At several points in my life I became enamored with the game of chess. I loved the game. Finding challenging opponents was sometimes difficult but always rewarding. I went so far as to study books on chess. I followed the Fischer-Spassky world championship match as if I were observing a great historical event. A good friend took me to see the Second Piatigorsky Cup, a tournament including all of the best players at that time. I realize that for many of you this sounds about as exciting as watching grass grow, but I assure you that being there, in the midst of those games, was as thrilling for me as watching my beloved Green Bay Packers. I joined several chess clubs and even played in a few amateur tournaments.
While in college I, like many, read with great excitement Thomas S. Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Kuhn gives a compelling account of how science works. He slays the myth that changes in scientific thought are primarily the result of new discoveries. He argues that most scientific work consists of filling in the holes of currently accepted theory. This is the day to day work of science. As that process continues, problems with current theory can emerge. When these problems increase, current theory is stretched. It becomes clumsy and less elegant as it’s adjusted to accommodate dissonance. This opens the door to new theories. Such a new theory is not so much a development of current understandings as it is a break. It’s a paradigm shift. At first the new theory has as many problems, if not more than the old. A battle takes place between scientists committed to the old theory and those committed to the new. Good arguments exist on both sides. Eventually, the explanatory power of the new theory convinces a majority of scientists, and the shift is complete.
Many years ago I had visions of writing a book. I was going to call it Disability Parables. I was frequently invited to speak to children at schools, both public and private, about life with a disability. A good friend had started a magazine about disabilities (Ability Magazine) and I was a regular contributor. I was even active politically, being a member of the Los Angeles Mayor’s Council on Disability and at the scene of a few disability rights protests.
More than this, I had an observation based on my own experiences of living with a disability. I believed then, and still believe, that there was some wisdom in that observation. I had noticed that a disability looks very different when seen from the inside. More than a little is revealed in that difference. From the outside a visible disability, like mine, takes center stage. If the protagonist in a movie has a disability, the movie will usually be about overcoming the disability rather than about the character. If the movie has a religious theme our hero will be miraculously healed at the end. It has to be at the end because once the disability is removed the drama is over. A less religious film will still end when the disability is defeated, usually through some kind of crisis followed by wise counsel and a change of attitude.
This is the view from the outside. In my case, I’m generally happy. I love life. I love people. I’m blessed beyond my wildest dreams. From the outside my love of life looks like a tremendous victory over my disability. It looks like I’ve learned or acquired an almost magical life formula. In reality this is an illusion. I don’t see myself as a disabled person. I rarely think about my disability. I’m aware of the power of my disability to dominate perspectives especially of people I don’t know well. Over time, however, this power is greatly diminished. Those who know me well see my disability less and less.
Having a disability doesn’t make me a wise counselor. I haven’t overcome my disability. I haven’t even tried to overcome it. It hasn’t conferred upon me any advice that I can pass on to those who wrestle against the harshness of life and despair. With them I can only weep. It hasn’t made me a life coach or a self help guru. Yet, perhaps my disability has some lessons worth thinking about. These lessons aren’t direct. They’re not the result of what I’ve learned doing battle with an impairment. They are, in fact, indirect, hidden in plain sight. They’re like parables, and that’s how I arrived at the title for my book.
I had it all dreamed out. My book was going to be a best seller. I was going to become a famous author. I imagined a talk show tour. I had all my answers ready for the Oprah Winfrey show. I’m tempted to flatter you my readers by saying that I gave all that up so that I could bring you these parables on my blog. I’m afraid the truth is more mundane. I have great respect for anyone who is able to write and publish a book. I lack the discipline and the will. My book will never be written. Even so, I think these parables are worth some time and attention. I’ll publish them here and wait eagerly for your comments. Look forward to my disability parables appearing as future posts on my blog.
I started blogging with the goal of rich and real communication. I visited other blogs and was delighted with the possibilities of connecting with people I would never be able to meet in less virtual ways. I made a few friends. I’ve had the joy of meeting some of those friends face to face. Then I discovered blog stats.