Discovering that you are “Able” when disabled seems like a paradox. When we accept that we are “Disabled” how can we think of ourselves as Able, too? Let us explore this Paradox.
What is a Paradox?
A Paradox exists when two or more things that seem to be opposites exist at the same time. For example, many of us have contemplated why People do Bad things when they think of themselves as Good?
For those of us who accept that we have a Disability, trying to discover our Abilities seems like a Paradox. Knowing that we are not able to do some things makes us expect we cannot do most things.
How can we resolve the Paradox of Ability in the face of Disability?
Most of us just ignore our limitations. We struggle with the tasks of life never realizing what we can and can’t do.
For those born with their “Disability”, they discovered early that others could do things they could not. Most of us realize that we have some sort of limitation. A lot of us discovered we can’t be stars in the classroom or on the athletic field. Then we realize that quite a few of those around us are not Stars either.
When our limitations deprive us of a big part of what others experience, it has a different impact. Lisa Larges (in her podcast interview) discussed this. Being visually impaired became part of her identity, just like being female. She has the benefit of sharing blindness with her sister. Still they each have to make their way in a sighted world.
We might also choose to pick one label and ignore the other. Few can live thinking of themselves as Bad. We kill animals; yet think of all life as sacred.
We may choose to embrace one option and ignore the other. We run a red light and excuse it by saying;
we needed to get home early.
How many other paradoxes do you see people living with on a daily basis?
Trying to resolve a Paradox can lead us to deeper truths and understanding.
The two options might not be true opposites. There might be “Shades of Gray.” We all have different abilities to balance. Some are faster than others. Thus fast or slow are relative and – not opposite.
We might see exceptions to the rule. “It is Ok to run a red light if no one gets hurt.” Some sports even allow for this. Take the Advantage rule in Soccer… The ref need not call a fowl when there is no advantage gained by it.
All of these attempts are superficial. They don’t allow us to see how opposites might not be opposite in reality.
After World War II existential philosophers decided that good and bad were labels we placed on events. The events themselves – like War and genocide – were not truly good or bad. They happened for reasons some of which most people would label as bad but others label as good.
We might say that being able or disabled are labels we accept for ourselves. Few blind people havbe no light perception at all. Those that do are able to locate things around them by other means. Some have developed their hearing to the extent that they can locate objects in a room upon entering.
Others seem to know where they are by different means. I have a totally blind friend who can tell us where we are wile riding in a car. The sounds of the city change in so many ways. The car turns and swerves. How often do we get disoriented driving in a strange city at night? Yet she always seems to know where we are.
We might also resolve a paradox by looking at how the opposites came to be. “White Privilege” can be looked upon that way. In prior generations whites were able to assert themselves over others on the basis of race. Thus, white people have privileges they inherited. They learned that what others see as a privilege was the norm. White Americans saw police as friends. We now see that Black Americans do not view the police the same way.
Slavery in America led to this White Privilege. The Early Colonists had slaves of all races. As the number of slaves increased, it became hard to tell slave and free apart. Race became an easy way to divide people and their social roles and rights.
In time, we agreed to end Slavery. Many see Racism in America as one of slavery’s legacies.
Disability probably came about when some could not keep up with the crowd and needed other accommodations. The Term Handicap came about because those with disabilities were allowed to beg, “Cap In hand”.
Getting Social Security to classify you as “Disabled gives you protection under the ADA. Could this be a modern version of Handicap? A label of being “less than” gives you advantages.
Another way we might resolve a paradox is by looking at the outcomes. Political views are often strongly held. Both sides think they are correct and justified. They refuse to see the other side as valid.
We might see this political paradox as enabling us to get along with someone else’s viewpoint. If our opinion that those who receive Disability Insurance payments are drains on society gets accepted by others it will also become the opinion of the group who are rejected to receive disability payments. We end up in two camps. Those camps reinforce our views of Disability Insurance.
Being in one or the other camp meets our needs for community. At least until we become disabled and dependent. Then life has forced us into the camp that likes Disability Insurance.
Can a paradox teach us more?
We can look to what is common in the opposites. Political Party affiliation results in meeting our needs for community and affirms world views.
Racism enables us to anticipate others behaviors and backgrounds. We all need to be able to anticipate danger and find friends in a crowd. Most of our Prejudices do this poorly. We need to find other ways to do this.
Thus, pondering a paradox can offer us new solutions.
Understanding why people affiliate with one political party or the other suggests that we could also create communities around other activities or issues.
Pondering race and gender discrimination leads to other solutions. Experience with others of different races or genders allow us to recognize friends and anticipate foes.
Accepting the label of, “Blind” allowed me to make friends who were also experiencing blindness or low vision in their lives. My fully sighted wife does not enjoy the gatherings of my blind associates.
So we might ponder a paradox by asking:
How did the two opposites come about?
What are the benefits common to both of the opposites?
How might we gain the benefits without going to either extreme?
As All Ways, Seek Joy,