Someone wrote me and said I’m not sufficiently optimistic in these letters. This could be true. I have to conceive of it. I’ve plenty of faults. I already covered self-regard. Sure. I’ve a head on me. And a mouth. But I’ve a dram of self-awareness and I’m sipping.
The trouble with cripple optimism is I don’t like pom poms. Disability sentiment, treacle, the tawdry Telethons, the sloganeering—“the only disability is a bad attitude” these leave me colder than the dead hands of Charlton Heston.
I do believe disability optimism rests in getting the job done, whether that’s protesting the outright inaccessibility of a program, service, or building, or persisting in endeavors that make us stronger. There’s no sugar flavor when it comes to what I hold because cripples too often have to eat their own hearts. Do you remember the famous poem by Stephen Crane? Here it is:
In the Desert
In the desert
I saw a creature, naked, bestial,
Who, squatting upon the ground,
Held his heart in his hands,
And ate of it.
I said, “Is it good, friend?”
“It is bitter—bitter,” he answered;
“But I like it
“Because it is bitter,
“And because it is my heart.”
Contrast this with the following quote from Winston Churchill:
Now, Crane’s poem would be entirely different if it began:
In the desert
I saw a courageous man…
Which begs the question, is it courage and it’s sister, optimism, which raises us from being merely beasts?
A false dichotomy perhaps, but it’s a point well taken, for if optimism is at least worthy of this question it’s worth imagining as one of the intellectual ingredients necessary for a productive life.
Eating your heart is not in any sense a profitable activity.
But let’s say an optimist could eat his heart. He would, I think, say it is tough.