November 15, 2012

Apples Far from the Family Tree

Read a fascinating first chapter from Andrew Solomon's book (thank God, not Andrew Sullivan's -- they're both gay but Solomon's calm and more reasoned view of things makes for a much better reading experience). Solomon has written Far from the Tree about how parents deal with children very different from themselves. A good and sometimes sobering look at difference, disability and diversity. I hadn't really considered just how strong the human desire for conformity is and how that will eventually be reflected in a homogenization such that future parents will simply abort children with genes that show deafness, autism, a cleft lip, homosexuality, dyslexia - i.e anybody not perfect. The author also makes a case for how the "disabled" in some form or another, makes up the majority. One person put it, 'we begin disabled (i.e. as infants), we reach some level of of ability, and then reenter disability in old age. That's if we're lucky. " True words. The author says that diversity is, counter-intuitively, what ties us together. It provides grist for what he calls the "imagination" of love. To love our children who look like/function like us is natural, but what if a child has inherited some "horizontal" trait, a recessive gene or a deformed gene that results in some anomaly? Then it takes this imagination he says, and there's more of that around than one would think.

A quote from writer Claira Claiborne, who has an autistic daughter: "I write now what 15 years past I would still not have thought possible to write: that if today I were given the choice to accept the experience, with everything that it entails, or to refuse the bitter largesse, I would have to stretch out my hands - because out of it has come, for all of us, an unimagined life. And I will not change the last word of the story. It is still love."

Another mother interviewed said she had no sense of purpose until her son was born with severe disabilities. "Suddenly, I had this object for all my energy. He gave me a whole new reason to be alive."

According to a psychologist, "'The great surprise of resilience research is the ordinariness of the phenomenon.' Resilience used to be posited as an extraordinary trait, seen in the Helen Kellers of the world, but cheery recent research suggests that most of us have the potential for it, and that cultivating it is a crucial part of development for everyone."

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