Of Kafka and a Blind Swim

“I can swim like the others only I have a better memory than the others. I have not forgotten my former inability to swim. But since I have not forgotten it my ability to swim is of no avail and I cannot swim after all.”


I’ve always liked this quote from Franz Kafka as it signifies the dilemma of blindness. I can see like the others, until I remember I’m not permitted. One then forgets his hoped for equality. Kafka would have perfectly understood the analogy. Only the best people are allowed to have the perceived advantages of sightedness or something like it. One knows the blind who have celebrity status, the mountain climber, the soul singer—they’re allowed an equal place in the public imagination. Most blind have not forgotten their former inability to swim.

Disability is excess, unbalanced, unrefined, offering troubles galore to the public nerve. Seeing is believing. Blindness is irrational. If you’re blind in the workplace and need accommodations you’re generally understood to be unbalanced.

Even Harry Houdini that old fraud knew how the audience loved the story of a man who could disable himself and get out of it without a lick of help.

Author: skuusisto

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

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