Optimism, Cripples, Family Bibles, and Good Old John Rawls….

Have Dog, Will Travel: a Poet's Journey by Stephen Kuusisto

“Call me Ishmael” says the family bible which sits lithically on its shelf and which no one has opened since grandmother died. “Please call my Ishmael” it says, adding: “let me wander to the far off houses…” But the Bible you see is like an impoverished man who must sit and sit. In this way the old thing is like a cripple alone in a back room in a farm house in a country town. The lame one who, if revealed, will spoil the daughter’s arranged marriage. Try this if you think I’m kidding: take the dark, thick, dusty family bible into the street and offer it to passersby and see what happens…


“Change the subject,” says Uncle History. He’s sick of religion. I don’t blame him. “Let’s have some of those American prunes,” he shouts.

Meantime: Pierre Fournier, Beethoven, Sonata for Cello and Piano #1 in F.


“For the most part I examine the principles of justice that would regulate a well-ordered society. Everyone is presumed to act justly and to do his part in upholding just institutions.”

John Rawls “A Theory of Justice”

Oh Rawls, you were such a willful optimist. But you see, I struggle with you—yes, you’ve a fictive epistemology; yes, the rights of the disabled derive from just such optimism.

The lesson: imagine rational utopias. Evidence may come later.


Meanwhile the disabled, people like me, we trouble the mechanisms.


I want more patience. Dear Rawls…..


So the river with all its catfish is filled with various kinds of music. Let’s get that straight.


“But the main reason we are so anxious about the genomic revolution is that we are psychologically equipped to misunderstand it. Unlike, say, the study of subatomic physics, where almost no one outside of the physics community feels that he or she can make heads or tails of it, the notion that we possess genes that make us who we are makes intuitive sense. But it turns out that conclusion is inaccurate, or at least imprecise. Yet we persist in this belief that our genes control our lives. We are genetic fatalists.”

Excerpt From: “DNA is Not Destiny.” iBooks.

And so, back to the dark toad family bible….

I picture a two horse race: science is in the lead, but wait, here comes superstition…oh my, this race is coming down to the wire!”


For me, well, it takes a bus load of Beethoven to get by.

Piano and cello off shore in a boat….


Please, I just want a horse race where the animals are trained with optimism and no one gets hurt.

Stephen Kuusisto and HarleyABOUT: Stephen Kuusisto is the author of the memoirs Have Dog, Will Travel; Planet of the Blind (a New York Times “Notable Book of the Year”); and Eavesdropping: A Memoir of Blindness and Listening and of the poetry collections Only Bread, Only Light and Letters to Borges. A graduate of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop and a Fulbright Scholar, he has taught at the University of Iowa, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, and Ohio State University. He currently teaches at Syracuse University where he holds a University Professorship in Disability Studies. He is a frequent speaker in the US and abroad. His website is StephenKuusisto.com.

Have Dog, Will Travel: A Poet’s Journey is now available for pre-order:
Barnes and Noble

Have Dog, Will Travel by Stephen Kuusisto

(Photo picturing the cover of Stephen Kuusisto’s new memoir “Have Dog, Will Travel” along with his former guide dogs Nira (top) and Corky, bottom.) Bottom photo by Marion Ettlinger 

Author: skuusisto

Poet, Essayist, Blogger, Journalist, Memoirist, Disability Rights Advocate, Public Speaker, Professor, Syracuse University

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