Monday, June 16, 2008

The Magic Grenade

Grenades are randomly destructive—as are nearly all disorders, diseases and defects.

Imagine your job is to test experimental grenades. You do this by walking down a street consisting of a hundred vacant homes, opening the front door of each and tossing a grenade inside. Afterwards you tally up the damage.

Although you can expect some consistency in your results—for instance, you can pretty much expect each floor will sustain some damage, and at least a few pieces of furniture will be destroyed at each place—you will also find a fair amount of randomness in the aftermath. In some instances, walls will be completely demolished and windows will be shattered, TV sets will end up in pieces or not work at all; while in other cases, walls and windows will remain relatively unscathed, and the TV set might actually survive. Much of it depends on the location and force of the blast, as well as the previous arrangement of the furniture in each room. All you can say with certainty beforehand is that something will get destroyed and almost nothing will be improved.

But one day, you test a new grenade and find yourself stunned by the overall results. As you survey the damage from house to house, you find the outcome is remarkably similar and unlike anything you have ever seen before. The floors—the entire floors, without exception—are crumbled into a fine, crystalline powder. The walls, every single one, are riddled with a distinctive pattern of spider-web cracks but otherwise remain structurally intact. Lamps are always smashed but TV sets never are. And what’s more amazing, some objects are actually improved by the force of the blast. The TV sets not only go unscathed, their reception is much sharper, much clearer after the explosion. Stains, dirt, mold, dust, all other messes—these are completely removed by the workings of the grenade, as though a cleaning crew had just come through and done an excellent job. Without exception you find this same pattern of “destruction” from house to house, and in the end you do the only thing you can: you finish your report and stamp it with a capitalized conclusion—THIS IS ONE MAGIC GRENADE!

All theories beginning with the assumption autism is a disorder or a disease must answer to the problem of the magic grenade.

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