Last night I met up witha group of old friends from Orange Hill Senior High School. We met at a very plush London club and drank far too much alcohol (as one does). Some of them I've seen recently and some not since school. One I'd never seen before. She was expelled from Orange Hill before I was expelled from FCHS and went to Orange Hill, so our paths never crossed. That rather explained why we couldn't remember each other.
What was rather interesting was to find out she, like myself was dyslexic. she is an artist, quite well respected. She has an occasional strip in Private Eye, which is pretty damn cool if you ask me. Another friend has a son who is dyslexic. She became so frustrated with his schooling, that she jacked in a career in media and retrained as a teacher. It is quite nice to be able to discuss dyslexia with people who "get it" for a change.
What is even more interesting is to hear how dyslexia seems to warp intelligent people into intelligent people who have spent a rather long time being frustrated by life. It was interesting to hear my dyslexic friend describe how she felt about school and why she got expelled. It was rather like listening to myself. It was also interesting to hear my other friend, who has a dyslexic son, talk about the struggles she's had to make sure he gets the education he deserves.
To me, it is beyond doubt that dyslexic has warped my personality. I am far more angry, tenacious and anti authoritarian than I suspect I would have been had my brian functioned properly. I pay far more attention to peoples body language than anyone else I know. I switch off when people waffle and I find it impossible to concentrate when people talk rubbish or are unstimulating. When I was a kid, one of the priests at the Sacred Heart Church in Mill Hill described me as "The worst ever alter server". During mass, I would completely switch off and forget to do the job at the key moments. This usually involved ringing bells and bringing the preit water and wine. I would be in a complete dream world and suddenly realise that everything had stopped and everyone was looking at me.
Perhaps even more embarrassing was when I was asked to read a lesson. I was about nine and my reading skills were, shall we say, questionable. I was terrified and tried to get out of it. I was told it was a huge honour. At the appointed moment, I stood up and went over to the book. Although I was terrified, I did the job. As I read I was aware that everyone was looking at me. I thought I was doing OK. At the end of mass the Priest gave me a sound bollocking "Were you trying to be funny?" I had missed whole sentences out, mispronounced words, read sentences out backwards and generally made a complete hash of the whole thing. I hadn't even realised. Thankfully I wasn't asked again.
As I've got older and Icope better I found a way to deal with public speaking. Wheras David Cameron gets a speech writer and memorises it, I just make a list of words to remind myself. Other than that it is all busking. What amazes me is that no one twigged that there was a problem. They put down the incidents such as the church reading to stupidity, laziness or piss taking. It is all very well, but if you are brought up to believe in a God and you screw up in mass, you end up thinking you are intrinsically evil. As I'd done my very best and still infuriated everyone and brought ridiculr on my folks, without really knowing why, I formed some very wrong conclusions about my personality.
I decided that as I was a really bad person, I should act like a bad person. The only real problem, is I don't like being a bad person. I actually like trying to be a good person. I try to always stand up for my friends. I try to always tell the truth and don't feel comfortable lying. I hate seeing people being bullied and I look out for my friends. I wasn't cut out to be the bad guy (although I have done my share of bad things).
One day, when Iw as at the height of my athiest phase, I had a very interesting conversation. I was talking to aother avowed athiest, who had also been raised a Roman Catholic. He said something which radically changed my attitude to religion and faith, but not in the way you'd expect.
He stated that if he was forced to choose a religion, he'd go back to Catholicism, as so much of it is plainly bonkers. He said that it was a 2,000 year old organisation, where all the rules for the last thousand years had been set out by supposedly celibate old men. His next commentwas "what could possibly go wrong with that". He then said "You know if you read the new testament, apart from Jesus all of the truly decent and heroic people in it were women". He pointed out that itw as the women who stuck aeround when all the men legged it, as Jesus got crucified. His theory was that the chauvanism of the Catholic church, was really male guilt for letting the side down.
Which brings us back to dyslexia. I have come to realise that many of my early problems with dyslexia were really guilt for things I had no need to feel guilty about. I didn't ome bottom in spelling tests because I didn't try. I could never have done them. I didn't screw up the reading inc hruch or forget to ring the bell becuase I was evil, I just have a differently wired brain. When my parents would get berated for my bad behaviour at parents evenings, had the teachers ever stopped to consider the cause of all of this.
As I considered the things my friends told me yesterday, in the cold light of day, I realised that my dyslexia has given me an insight which I'd never have got had I had a functional brain. You look at anything which is going wrong in the world and there is always some bastard trying to make some other poor sod feel guilty for something they have no need for any guilt. This probably won't chime too well with the more robustly right wing of you, but until we start trying to see the other side of the story. we are well and truly fucked.
Dyslexia has made me realise that there are too many clever people who are treated as if they are stupid, because they are different. There are too many good people, who are made to feel bad because they aare different. And there are too many institutions on this planet, where people use far and guilt to secure power, influence and money. I can't change any of this, but I feel a damn sight better about myself now than I ever have. I am not perfect. I feel guilty for the things I've done which have hurt other people, but I am not picking up anyone else's guilt for anything anymore.
Have a great Friday Evening. I will.