Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Outside the flock

Heron at sunset: Key West, Florida
Ever been near a tree around dusk when a flock of birds were nesting?  They don't just land and go to sleep - they first spend a while chirping, squabbling, preening themselves or each other, and generally hanging out.  The little chirrups and squawks they make when they're all together in a group are called 'contact calls', and that's exactly what they do - they're a way of each bird letting the rest of the flock know they're there, still part of the collective whole.
I often wish I could just give a contact squawk and feel connected to my flock.

I've never really felt connected to my fellow man.

It's not that I set out to be a lone wolf.  Quite the opposite, I'd actually love to be part of the fabric of a community.  But even when I am - and I'm lucky enough to have some wonderful, accepting friends so I have experienced what it's like to be part of a group - I don't feel like I am.  I feel like the third wheel, the one just there to make up the numbers, the one the rest of the group would secretly love to shake off.

Part of it may actually be chemical.  Take oxytocin, for instance.  I'm not a biologist and won't pretend to understand the details, but it's a hormone that affects bonding between people, and there's some science suggesting a correlation between autism and 'genomic deletion' of the oxytocin receptor gene.  So perhaps I'm missing a little nugget that would actually enable me to pick up on this feeling.

Then again, it might be psychological.  Growing up as an undiagnosed Aspie kid in country Australia wasn't always fun. So maybe the love and fellowship part of my psyche is skittish, because when I was young dealing with others often ended in being hurt.

Maybe it's a mixture of both.  Perhaps because I didn't get much chance to feel that connection when I was younger my brain missed the window to learn how to do it, a bit like the "critical period" for language development.

Maybe it's just something I have to get used to, chirping my little chirps and not hearing the return calls from the flock, not knowing if anyone's chirping back or not.

Image: Heron at sunset, Key West, from the State Library and Archives of Florida, via Flickr Commons