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.
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