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“Each of us has to be like that kid in the Hans Christian Andersen tale, the one where he calls a shovel a shovel. Why? ‘Cause today it’s being used to bury us with and distract us from where we stand respecting Eternity.” — from an essay written by one of the author’s home schooled teens

“We do not understand in order to believe. Rather, we believe so that we may have a mere scintilla of understanding.” — from a speech given by one of the author’s children.

 I’ve had extensive interaction with my Down Syndrome brother-in-law, and one of my sons manifests symptoms of Asperger’s Syndrome. In addition, I’ve had some contact with folks suffering from other forms of Autism, Brain Injury, Behavior Disorders, Spina Bifida, Cerebral Palsey, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and various Intellectual Disabilities.

This does not make me an expert whatsoever respecting people plagued with these conditions. Not at all. But I reference them here to underscore that pleasant, instructive experiences with demographics all along the spectrum are part of my background. And that I consider everyone to be worthy of my heartbeats. Part of my mission — truth be told — is to encourage others to embrace one and all, including those who are too often sidestepped so that folks can remain on their treadmills uninterrupted, and not address what is, perhaps, uncomfortable.

Uncomfortable. That’s an interesting concept. Invoked, much more often than not as if suffering is not part of the human condition. As if “happiness” (with no, or very little, suffering) is possible in this life, this troubled world. [Pause.] Well, that’s certainly something sought — considered desirable — by the vast majority of folks — including very decent people — who I cross paths with and read about daily.

That needs to be spotlighted. Addressed in depth. For the abominations abroad and at home which we are complicit in are directly related to the notion that personal comfort, success, passions are all the be all and end all of this million-petaled flower we call Life. This glorious existence… full of Mystery and Wonder, if we allow ourselves to be truly open to that which we are embedded in, that which is part of our own blood and bones and breath. Midst the pied beauty of authentic life… to be juxtaposed with our narrow-minded perception of its complexity. With joy.

The first step must be the baby step of acknowledging that YOU are not important, that you are part of something which can only be seen, felt and understood through a glass darkly.

Reducing injustice and the bringing about of relative peace on the planet is positively correlated with what we think of as comfort. How we think about it. And it is very clear to me — having been a proactive concerned citizen since I was going on my seventh birthday in 1949 — that to encourage the radical restructuring of society that’s been necessary for quite some time, to make possible the watershed in history which is now necessary, it will be necessary for each and every person to transform significantly… personally. For none of us can totally escape the influences which our sick society imposes on us. Think about how many of our products and how much of our activity demand oil, for starters.

It is not to be ignored that the U.S. is considered to be the greatest threat to world peace, according to a relatively recent PEW poll. And only the fully blind and oblivious among us can think that the unprecedented suicide rates and opioid addiction nationwide among virtually all demographics are not related to our looking out for Number One, our making ourselves the most important thing under the Sun. I am talking about selfishness and being self-centered, of course, what’s at the opposite end of the spectrum from caring about the Collective Good.

What’s good about being engaged with those afflicted with developmental disabilities is that it reminds me of my responsibility for all of Mother Earth’s lovely creatures, encourages me not to lose sight of the fact that we are losing species all across the board at a rate not seen since the dinosaurs went extinct.

There’s a lot more that’s “good” about being involved with their suffering, of course. Much more… which I will be honored to elaborate on, upon request. For now, though, perhaps it’s enough to plant a seed about what being uncomfortable is all about for most Americans, the privileged people on Planet Earth.

Eyes on eternity, please.

Richard Martin Oxman (Ricardo Bueyhombre) is Director of Flannery O’Connor Academy, and can be reached at aptosnews@gmail.com. He prays that one and all will embrace the notion that O bailan todos o no baile nadie. Either everyone dances or no one dances. There are many other ways to express the thrust of that mantra, and the author encourages readers to discuss its variations.

 

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