Photo of Eugene Roberts, marathon runner
What do I believe? I believe that disabilities are a fiction. Only the physical body with its boils and fevers, its losses and displacements is real. Accordingly I believe that every day, everywhere, people with disabilities must negotiate two dynamics: the literal materiality of physical systems, and (far worse) the figurative errors of hyper-semiotic “normate” culture–a culture addicted to a heavily marketed and entirely false idea of physical perfection. Whether we’re talking about the fashion industry or the worship of spectator sports–Hollywood heroes or telegenic politicians–we’re talking about the public’s idealization of bodies and body types, an idealization that marks all deviations with stigma.
By today’s standards Jean Harlow would be too fat for the movies. Clark Gable wouldn’t pass his screen test. The “normate” culture believes in the emperor’s new clothes. It thinks you’re lacking in all value if you wear a size 6 dress. God help you if you have a birth mark, crooked teeth, a bump in your nose, or you’re pigeon toed.
What do I believe? I believe that people with disabilities have a certain inner balance, a richness and clarity of their own natures. I believe that people with disabilities possess inherently beautiful forms for all form is composed of lines and planes, twists, colors, diverse arrangements. And all the better.
The interior lives of people with disabilities are harmonious with the diversity of nature itself. These things I believe. I believe the soul needs nothing added to it to be beautiful. I believe all figures of creation are beautiful. I am rooted in this. I find I cannot be moved.
What do I believe? I believe Peter Singer doesn’t know enough about art. I believe that wounded warriors are only measured by the spread of our welcoming arms. I believe that one day we will look on the age of Hollywood and Milan and Madison Avenue and cluck our tongues at the slavishness of conformity and the simplicity of taste and habits that ruled these times. I’m not saying this revolution is coming tomorrow.
What do I believe? I believe in the beauty of aging. Like Ficino I believe the body is subject to time and time is beautiful. I am rooted in this. I find I cannot be moved.
What do I believe?
Art can deceive us and it can save us.