Thursday, October 27, 2005

The world through the eyes of disabled people

Today, a 3-days seminar ended for me. It had to do with my job. We work with disabled people in different institutions. What we did during this seminar was to discuss our experiences in the first weeks,and then we went on and found out what it's like to spend time in a wheelchair. Not just for a few minutes. Each of us was in a wheelchair for one and a half hours,and we did had to act as if we were disabled people. We had tasks to do,like try to enter shops (no matter if they had stairs or not), get into a bus, ask around,see how passengers react.
The results were interesting. People around us were very helpful,only some of them,especially kids, looked alienated. The problem was that most places aren't very good for the disabled to enter. If you wanna buy a book, others have to carry you around and lift you up a lot of stairs. And now imagine you can't find the book you're looking for and have to be lifted down all the stairs for nothing.

On day three,which was today,we went to an organisation, Selbsthilfe Körperbehinderte e.V. , basically a place where help gets organized for disabled people,by other disabled men and women. They get young,healthy students to assist the disabled ones. We had an interview with someone who seemed like he was okay,but it took a while to realize what was wrong with him. Actually you can't say something was "wrong". He talked and moved like a normal person, i wouldn't have thought anything. Then he told us the story of his life. That he had some kind of a stroke years ago,in his brain. He lost the ability to speak although the words were right in his head,but as if his mouth had been taped,he couldn't utter them. And the right half of his body gives him a lot of trouble. The way he talked about all this was very emotional and moving. He didn't lose his sense of humor,he was smiling a lot and he invented instruments to be used by people in his situation. I have to say...respect.

Somehow it's good to get to know people like that. I mean, if we wanted to live our lifes in complete awareness,we'd have to escape from death in a big accident...something we never forget and that reminds us of how short life could be. That's of course something none of us would like to experience. But this experience...being reminded of how lucky we all are,is important sometimes. Whether it's the stories of WW2 that i heard from my grandfathers sometimes, or the bad fate of relatives and friends,or total strangers. Happiness is awareness of where we stand in life,always compared to what we are used to and what we know. There's the treasure of personal and non-personal experience,and it makes us to what we are. Someone who has always been rich and loses all his money,but is healthy and has a loving family,will not easily recognize that he didn't lose everything. But it's possible he will never be as happy as someone who is not so rich,hasn't found true love yet and is slightly sick,but has escaped death or war.

It's you people out there think you could be happy without something you really want at the moment,or something you have and don't want to let go of? I think if you lost one half of your body to paralysation,or you lost would have to say goodbye to someone you wanted to keep close to you,then you would be unhappy for very long. All of us would. And still,we would have to be glad that we still have other things....but we can't,can we? It's easy to say we could be happy,but we don't want to be satisfied when something good disappears from our sight. It lies in the human nature that we strive for more than what we have now. You can try to look at the other side, and try to be happy because you always have more than these unlucky ones. But at some point,you start looking at the top again...

Hm...what did i want to say...i don't know. I just hope i never lose something that means a lot to me,you know. It hurts to fall deeper than you've been before,even if there are deeper depths.

I will end this entry with a nice poem i recently discovered. Not sure if the english translation i found on the net does it any justice,but i like it. Maybe it fits to the resignation of those i talked about in this entry. All in all,it stands for being unable to fulfill your ambitions...judge it yourself.

Rainer Maria Rilke
The Panther

His vision from the passing of the bars
is grown so weary that it holds no more.
To him it seems there are a thousand bars
and behind a thousand bars no world.

The padding gait of flexibly strong strides,
that in the very smallest circle turns,
is like a dance of strength around a center
in which stunned a great will stands.

Only sometimes the curtain of the pupil
soundlessly parts –. Then an image enters,
goes through the tensioned stillness of the limbs –
and in the heart ceases to be.

original german version:

Sein Blick ist vom Vorübergehn der Stäbe
so müd geworden, daß er nichts mehr hält.
Ihm ist, als ob es tausend Stäbe gäbe
und hinter tausend Stäben keine Welt.

Der weiche Gang geschmeidig starker Schritte,
der sich im allerkleinsten Kreise dreht,
ist wie ein Tanz von Kraft um eine Mitte,
in der betäubt ein großer Wille steht.

Nur manchmal schiebt der Vorhang der Pupille
sich lautlos auf –. Dann geht ein Bild hinein,
geht durch der Glieder angespannte Stille –
und hört im Herzen auf zu sein.

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