They Say He’s Just Like Me

Ethan BlankYou have to earn his smile.  He might be smiling in this picture, but it could be more of a smirk, as if to say this better be important because otherwise you’re wasting my time.  And for what?  Besides, smiles are overrated.  Take for example the Khan Academy analysis of the Mona Lisa’s smile.  He has a serious look about him, but he knows how to have fun.  Or is it more fascination than fun and, if so – what’s wrong with that? He is captivated by certain things, and certain non-humans.  For all intents and purposes he may think that humans are over-rated, just like smiles.  The point is, you don’t know exactly what’s going through his head other than lots of stuff.



They tell me he’s currently captivated by trains.  Obsession or perseveration with certain pre-occupations can be a red flag for neurodevelopmental issues.  But what’s wrong with the rapture of being immersed in your favorite category?  When I was a little kid, Lionel Model Train Sets were all the rage.  My buddies Matt and Jersey Levine had one set up in their basement and we could spend hours down there watching the trains and taking in all the accoutrements their dad would set up.  Trains themselves are captivating because of the motion and the lights and sounds and the varieties.  Even thought the locomotive was the celebrity of the train, there were many distinctively delightful subtypes on the way to the rear car.  And if he broadens his interests from trains themselves to the community that supports that train passthrough — the tracks, the benches, the buildings, the people waiting or walking around — the train then gets integrated as a feature rather than as an isolated object.  It’ll happen …

CentMy thing when I was little wasn’t so much trains as it was coins.  My dad had one buddy who was a stamp collector and one who was into coins.  Though I was too young to appreciate the value of coins, the visual that went with systemizing them into categories appealed to me greatly.  Learning what made each coin valuable was exciting.  Pennies were easy to collect, even in those days – no one begrudged letting a little kid dig through change stash for bronze.  What gave the wheat penny (1909 – 1958) any value beyond a cent?  How well the lines of the wheat sheaves on the reverse side of the Lincoln were preserved.  Add in the first year (1909), complete with the intials of its designer (V.D.B. for Victor David Brenner) under the sheaves, issued from the San Francisco mint instead of the much busier Philadelphia one, and it becomes the rare 1909-S V.D.B.  worth a life’s fortune to a little kid.  To find one would be as rare as winning the PowerBall today.  How could you not love a hobby that became an obsession, spawning the endeared cultural phrase that anything new was considered to be in mint condition.

I know that Simon Baron-Cohen cautions about an Emphathy/Systemizing Quotient, and his theory is not without its critics.  As a big believer in the concept of continuum, and in a healthy balance between any two complementary traits, I say let’s celebrate the little guy’s systemizing with trains and channel it through the right tunnels.  Nothing gave me greater joy than playing by myself, visualizing so many things about the props at hand. And if he does turn out like me, I’d like to think that’s not so bad …

About Leonard J. Press, O.D., FAAO, FCOVD

Developmental Optometry is my passion as well as occupation. Blogging allows me to share thoughts in a unique visual style.
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