Disability and Growth – Living

A few weeks ago, Dr. McCoy presented us with the question “Why live?” My answer was “to search for one’s purpose and fulfill it.” I said some more about it as well which I have written below:

I think one must live to better humanity. Everyone is part of something greater than themselves and must promote the betterment of each other in order to fulfill that greater purpose.

     In the moment of writing, I began to think a bit differently:

We live to find answers to what we do not know; live to satisfy our curiosities; live to           understand the complexities of life. We live to become Gods (Here, I am using God to refer to one becoming the greatest one can ever be, but because of our mortality, we can only get close to being a God). By getting close to it, through satisfying our curiosities, understanding the complexities of life, and finding answers to our questions we develop and grow in many ways.

     Thinking about Kallies post, I now believe that to live is also to solidify and assert our identity and unique individuality in the world. For those in the Patternist world who have disabilities, which is a part of their identity, it is difficult for them to solidify and assert that part of themselves as important as any other part because, as Kallie writes, “Mary mentioned making the mutes happier and healthier” through the “erasing [of] an entire identity (their disability)” which is damaging because it undermines a part of the essence of the mutes’ uniqueness – their inherent right as individuals to simply decide what they want. In this sense, the healing of a person, by removing a disability is like asserting the truth of what Fayle Lewis says in her article on the feminist wire that “looks matter as much if not more than talent” and by healing the person, their looks can improve to matter more. The many conversations about diversity I have had in workshops with others have continued to establish that painful fact that society values looks more than potential and talent and that it [society], and yes, Hollywood too, would go as far as it can to fix the unacceptable look to fit the norm.

It is necessary to understand that I do think that considering a person with glasses as having a visual disability is a debatable topic. I never thought it as such until I went to a four day retreat in January wherein the topic of race, gender, ableism, sexuality and more were at the center of the discussions. Could it be that because we have gotten so used to seeing so many people with glasses that it has become a “normal” thing? I do believe that is what Octavia Butler highlighted in Clay’s Ark with Jacob’s unexpected physical appearance to which his mother acknowledged as simply a natural thing. Butler has done this countless times.

As I look at wearing glasses as a disability, those who wear it need it to see more clearly. Hence, I am able to understand a little more about the painful fact that disability could possibly be categorized (considering category, do we all, on some level, have a disability?). I think it is possible that there are those with a disability that is less life threatening, who feels more superior than those with it and fail to see their privilege. This goes hand in hand with what Theri Pickens writes in her article, that the Inas, like those with an acceptable ability, “fail to contextualize Shori’s amnesia as comparable (though not equal) to their own inability” to be out in the open after sunrise and before sunset (41). The Inas’ inability, one that has been part of them, has become a norm, which Pickens argues is a disability itself.

The use of the glasses to assist one’s vision has become such a big part of those who have been using them for a while that to take it away is to take away their “happiness.” It also boils down to the length of time one has been with the disability. I think the greater a bond is, the more painful it would be to break it. What about those who start wearing glasses in their early teenage years or even in early adulthood? For some, it may have been difficult to begin to wear because it was an addition to their current identity. One of my relatives, almost fifty years old, refuses to get a glasses despite their vision becoming weaker. Why refuse? Obtaining the glasses to me is like erasing what I was to become what I am. The glasses will help me to see more clearly. As I think about the built bond with the glasses, I wonder about proximate feelings that will follow if the bond is broken. It may be only a matter of time before we become happy again without the glasses, that is if we will be able to see again without them.

Let us consider what the Oankalis are doing with the humans while regarding the idea of how time plays in developing a bond, or an identity. The Oankalis came to Earth and they try to get the humans to be comfortable with them by changing to resemble them and conversing with them in favorable ways. With time, some of the humans accepted them because of the promise of something better (a human race without disease) and some refuse because they did not want to lose their humanity – their identity of being a human. But time is a factor and so I imagine that eventually, once Lilith and the current Oankalis and Oolois die, the next generation will continue the gene trading until their goal is met. The way how the story has prolonged, it makes me believe that new conceptions of living will be formed. With new conceptions, what is considered a disability may not even be consider as such anymore. In fact, it probably would be in a category deserving of the same opportunities as the able bodied person; a new identity is likely to form just as one that is formed when we obtain a glasses and then decide that we no longer need them.

The quote written by Kallie as a premise to her post is a text to text connection to what Jodahs said to Jesusa that “on Mars there are already a great many others. Why should your people want to stay here and breed dead children or disabled children?” (636-637). It is a hard pill to swallow because on one hand, it is saying that disabled people have no right to be born into this world. On the other hand, as I think about those who are suffering from life threatening diseases and viruses that threaten their lives, maybe the Oankalis wanting to rid a world of viruses and diseases is really a good thing. Filicide to a child with a disability is something I think the Oankalis want to prevent in the world that they are building; I dislike however, that they find the audacity to decide what the humans need which is a taking of our own autonomy and I think that is what many of the resisters do not want.

Nonetheless, as I read the conclusion of Kallies post, I cannot help to wonder when I begin to think extensively about the things that are not related to a reading I may be doing at a particular moment and I ask myself if I would take pills or an elixir to prevent that thinking, and what would I say. I probably would say ‘no’ just like Kallie’s response to medicine for her chronic illnesses, because I think that that thinking I do has promoted my growth in many advantageous ways and maybe Kallie has gone through battles that have influence her growth as well. In the same sense, those with life threatening disabilities may or may not take an elixir or pill depending on how threatening or how beneficial the disability is to them. And as mentioned, I feel it is a matter of the bond we create with the things we obtain or given and our time with those things that eventually become a part of our identity. What is the cost of breaking that bond? We may ask ourselves that question before deciding our next act. How we answer that question and the actions we take is forming our identity and we do form it daily. Breaking or forming a bond helps us to grow; deciding helps us to figure out the reasons to live. That is growth to me – the purpose of life.

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