Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Did Diogenes Have a Disability?


One of the more interesting things about living disabled for a long period -- let's simply say, until we shuffle off Shakespeare's mortal coil -- is the evolution of attitude.

In Seven Wheelchairs, I stumble toward the idea that I survive through a bastard mating of stoicism and existentialism, dressed in Lincoln's observation "Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be," and reconciled with Viktor Frankl's ideal:
Everything can be taken from a man or a woman but one thing: the last of human freedoms to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way.
That's why I thought Simon Critchley's essay in the New York Times, Cynicism We Can Believe In, spoke to those of us who live a life disabled.

Critchley discusses Diogenes and sums up the Greek's philosophy as "Cynicism is basically a moral protest against hypocrisy and cant in politics and excess and thoughtless self-indulgence in the conduct of life."

Diogenes' cynicism -- denial and debasement of self -- invites us to pull back into the person we are, to live without external influence. In that regard, a person with a severe mobility disability, a total hearing impairment, or a blind person may find a door open to the peace to be found along "the path to individual freedom."

Or perhaps not.

All I know is there's little value in complaining about what cannot be changed. And that may be cynical in the modern sense of the word.

2 comments:

Ruth D~ said...

Check out Galileo, or was it another astronomer? One had a severe eye problem that affected what he saw, or thought he saw through the telescope.

Gary said...

Might you be thinking of the Spanish painter Goya? Experts suggest the unusual forms in his paintings are the result of astigmatism. I'm astigmatic too, but the only thing I can paint is a wall.