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About jonbirch

animator, illustrator, character designer, graphic designer. music producer/recording musician. co-owner of PROOST. proost.co.uk
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41 Responses to 777

  1. Carole says:

    It can be very humbling to witness people breaking free from the boxes that society chooses to incarcerate them in. Makes me think about how I allow myself to be limited by society’s definition of me.

  2. beatthedrum says:

    My nephew is Autistic and people always try and put him in a box… he tends to smash it to bits and move on!

  3. becky says:

    As a single adult, I can vouch that you can lead a full life without a spouse and kids. But I think you raise a valid point – we try to box in people we feel aren’t worthy to participate fully in society.

  4. subo says:

    that’s about it, we like to fit people in boxes, we like to think we’ve got them sussed

    yet we hate feeling put in a box, sussed out and judged!

    I’m trying very hard to relate to people in the moment, and to pick up the things they give me, and to experience more of what’s going on in my own little box

  5. linus says:

    i quite like my box. it is safe and cosy and warm and does not impose high expectations on me…

    sorry, did i say the wrong thing?

    ps. 777 must be the number of something, surely?

    pps. Jon, you spend much less time than advertised in the beer tent at Greenbelt. =[

  6. Tiggy says:

    I think he discovered the wine bar!

    My parents always carried on as though I wouldn’t marry or have children, despite me having been a nanny and very good with kids of all ages. My mother even told me once that I shouldn’t have children because of my ‘bad genes’ even though she knew very little about my birth family.

    I would love to defy their expectations, but here I am single and no chance of having children.

  7. subo says:

    I read a description of the attributes of autism, as the positive qualities a person with autism might contribute to the group, written by an education specialist

    it was really moving, and I wish I’d kept it, he helped me appreciate how God has formed our diverse approaches to life for the building of community, and the building of his Kingdom

  8. subo says:

    Hi Tiggy

    I like cross posting with you, it makes me feel connected

  9. Tiggy says:

    lol Sometimes I do some very cross posting!

  10. Tiggy says:

    Have we met Subo? I don’t know who I’ve met and who I haven’t lately. If I meet someone they don’t always tell me their online name, so I don’t connect them. I have enough trouble remembering one name.

    Apologies for tangent everyone, but what’s new?

  11. subo says:

    hiya Tiggy

    have not had the pleasure of meeting you yet, though sure I will catch sometime, all the best

  12. Kevin Sam says:

    We can help increase awareness of autism. It’s something I’m learning about and would like to see a cure for. Just met a buy who is cycling to raise money for autism hereposted here on the New Epistles blog

  13. soniamain says:

    For me it’s another label, sometimes labels are helpful, sometimes their not. I know some parents who know that something is different about their child, they are struggiling to make sense of the world around them and how they fit in. For some parents and children/ young people the label of autism is a huge relieve, it finally gives a brief answer to why they feel different. A big issue for the autistic spectrum is that it can be so varied. For one person getting married having a job is entirely possible, for others they are so locked into themselves they will never work, live independently. One problem is society has caught onto the word autism but many people don’t really understand what it means, they just know of the rainman examples.

    sorry that sounds a bit lecture! :)

  14. Miriworm says:


  15. Kirsty B says:

    For some really beautiful insights into the value of people with learning disabilities and autism and what they teach us of God, of our selves and humanity- see the writings of Henri Nouwen and Jean Vanier. Jean Vanier started the international ecumenical/ multifaith organisation that is L’Arche which seeks to build communities of people with and without learning disabilities.

    Living in a L’Arche household taught me so much about people. We all need to feel wanted, loved, needed, cherished for who we are and want to make a difference in the world.

    I would not like to see a ‘cure’ for autism as I do not think it is a sickness, it is just a different way of approaching and conceiving of the world. We can all learn from people within the autistic and learning disabilities spectrums. God’s fingerprint is upon every person and to find and realise that is a beautiful thing.

    While working with a gentleman who had learning disabilities and could only communicate through signs, I struggled to understand how someone who had concrete thinking could understand more about God and how I could help develop his spirituality. But in fact he taught me about God. He would pray when his arthritis hurt him, singing dirges in his own tongue. Mealtimes at L’Arche can be a riot with sometimes 8+ people sitting round the table all swapping stories and sharing food. One particular meal when silly faces and games were being played across the table, he stopped in the middle of it and started to cross everyone blessing them. This praise and prayer in the midst of the occasion really challenged me about my praise being after an occassion and in reflection of a good thing.
    anyway, enough ramblings from me!
    Thanks for bringing it up Jon!

  16. subo says:

    “I would not like to see a ‘cure’ for autism as I do not think it is a sickness”

    am with you there Kirsty, I feel our society is ‘sick’ because it struggles to relate to people who see things differently, and that a healthy community is able to share equally with people with all approach’s to life

  17. subo says:

    just imagine if we came from a starting point of appreciating the different things people bring us, instead of a starting point of judging each other

    our culture is obsessed with achievement, and I feel the church has allowed itself to be pulled into this. we hear people celebrating ‘my success in leadership’, ‘my achievements in setting up an amazing XXX’, and ‘I’ve been studying the latest theological approach to studying the bible’

    I wish I heard “we’ve been looking at how people from the local community would like to use their church”, ”we’ve been looking at how we exclude ‘carer’s’, and others, who haven’t come for a while”, and “we are studying the needs of people with anxiety, depression, disability ect, to see how our church can be a resource of hope”

    Can I recommend “Disturbed by Mind and Spirit: Mental Health and Healing in Parish Ministry”
    by Gavin Knight & Joanna Knight

  18. Tiggy says:

    Can anyone recommend a really good online source of information about ‘Autism’ and ‘Aspergers’?

    I feel drawn to find out more about these as I’m fairly sure my birth mother was autistic. Does it run in families? Her older brother was severely autistic and her niece has Aspergers.

    Sometimes I think there’s something wrong with ME or just different, but it can’t be a form of autism, I don’t think, or maybe I just don’t know enough about it.

  19. subo says:

    Hi Tiggy

    I really like “All Cats Have Asperger’s Syndrome” by Kathy Hoopmann, because she has an engaging and open way of talking about asperger’s

    life can be challenging for all of us, and the various knocks that come our way can increase the levels of anxiety and depression we suffer with.

    (I’m still trying to get over a couple of letters my sister sent me, highlighting all the faults in my personality, last spring) – this can be harder still for someone with aspergers,

    as not only is the world geared up for people who think with a more tradition pattern, they will also have to cope with the daily snubs, mocks and put-downs, from people who don’t see their not working from the same hymn sheet!

    many people on this framework struggle to cope, becoming more and more isolated, using whatever they find to ‘help’, including things that make things worse (like addictions)

    in my view, the church just doesn’t bother being a light or life-giving salt to these people, it’s too busy chasing after shiny trophies (sorry, I know, I need to get over it) at least when you go to the healing service on Iona, prayers are included for people experiencing a wide range of distressing situations

  20. Tiggy says:

    Thanks Subo. I’ve never seen myself much as a cat – more an injured puppy. I can do a very good impersonation of one howling. :-) Also a motorbike going round a track. I would like to be seen as a black cat, but I’m too open and trusting for that. I want to get a kitten.

  21. Lizzio says:

    The Diocese of Oxford has written some stuff about helping people with ASD. Their thinking is about making church accessible. http://www.oxford.anglican.org/the-door/god-in-the-life-of/asperger-friendly-church-6974.html

  22. subo says:

    Thanks Lizzio for the web link, I found it deeply moving, and will read their PDF at length

    thank you for encouraging me that there’s some very good things happening in church

    it also made me reflect on the Sanctuary service I’ve been to over the years, and how carefully they have been put together, I think some people with aspergers, who have found larger churches uncomfortable might really like Sanctaury

  23. Forrest says:

    OHHH BABY, this one hits home!!!!!!!!!! – I have Aspergers Syndrome which is on the Autism Spectrum.

    Invite you to do some reading here;


    “”Wrong Planet is the web community designed for individuals (and parents of those) with Autism, Asperger’s Syndrome, ADHD, PDDs, and other neurological differences. We provide a discussion forum, where members communicate with each other, an article section, with exclusive articles and how-to guides, a blogging feature, and a chatroom for real-time communication with other Aspies. Asperger’s Syndrome, a pervasive development disorder, is a form of autism. People with Asperger’s Syndrome usually have normal or above normal IQs. Asperger’s can be described as an inability to understand how to interact socially.
    Want to discuss Aspergers issues? Register for a free account!
    What Is Asperger’s Syndrome?””

  24. Tiggy says:

    I wonder how much we all differ neurologically. People with dyslexia apparently have a more complex corpus colosum so that the two halves of their brains have more neural connections going between them – this can make for a lot of creativity.

    Of course there are large groups of people who hae similar neurological differences, but it will be interesting in the future when we all have brain scans as a matter of course. This is starting to come in for anti-depressant prescribing as they can more easily target the right area and chemicals.

    I would really love to find out if my brain is weird in any way. I do know that women who have Stein-Leventhal syndrome tend to have shrinkage in the part of the brain connected to short-term memory. No wonder I easily get confused.

    I thought it was interesting in that pdf that churches are legally bound to assist people with disabilities. My church has never given me a sheet with the words to hymns on, even though I’ve mentioned to the leaders on a number of occasions that I can’t see the words on the screen. At my tiny MCC church they did this and quite a few people were relieved to get a copy rather than straining their eyes.

  25. Rosslyn says:

    I’m usually a lurker, but I love your cartoons John. This one struck me, especially as I was recently directed to this YouTube clip. It’s quite long and many will find the beginning bizarre but it is all explained, and well worth seeing through to the end.

  26. Will says:

    Rosslyn, Welcome. That was one of the most enlightening, humbling films i have seen in years

  27. raginggenius says:

    I am in the “Bipolar Box”.

  28. Tiggy says:

    They couldn’t find a box for ME :-(

    I was just left in a file marked, ‘Personality disorder – unspecified’.

  29. Carole says:

    Rosslyn (25) – I’ve just watched that video…lost for words (ironically) and need to think. Thanks so much for posting.

  30. Robb says:

    Linus (5) 777 is the number of the standard ibanez jem model guitar (steve vai’s guitar). Steve has a thing about the number 7.

  31. capriwim says:

    I always read your cartoons, and I’ve been hoping you’d do one on autism. I have AS, and the boxes society creates are extremely frustrating. Actually, the church I attend doesn’t know about my AS, so they don’t put me in any boxes – I’d be curious to see how things would change if I told them.

    I also agree with the above poster that having a spouse and kids is not a prerequisite for a full life. Not that you were necessarily saying it is – it is just something that frustrates me in churches, when you get testimonies of people who’ve found God in the midst of all kinds of setbacks, and the highlight of their testimony is that now God has amazingly blessed them with a spouse and kids – as if this is the ultimate fulfilment in life, and that those who stay single are somehow unfulfilled and disadvantaged. I’m asexual and have never had any desire for a spouse or kids.

  32. jonbirch says:

    rosslyn… thank you for your kind comment… and, wow!.. don’t know what to say about that video… wow! need to process it… wow! as carole, i have no words… as will, i feel humbled. thank you.

    tiggy… ‘unspecified’ simply shows a lack of imagination and creativity on their part. you go girl!

    raginggenius… you are both a genius and raging… sounds like a mix made in heaven. bless you.

    forrest… you know i love you.

    we are all labelled… yet we are all so much more than those labels. let’s love ourselves… so called abnormalies and problems included… warts and all… let’s love ourselves!

  33. Tiggy says:

    A word about shrinks. And these are just the NHS ones.

    The one who said I had a personality disorder – I was later informed by someone who worked with him that he had screwed up a lot of people. He also used to sit and pick his nose overtly in front of me – in fact I’ve never seen anyone pick their nose so overtly and it makes me feel sick even now.

    A nice therapist I saw went mad shortly after I started seeing him – I don’t think it was my fault. He started saying he was Joseph and his wife was Mary and their son Jesus. Also that he was under Satanic attack from his printer. He left to go and work for the US military.

  34. soniamain says:

    Wow Rosslyn thank you for that clip. I work with children and young people and have worked with a number of severely autistic children over the years who have non verbal communication, as soon as I started watching the clip I loved the ‘flapping’. I now train adults in how we listen to children and a lot of my work is about non verbal communication. That film will be fantastic to share with people.

  35. Kirsty B (15),

    My year at L’Arche has never left me – sixteen years on I’m starting to get it (just about):)…

    Where were you? I was at Bognor. Do they still have silent retreats to Trosly in springtime? I got three of us hopelessly lost there the first evening, with only a night-light for company. In the end, to find our way to bed, we had to blow out the night-light to stop it dazzling us, and start up a conversation!

    Never been very good with boxes:)

    My mate with Asperger’s has written a book on how helpful he finds Buddhist ideas – here’s a link:


  36. The video (Rosslyn, 25) is so amazing… May I add my thanks?

  37. Kirsty B says:

    hi Steve,
    I was with the Edinburgh community, though no idea about Trosly retreats, think there are a variety- know some went to Taize, some been to Switzerland, all over the shop really. Nice to be part of an organisation that care about your spiritual development.

    I’ve been following this thread with interest, thanks for all the links peeps. Our lives really can become richer when we take time to listen to others’ perspectives rather than assume. I think God made us all different to reflect Him and the many facets of who he is; and if we exclude others then we misunderstand God.

  38. Kirsten says:

    That cartoon is hilarious! Why do we have to label people?

  39. Forrest says:

    Here goes, we’ll see what gets stirred up – to illustrate a point, just put this in a thread here http://www.wrongplanet.net/postp2387486.html#2387486

  40. paolo says:

    thank for this one..

  41. jonbirch says:

    you’re welcome, paolo. :-)

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