I have been mulling over the concept of faith and belief the past few days. What lead me to this churning of thought was a brief exchange I had with Soma last week as I was driving us to the church for one of our workshop days. Soma asked me how one of the families she saw last time was doing. I told her I didn’t know but that I was worried they may not be doing as well because some of the family still did not believe in her technique. “That’s ok. It doesn’t matter,” she said rather casually, “some of my family didn’t believe either.” Practical as she is, Soma went on to talk about how to build skills, one skill the foundation for the next and so on. What Soma demonstrated throughout the week through her words and actions was that RPM is successful because you work at it, not because you simply believe.
Why do I bring this up? Since starting RPM, I have struggled with the idea that some people don’t believe in this method or don’t believe Philip is really the one spelling his words. I see the looks of skepticism at school meetings or go online and see nasty comments about how RPM is a fraud. I still wonder at the sharp dichotomy of how my son appears on the outside- aloof, always moving about, and unable to talk or play like normal kids. Yet when he expresses himself through spelling, his mind is clear, imaginative, and downright brilliant at times. Can this really be the same kid? When I sense someone else’s doubt, a seed of doubt gets planted in my own mind and I start wondering, “Am I inadvertently moving the board? Am I guiding him somehow?” Each time I think about it, I come up with the same response, “No I am not.”
I started to think that maybe my belief in RPM and my desire that Philip could do it somehow released some mystic energy that allowed Philip to express himself. I know it sounds freaky, but that’s how I felt at times when I considered the almost magical transformation my son has had in only a year.
From the brief conversation in the car, Soma reminded me that RPM was completely based in reality. It is not a magical thing that happens by pure wishful thinking. It happens because the amount of work and time spent practicing builds real learning and real skills that have been layered one at a time in a logical order. Since starting RPM I have been diligent every day in working with Philip from the bottom up. First Philip had to learn to listen to my voice and respond to it by picking from choices. I had to adjust my speaking to him from speaking to him like a toddler via mostly commands to a more age appropriate conversational style. Then Philip had to learn to spell answers to material he was just taught. For example, I might state and ask, “A dog is a kind of M-A-M-M-A-L mammal. What kind of animal is a dog?” Philip would spell MAMMAL. From there, he would learn to reason about factual information, no emotions or personal opinions yet. For example, I might ask, “What season is Christmas in?” Knowing that Christmas is a time associated with snow, Philip would answer, “WINTER.” From there, I would start introducing open ended questions like “What do you want for Christmas?” At first this was extremely difficult, but in time, after many failed attempts on my part (Soma was able to get him to answer this after one week, and for me it took 4 months before I got an open ended response) he finally got it. I have only started blogging 8 months after starting RPM. It may look like Philip just picked up conversing with the snap of my fingers, but in actuality, it took lots of practice, along with blood, sweat, and tears to get to where he is now. Soma mentioned that we should always be on the edge of the next thing. We should never get complacent about where we are, but keep learning every day and improve in the areas of cognition, communication, skill, and tolerance (how long he can do the work, which settings, and with who). Philip is beginning to do opinion writings, typing, and working with other people like his Dad, Sunday school helpers, and teachers at school.
I used to wonder what Jesus meant when He said, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” It seemed paradoxical. Your faith only had to be as small as the smallest known seed, yet it could move a mountain? This couldn’t possibly be a mystical conjuring up of something. If it was, I would guess Jesus would say you have to have faith as large as a cloud or something like that.
So what does this mean and why am I bringing it up in the context of RPM? First, I believe the object of our faith must be based in reality. The faith part comes in because part of it is a mystery hidden from our eyes so it can’t be easily quantified or studied through the scientific method. But it is no less a real thing. If you are my age (I’ll just say I’m a little below 40), you probably remember watching the Peanuts Halloween special about the Great Pumpkin. Linus’s strong and sincere belief in the Great Pumpkin did not make it real. His belief was not based in reality. A faith in the wrong object will not move anything, let alone mountains. In the same way, my pure belief in RPM was not what caused RPM to work for Philip in some magical way. Rather, RPM is a method that really works based on how it utilizes pathways in the brain. My faith came in when I decided to try if this method really works.
When Soma told me it was ok if others did not believe in her technique, it was like a big weight lifted off my shoulders. I thought that if people didn’t believe, Philip would be hindered. It's not quite true. Someone should believe to get it started, but so what if not everyone believes? I think of athletes that go out to prove their critics wrong. It is a source of motivation, not hindrance. The Bible says you only need faith as small as a mustard seed to move a mountain. I had that faith. That faith is what started me and got us to fly to Austin for the first time to see Soma. From that tiny seed grew roots as I saw Soma working with Philip. Then a stem burst forth through the hard ground as we continued to work tirelessly even though at times we both wanted to quit. As momentum was gained, branches grew forth as Philip began to tell of his inmost thoughts, communicate with others, and try new skills. Meanwhile his trunk of knowledge and skill grew wider to support new growth. In time the tree produced new seeds of faith to be planted to grow more trees like Philip. Last week, 5 new seeds were planted (2 existing tress were reinforced). These new seeds will need lots of nurturing to take root and grow. I will be doing my best to do my part in helping each one succeed. Indeed I can foresee a future where a mountain of misunderstanding will be moved and children like Philip will be liberated.