I was advising a good friend here in Ulaanbaatar who has finished a number of screenplays but has had difficulty getting them produced. He is one of those rare individuals whose lives are brimming over with amazing stories, some of them spectacular. My advice was simple. Perhaps he ought to write his memoirs in book form. It would read rather like a “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”/James Bond/Carlos Castaneda with an interesting touch of Samuel Beckett thrown in for good measure. I told him that perhaps if he first created a buzz around himself, interest in his screenplays might be stoked. He seemed genuinely appreciative and ready to begin excavating his remarkable life.
I then began to consider how I might take my own advice. Perhaps my life falls short in the area of daredevilry. Nonetheless, there are points of interest which I often choose to hide, fearing that certain details might impugn my “credibility”. But, looking around now at the obstacles that seem to surround me, I am forced to wonder that perhaps I have nothing to lose. As my 12 or so readers know, I am obsessed with developing international law here in Mongolia. I have my reasons–very good ones, if I may say so. My colleagues seem to agree. And the few, small seminars I have produced have been successful, informative, and supportive of my aims. While they haven’t been financially successful for me personally, they have nonetheless invigorated the warrior spirit in quite a few Mongolian lawyers who seek to fight for equity and progress in behalf of their truly great nation. These events have stirred hopes and exposed potential. I will continue to produce them. The next will consummate my dream of a law/culture fusion in the service of international environmental law in a way that will be quite unique. And my sense is that international attention will be both deserved and forthcoming. A law/culture fusion is essential to my overall vision: a) the global indigenous movement is already articulating its wisdom and passionate with a unified voice b) culture is a matter of existential importance to this global constituency c) the world cries out for coherence on matters of environmental concern d) a new legal culture is, in my view, important in order to engage the energies and imagination of the global population. Law and culture need one another. They spring from one another. And the environment is their common ground, their common concern and their greatest responsibility. Mongolia is, at its core, an indigenous nation–one whose values emanate from a nomadic culture finely attuned to Mother Earth and Father Sky. There is no lighter footprint that that of the nomad! And the principles of social equity that pervade and inform the nomadic worldview are strikingly relevant to today’s global citizen. Inclusivity, cosmopolitanism, distributive equity, engagement, profound respect for the environment, for human security and the earth’s resources: these are what distinguish the Mongolian perspective. These are why I love the Mongolian nation and nourish hopes that this great country will soon lead the world–indigenous and non-indigenous alike–toward the evolutionary goals of progress and compassion. As the Central Asian Century dawns, Mongolia stands against the sunrise, proud and ready to lead. It is a nation born to lead and its cultural features are the living answers to the questions posed by a tortured world.
Yet, despite my affiliation with the International Centre of the Roerichs, Karl von Habsburg, UNESCO, the office of the Minister of Culture here in Mongolia, Santa Clara University, Kookmin University in Seoul and the Japanese government, I have been unable to form a ready bond with an appreciable number of like-minded individuals who might be able to propel this mission into high gear. Perhaps, I thought this morning, I have not shared enough of myself. Perhaps I have taken my own advice and made myself a memorable entity. Perhaps I have not played the public relations game well enough. Or at all.
I have to come clean here. I am autistic. I was “diagnosed” with high-functioning autism in 2000. My fears in disclosing this are perhaps understandable but perhaps mere cowardice. In disclosing my “diagnosis” I fear losing credibility. So often one sees references in the social media to autism that are intended as insulting, as impugning the source, as discrediting. As unfair and ignorant as these casual missives are, they still have managed to keep me fearful. Why? Remove my autism and what have you? A once-upon-a-time theatre actor, a credible classical singer with a talent for German Lieder and member of the Russian Chamber Chorus of New York. True, I come from a legal background. My father teaches law at Santa Clara University. I grew up with the law. And my closest colleagues in terms of developing my Mongolian project–Dr. Jiri Toman, Prof. Dinah Shelton and my mentor Prof. Yutaka Tajima–are part of my immediate family circle, as it were. But I myself hardly qualify as a legal luminary. My vision is my own. And my autism has granted me the ability to see patterns, to feel the future and to organize accordingly.
In late 2000, the call to law began to scratch at my subliminal backdoor. I began to feel restless, fearful. Certain things struck me as ominous: why was Gen. Colin Powell appearing out of uniform? I began to tell my friends and family that I felt a terror attack in the works, directed at the US. Those close to me looked at me askance, as though the stresses of being autistic and raising a son in Manhattan were perhaps too much for me. They acknowledged my fears politely, but seemed embarrassed for me. By mid-August, I was sleeping on the couch in my apartment in Brooklyn, with the news on 24 hours a day. I would waken clutching the couch as though it was a life raft. By late August, I called my neurologist. I told her that I thought I needed to be on medication, that I was obsessed with world events, that I slept with the news on and that I feared a terrorist attack on the US. I to, d her that I thought I needed to be on medication. She said, “Well the next appointment I have is on September 11th. Can you come in?” I told her that I could.
It is impossible to convey the shock I felt that morning as I prepared to leave for my appointment. I was watching NY1, the local news source. As the second plane struck, the announcer said, “This is almost unbeli– . . . ” then trailed off. The terrorist cause was now unmistakable. I went to my appointment, being careful to take the F train instead of my customary R train, which now ran directly under the towers. I made my appointment on time. When I went in to her office, I told my her, “Well, I guess I’m not crazy and I guess I don’t need any medication.” “That’s up to you,” she answered. But now I did not want any medication. What ever it was in me that sensed this attack, I needed and wanted to be in touch with it. I didn’t want any medication to interfere. I didn’t know exactly how I would use this freshly exposed dimension of my nature. But I decided to let Nature take her course.
Not long after that, my father began inviting me to join him on his trips overseas. “Why don’t you come along and help me with the Tokyo program this summer?” he asked. I decided to go and help. I was curious as to where it would take me, this new interest in international relations and in international law specifically. I helped Dad administratively and then with research and writing. My first area of interest was Japanese-US relations. Not long after that, I wrote a piece for a Fests Christ for my Godfather, Prof. Kim Moon Hwan, who was steeping down as president of Kookmin University. I wrote about international law, the need for it, the unrealized dream of it, and the global desire for it. I called my article “The Justice Vaccuum”, referring to the global lack of rule of law. This article, which I wil, send to anyone interested, laid the foundation for my work here in Ulaanbaatar. The article is extremely amateurish and embarrassing, otherwise I would reprint it here. But it nonetheless served its purpose and gained my father’s confidence to commenced our present course. I have never looked back.
If this story sounds outrageous, I can only say that some day my neurologist’s records will be made public. And given my very small readership, I suspect that I am most likely to be be believed. I encourage those of you who feel at a gut level the veracity of my story to look at my Twitter feed and follow my thoughts. If I may be characteristically arrogant in the way many high-functioning autistic are, I venture to say that I am very seldom wrong and that, most importantly, I need your support to develop international law here in Ulaanbaatar. International Law needs a new capital. International Law is the answer to all human ills. Please join with me and help me consolidate a new era, an era of fruition. Shambhala!