“But just as man is mysteriously ashamed of the skeletons of the trees in winter, so he is mysteriously ashamed of the skeleton of himself in death. It is a singular thing altogether, this horror of the architecture of things. One would think it would be most unwise in a man to be afraid of a skeleton, since Nature has set curious and quite insuperable obstacles to his running away from it.”
When I was a boy and in love with Superman I took the “old super” at face value and chose, insofar as a child does, to equate super-ness with truth, justice, and the American way. It wasn’t until I went to junior high and owing to blindness was subjected to cruelties by classmates and teachers that I first recognized insuperable obstacles–the social and physical architectures of ableism. Ableism is the fear of a skeleton.
Nowadays when I think of design justice I know that the singular thing as Chesterton puts it is the horror of humankind to the architecture of things and hence a fealty to whatever is unimaginative. Ashamed of our bodies, grasping and covetous that in their vulnerabilities they should remain unchanged, we design physical and digital spaces that are as unwise as the fear of bones.
Ableism is the fear of a skeleton. Oops. Here comes a blind one with his skeleton dog. The security checkpoint in your average airport grinds to a halt. How will the man and dog proceed through our metal detectors? Panic ensues. Buttons are pressed. Behind the blind skeleton man and his bony dog all human progress comes to a halt. Frustrated passengers cry out. The underpaid and hapless transportation personnel are themselves panicked. Can we take his dog away? Can we pat down the dog? How do we talk to the man? Can we grab him? Everyone in this scene is ashamed of his, her, or they body. All are secretly conscience stricken about working in this iridescent slaughterhouse.
Here comes a woman with a metal hip. Here’s a transgender man. The algorithms of the scanning machine flip out. The transgender person is subjected to a cruel public show trial which is loud and entirely demeaning. Who will pat they down? The computer design team behind the AI behind the screening machine are 80 per cent to blame for this misery, the rest, well the shaming industry resides in every pencil.
It is the skeleton principle. And there’s no Superman in sight.
Nature has set insuperable obstacles to ignoring or outrunning the skeleton which is the chief value of the thing, for Mr. Bones is nature itself. Shouldn’t we admit we’re all falling apart? Can’t we build public spaces that not only incorporate (yes pun intended) this idea, but make much of it?
I shall defend the insuperable, hopeless, insurmountable grind of the imperfect perfect.
“Therefore all deformed persons are extreme bold — first, as in their own defence, as being exposed to scorn, but in process of time, by a general habit.”
–Francis Bacon “Of Deformity”
From a notebook:
Morning, the color of shipwreck.
Without leaving the present, the condition prior to our entrance, bent like an embryo.
Ignominy, jewels of perdition strung together. The eyes are nudists. The eyes have no philosophy but cry to be entertained.
Boyhood: all lapsus linguae.
Even now I keep a mortal house with no inhabitants.
Last night I cracked a window and my hands shook as they often do. The body, the dark, the raising–what? I saw how literalism and futurism are of little value when you’re crooked.
The broken body is fire. Das Lebend’ge will ich preisen/Das nach Flammentod sich sehnet
Walked the neighborhood, slowly, in the way of the crippled, but I was really in the cave of phantoms–
Playing a part, spiritual body, no singular life
Still, bones full of warnings
Routine, dismal, bored with gathering
A cripple reads too many newspapers
Canary on the terrace filled with excess. His narrow throat of destiny
Of deformity, knowledge is specific, enters the man by bits
Incarnation is iconoclasm. The crooked man throws ashes
Advances across borders
He moves stiffly in the lamplight’s theater