Disability and the Porcupine

I am all for the porcupines. I know them. They are unfamiliar to some, but not to me. At night the porcupines used to climb onto the rocking chairs on the porch at my grandfather’s farm. I think you would too, if you were a barbed and largely misunderstood creature. Those rocking chairs felt good. After years I see those rockers were an accommodation. Freed from their customary fight or flee panic they could glide for a time. Did I mention it was night? Wouldn’t you want to rock at night if you were covered in quills? I say the rocking chair was really invented for the porcupines. And all should have them.

Now here’s the problem: we define accommodations rather narrowly. We say only certain cripples should have them. We wrangle, gnash our teeth, argue, tear the delicate damask curtains, take the matter to court. The porcupine teaches us a thing or two. She says: from each according to his ability to each according to his need. She says a rocking porcupine keeps away the raccoons. She says you should never underestimate the potential contributions of others.

Last night a porcupine said to me in a dream: “admit that you’re married.” “What if you’re single?” I said. “No one is single,” she said, “for you’re like the turtle, carrying your house on your back. You have a horse because you can’t walk fast. You have ink so you can persuade strangers. You have nose drops, eye glasses, shoes, deodorant—all sorts of improvements. And you “husband” these things. You take them for granted. You’re in a bad marriage with your hundred adaptations. You have forgotten you’re not perfect. You’re not even adequate.”

The porcupine teaches us that all humanity needs accommodations. Don’t pretend they’re just for disabled people. 

Rock on, my pointy friends, rock on.