I do not feel true sadness. I know that this is a strange claim. If I do not feel true sadness, how would I know what true sadness means? But, this need not be true. I have felt sad, at times, when I was young. I no longer feel that way. I would feel quite the same way if something happens to my child—if and when I have one. I think I would be sad beyond redemption. But, I cannot imagine this happening any other way. I do not know how common it is among normal human beings to not feel sad at all.
When I cry, it is out of anger, frustration, fear, or happiness. It is never out of sadness. I weep when I read, write, think or listen to something I deeply relate to. Along these lines:
“When you’re a carpenter making a beautiful chest of drawers, you’re not going to use a piece of plywood on the back, even though it faces the wall and nobody will see it. You’ll know it’s there. So, you’re going to use a beautiful piece of wood on the back. For you to sleep well at night, the aesthetic, the quality, has to be carried all the way through.”
Kiriana Cowansage can run complex neuroscience experiments and sketch beautiful portraits. She melts at the sight of an animal, but she balks at the concept of love. A week earlier, she worked on the puzzle for 10 straight hours, without pausing for so much as a sip of water. A clothing maven, she’s fashionably put together in chunky jewelry and a black minidress with billowing sleeves. But she’d rather stay home with those cardboard pieces than dress up for a night out. She’s pretty—slender and pale, with innocently round eyes and long brown hair—and yet she’s never had a boyfriend. Though smart enough to have earned herself a spot in a top neuroscience program, she often gets lost in her own neighborhood. To any animal that crossed her path, however, Kiriana was the warmest creature imaginable. On rainy days, she would gingerly pick up earthworms from the sidewalk and move them to the grass. She once rescued a stray kitten that her neighbor’s Rottweilers were hungrily circling and took her home. At the age of 9, Kiriana, ever the scientist, asked her mother, “Does everyone see, hear,smell, taste, and feel exactly the same thing when they perceive the same object?” The diagnosis was the only one that reconciled, as she puts it, her special talent for being smart and stupid at the same time. “In this very small world of Asperger’s,” she says, “that’s normal.” “I do cry,” she says, “but it’s usually out of angeror frustration. Rarely do I feel true sadness.” She did feel terribly sad this year over the death of Slinky, her cat. “If I saw a person lying on the street, my first response would be, I wonder what’s wrong with them, I should call 911. It’s not emotional, it’s practical,” she says. “If I saw a dog lying on the street, I would be on my knees, in pain.” Kiriana behaves loyally toward her family and friends, but she balks at saying she loves anyone. “While there are many people who certainly matter to me, I’m not sure I can qualitatively summarize whether or not that constitutes love,” she says. She doubts she could ever fall in love. “I spend a lot of time watching the rats in the lab,” she says. “Sometimes when I watch them, I feel jealous. The way they interact is so connected. And when they play, I often wish that I could join their party.”