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My family supported me. I wasn't hot-housed at all as a young child; I didn't go to any kind of gifted school. They didn't exist in the very poor parts of England when I grew up in the 1980s. I had a great time to learn, had access to libraries and teachers who were patient and enthusiastic when I showed ability in some subjects.
My first memory - at about four - was of numbers. The doctors who study me think a combination of mild autism and seizures I had when I was three have made me experience numbers the way I do.
Our thoughts and our feelings, of course, are not wholly objective, they're inherently subjective. And that's the danger, and I think as long as we're aware of it and can push back against it, I don't think that these two views are necessarily incompatible.
Someone who copies a Van Gogh does not therefore become Van Gogh, and the same would go for Mozart or anyone else who contributed something that was original. Certainly in the way that I described visualizing numbers in abstract, meaningful shapes.
The way that I approached numbers, think about them, the same as for language as well-acquiring vocabulary, understanding the grammar, the structures of languages, the rhythm, the music and so-on - these things obviously evolved.
What I do find surprising is that other people do not think in the same way. I find it hard to imagine a world where numbers and words are not how I experience them!
When I achieved the European record for reciting pi in 2004, this captured the imagination of Professor Simon Baron-Cohen in Cambridge, and he finally diagnosed me with Asperger's that year.
Working with the doctors is a fascinating two-way process. I am interested in what they suggest about why I'm the way I am. But if they could make me 'normal', I wouldn't want that. I've been like this for so long, it's what makes me .
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Gilbert K. Chesterton
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