Avail, Avail

Cover of Planet of the Blind....man and dog....

I’ve always liked the word avail. What does it avail you? The wondrous Online Etymology Dictionary tells the tale: “avail (v.) c. 1300, availen, “to help (someone), assist; benefit, be profitable to; be for the advantage of; have force or efficacy, serve for a purpose,” apparently an Anglo-French compound of Old French a- “to” (see ad-) vaill-, present stem of valoir “be worth,” from Latin valere “be strong, be worth” (from PIE root *wal- “to be strong”). Related: Availed; availing. As a noun, from c. 1400.”

With a little fine tuning one can see benefit and profit tied to purpose. I’ve always wanted an “availian party” rather than current political and economic customs.

Valoir: be of worth.

Meanwhile I placed roses on Karl Marx’s tomb some years back but I also put them at George Eliot’s mausoleum for I think she was of the greater good in the old French way.


Now availing also means to have a center, and if it’s not spiritual it comes close. Helping you helps me.

This is hard for sighted people to do when thinking of the blind.

Not long ago while visiting a famous arts colony I heard a notable writer say that henceforth the famous arts colony would no longer be “blind and poor” when it comes to appreciating outlier forms of art. He said it twice during a formal speech.

And there I was with my guide dog. I’ve spent the last thirty years writing six books which argue blindness is a rich way of knowing.

I was insulted and remain so. Yet this is business as usual for the sighted who can’t describe seeing imagine they know it thoroughly and think the blind are among them “on sufferance” and yes, we make them nervous by our very appearance.

I share with my Black, Indigenous and LGBTQT brothers and sisters and all my foreign friends the capacity to make dominators nervous. All of us are thought to be “here on sufferance” and yet there’s something especially dishonest about the blind, the lame, the halt.

The dishonest thing is that the sighted, unable to tell me what vision means, and only able to describe their toys and fascinations as it were, the majority of them have no availing center. Without this they can’t imagine the glory of life itself. You think sight seeing is the secret to living.

And if they believe this, then they also must believe that language isn’t much of a thing.

Author: skuusisto

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

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