The Charlie School of Thought (#142)

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“Let’s go swimming after you rest your stomach,” I said as Charlie ran from the kitchen to the blue and white couch, where he burrowed his face and the long length of his body. “No swimming.” Charlie raised his head and fixed his big brown eyes on me. “No. No ocean.”

Charlie is a water boy and few words evoke a stronger outpouring of passion and language in him than mention of “beach house” and “ocean.” This past summer we worked a lot on the notion of “we’re going home now from the beach but we’ll be back. Mom and Dad promise.” Throughout July and August and deep into September, Charlie called out “beach house we’ll be back!” from the backseat as we drove home up the Parkway. A daytrip to the beach a couple of warm November days ago came with some fits and snits for Charlie. We had just had Halloween, after all, and the orange, scarlet, brown have become the dominant colors.

Charlie understands that there are five days then a weekend and, just so, he feels that there are different seasons. Being in shorts and barefoot means summer (and beach house, and ocean we’ll be back), not a mid-autumn day almost in the 70s when it is too hot to wear his new favorite fleece jacket. Iin the Charlie School of Thought, it is not time to don a swimsuit and splash around. I would have thought that the chlorine and the relative calm of swimming pool would distinguish it from the salty, rough and wild ocean: I am indeed, we are all further in need, of instruction in a Charlie’s eye view of things.

One scholar has described this Charlie’s eye view–the philosophical-neurological-cognitive scientific underpinnings for how Charlie perceives the sensory world that keeps changing around him, that engulfs him–as a Cartesian cinema. (“Cartesian” as in the 17th-century French philosopher RenĂ© Descartes, from whom we have the notion of “I think therefore I am.”) Matthew Belmonte uses this film metaphor to explain “the role of ritual in the autistic defence against disorder.” In a cinema with a “Cartesian projector (and an “incompetent projectionist”): “Perhaps the aperture is wrong, so that you can see only a small corner of the image at a time, or perhaps the sound track is absent, or distorted, or out of synchrony with the picture. In any case, you can glean only disconnected fragments. Everyone around you is talking about this film, and you’d very much like to understand it. “ It is precisely because you can only see part of the film that you want to keep replaying it in your head, to figure out what everyone is talking about; what you are missing out on.

So, if your replaying of the film (e.g., a narrative of being a backwards slide walker) is interrupted because you are directed to “clean up” or “time to finish” or “one more minute!”, you may not be very happy (you may just be mad) because you have missed the chance to figure out a bit more of the story.

You need Santa hats and snow and a tree to make a Christmas movie, just as–in the Charlie School of Film–you need ocean and beach house for a summer movie, but not for an autumn one. That’s all about crunchy leaf piles, the smell of cinnamon, the fuzziness of fleece, reading writing and ‘rithemetic and–a new development–guitar music, sweet like maple syrup and sticking in the memory like Charlie’s perfectly enunciated “super-deeEEE-duper!” and the sun setting by 5pm, an early dinner and a DVD, Robots (bought to assuage a transcontinental plane trip and never opened), and Legos, then early to bed. This is autumn according to The Charlie School and I would hate to miss out on it, and so I sat at the foot of our bed and listened to the rain, while Charlie dozed off to sleep.

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