Hopscotch and Disability

“You’re like a witness. You’re the one who goes to the museum and looks at the paintings. I mean the paintings are there and you’re in the museum too, near and far away at the same time. I’m a painting. Rocamadour is a painting. Etienne is a painting, this room is a painting. You think that you’re in the room but you’re not. You’re looking at the room, you’re not in the room.”

Julio Cortázar, Hopscotch

The above lines from Cortazar offer a beautiful description of disability for every cripple who seeks entrance to public space never makes it, never quite, though the tireless mind insists, believes, remonstrates that it’s in the room, salon, gallery, it isn’t and never has been. The cripple is always outside looking in. We are in effect at a party that doesn’t love us. And like Cortazar’s existential figure, we’re near and far at the same time.

Every sensible person must feel this to varying degrees. The “Groucho Effect” holds one shouldn’t join any club that will have you, a fair joke as modernity is all about joining and the membership may be too dear if you’re not paying attention. The disability conundrum is different—you think you’re in the club but you’re not which combine to offer a disappointment both of illusion and agency. It’s a two-fold setback.

Give up, yes? Cortazar:

“Why couldn’t I accept what was happening without trying to explain it, without bringing up ideas of order and disorder, of freedom, as one sets out geranium pots in a courtyard on the Calle Cochabamba? Maybe one had to fall into the depths of stupidity in order to make the key fit the lock to the latrine or to the Garden of Olives.”

Who hasn’t thought about falling into the depths of stupid? Cripple-dom is the unending insistence on belonging, pertaining to rights, hence exhausting.

When you’ve lived a long time under a regime of intolerance and guile, a governance of positioned despairs, all of them explained by businessmen and men like Clint Eastwood, well why not speak in a low gibberish?

Some days I really do believe I’m gibbering in the museum of normalcy.

You’re looking at the room, you’re not in the room.

The consolations of phenomenology….

As Cardinal Newman said: “We can believe what we choose. We are answerable for what we choose to believe.” I know my choices well. I’m of an age when (again quoting Newman): “You must make up your mind to the prospect of sustaining a certain measure of pain and trouble in your passage through life.” I ask myself if I knew what fights were proper? Did I accept the consequences? Admit I couldn’t be liked by many? I accepted the repercussions. There would indeed be a certain measure of pain. We are all answerable for what we choose to believe, whether we’re religious or atheists. We’re also answerable for the choices we make when it comes to speaking up or not speaking at all. In an age of calculated victimization, when universal human rights are besieged on all sides, not speaking is a choice but one I fear.

I’m in the room alright.

The cripple-room always offers invitations to demand the answerable. It’s the classroom of critical pedagogy in practice.

Newman, we’re also answerable for what we choose to disbelieve.

I will sustain my measure of pain and trouble. Accept what I can change and rail against what I can’t.

I’ll still say “peace” without irony.