Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Everyone is a Genius

" Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid "
~Albert Einstein

I have been contemplating (the other) Uncle Al's comment here of late...and considering its great wisdom.  I have touched on it before certainly, but here, it has been said so succinctly and there are, as it were depths to it left yet untouched.
I have been engaged with the Disabled Resources Center of Long Beach California, involved with a peer counseling class the lasted eight weeks and yesterday was our graduation.  Towards the end of the class we were read a wonderful essay on the rights of the disabled, and how prior to the 1970s, the prevailing "wisdom" was to warehouse individuals with disabilities, and remove them from the mainstream in all walks of life...educational, home life, occupational.  We are reminded how even today there are those that would vehemently deny our rights for equality.  Today Representative Alan West (R) of Florida fought on the floor to deny rights to the disabled.  At question was a law that would protect the rights of disabled to use public pools and spas, he said:

"This is another example of the bureaucratic nanny-state not considering the economic ramifications of its insidious regulatory policies," said West, a Republican from Plantation. "I have talked with and received letters from several South Florida hotels saying this is a wasteful exercise that will cost Florida businesses a lot of money and accomplish nothing." 
While I'm neither equipped, nor ready to argue the for or against case of this particular issue I find this disgusting.  In fact, those rights are already protected under the law, while many are unaware of it.  The Americans with Disabilities Act swimming pool guidelines became the law of the law of the land in April 2011, but many commercial pool owners are still unaware of the law, which requires all commercial pools to be handicapped accessible. Those pool owners will now have to install wheelchair lifts or sloped entries at their own expense.

At issue here is the rights of all individuals in equal access to such things.  Some might argue that if they don't have legs or have paralysis and cannot swim that they have no business being in a pool, and that a chair lift need not be provided for them.  But let me ask you this, say that I am a blind man...then why should we bother building windows into your office, since I don't need them?  Why are we wasting money on overhead electric lighting if I don't need that either?  (You get the point.)

I'd like to take this discussion now, into a slightly different arena...Is it not so, that it takes many individuals to create a village, a society, a government?  What would happen if there were only mathematicians, or only grocery clerks, scientists, only school teachers, only tailors...I dare say that such group would grind to a halt.

In like manner what would occur if an orchestra were only strings, or wind instruments, only percussion?  I dare say it would become a dysfunctional monotony at its best, at its worst would cause me a migraine headache?  What is my point here?  My point is such that human beings are each endowed with a unique genius, much as Einstein says in the quote mentioned above...and we loose the great richness and possibilities inherent in humanity when we either force all into an identical box or demand exclusion of those that don't fit out particular role in life.

Much as Einstein says, again...I was told my entire life, what an idiot fish I was, because I couldn't climb a tree.  Here I am with above average IQ, yet my perception/reception/communication in the world looks very different for me than it does for you?  What gives anyone the right to judge me (or anyone else) by such a standard?  How short sited, how utterly impoverished such a viewpoint, that would rob itself of richness, texture, color and variety simply because it is different.  Although disability rights are protected by law, it could easily be argued that today, the largest minority discriminated against in the U.S. are the disabled.

And we wonder, wonder why the sad and ugly case of the murder of Trayvon Martin?  We wonder why, under stress of war, inbred hatred and anger a soldier goes off and kills (more) innocent civilians?  Again, these examples have many layers, I'm not willing or able to argue, other than to say, violence and exclusion, segregation and separation can only beget more of the same.  

And for those of us who live with a disability, be certain, that you (and I) have responsibilities too.  It is up to us to discover who we  are...we (I, you) are not a "disabled person", we are first and foremost persons who happen to have a disability.  I know myself, that I have though long and hard in recent days, especially in light of changes in my life that have improved both my attitude and self understanding, as well as medical intervention that has radically helped me for the better, who and what I am, without the definitions and restrictions put on me by those who would pigeonhole me, would try to tell me who I am according to their own definition.  Yes, society needs to change, yes, I will fight until my dying breath for the equal rights of all human beings in self expression and living, and growing beyond labels put on them...but this must start with me (you.)

All of my life, I have said, and believed that if one is to change the world, and this is truly one's deepest desire, then one must needs look to themselves first, liberating the genius that lay dormant within...humans learn best by example.  One has only to look to Albert Einstein himself for a shining example.  While theories abound around his life, it was obvious he was not your average individual.  While his intelligence was off the scale, he had great difficulty in social interaction and adjustment...One wonders today what might have occurred had not he followed the muse, the inner genius and curiosity that gripped him as a child the first time his father saw him operate a compass, and he realized "it moves without me touching it."  (This was the beginning, in his own words of the insatiable curiosity that later led to his own genius.  How utterly poor and impoverished the human culture would have been had he not discovered his own place within it.

What is your muse?  What is your own genius?  What instrument do you play in the symphony that is Life?  Without the contribution that only you can provide this orchestral universe is that much impoverished.  The beauty that only you can bring, can and will have untold, incomprehensible effect on all mankind, I daresay all Creation, all Consciousness.

~Just Joe

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