with his boyfriend, 30.

He met Neil Mitchell, his partner, online, and the two have lived together for six years. They both like being at home: Mr. Mitchell, who is 30 and writes computer software programs for a living, is perhaps even shyer than he is, Mr. Tammet said. They grow fruit and vegetables in their garden, play with their two cats and cook meals as a team.

“These sorts of tactile experiences really root me,” Mr. Tammet said. “If I know that I have a meal to cook or that a vegetable needs pulling, it forces me to engage with normality.”

I love these sorts of stories. I love hearing, or at least knowing, that people can, and do, find each other. A simple life created out of utter complexity. I like that idea too.

I'm very excited to read Mr. Tammet's book, though I'll have to wait until the paperback comes out, or check it out from the library. Unfortunately, hard cover books are not in my budget these days.


bryan h. said...

i can't even imagine what it means, or is like, to understand numbers as shapes, colors, textures, or personalities. the brain is an astonishing contraption.

matt said...