Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Sunshine and Smiles

Here are assorted pictures from various parks. Finally in our part of the world, the weather is warm and we're enjoying the outdoors as much as possible!


Brother and sister, best friends, sharing a swing.


Daddy has Little Mister in a (gentle) headlock.


Mister and Abi perch in our front yard plum tree


Abi has learnd to swing on the big swings, pump and had her first "underdog" this week, which resulted in happy giggles.


Mister delivers a blow to Daddy's solar plexus.


Curly, Bean and Abi get themselves as dizzy as possible on the tire swing.


Do you think flushed faces and big smiles indicate that Curly and Mister are having a good time?


Selfie of us. Love!


Throwing mini chestnuts into a hole in the tree.


Love my big, dumb Labrador. :)

I hope your summer is as happy as ours!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Thursday, June 13, 2013

O&M Lesson

A new friend that I met a few weeks ago at the Jump Start workshop is getting his Master's in O&M (Orientation and Mobility) and came to get some practice hours using us as guinea pigs. I was thrilled, since I have never had and formal cane training, and this guy is totally blind, so he could show us how it's done from the position of experience. Very cool!

Monday, June 10, 2013

It's VBS time again!

I'm amazed at how far Abi has come since VBS last June! I stayed with her class again, just in case, but she did absolutely fabulous. As a bonus, her little friend J who is also adopted from Ethiopia and also blind came to VBS, and the girls had a blast together. They looked like twins, except that J is one year older. She also kept asking Abi to guide her, with somewhat hilarious results. The blind leading the blind. 

Bean seemed so much bigger too. He was really able to participate this time and did not seem like a baby. All the kids had a heap o'fun. :)

Friday, June 7, 2013

A Number of Things I Love About Being Blind

Okay, okay, I know I'm not supposed to love being blind. Heck, I'm not even legally blind; I just can't see. I guess I'm illegally blind. Anyway, I was walking home from downtown tonight, and it occurred to me that I love being blind, for a number of reasons that sighted people probably never thought of.

Since I came out a couple of years ago, I have struggled to identify myself as a blind person, or a low vision person, or whatever. It didn't fit. Nobody knew I wasn't seeing. I didn't really know I wasn't seeing, although I kept getting clues when I found that I was having anxiety attacks about stairs, and for some reason nobody else I talked to ever did. But even though I suspected, I deliberately hid it. I felt brave, but now I'm learning to be brave in a new way.

Other blind people have been brave enough to like being blind. Tommy Edison, for example. Of course I don't get the perks that legally blind people get, like SSI or free books, getting to skip PE. But I have a lot of things I like about the crazy way that I see. Here are a few:

The World Is Beautiful

I've written about this before, of course, but tonight I was amazed again at the way that light playing between the leaves of the trees looks absolutely stunning, and I am almost the only person who gets to enjoy it the way that I do. Blemishes and imperfections remain hidden in the blur of my watercolor world, and even an old rental house painted a faded salmon looks lovely. The extra time it takes to accomplish everything is time well spent in slowing down to notice the world go by.

Although many sighted people appreciate sound and music, I think there might be a richer depth of listening that I do. It's not a matter of hearing; it's a matter of noticing. I've learned the value in noticing the little things around me, to stop and smell the flowers, sometimes literally. The world is a beautiful place and I love to appreciate every moment of it.

I Might Never Have Met This Person


A long road led to my meeting Abi, but it started with me as a child, frustrated that I couldn't see faces, picking up a book about a blind boy, and finding my people. After that, I read everything I could get my hands on about blind people. Some of it was good, but a lot was sad to me: tales of low expectations and no education, of discrimination and rejection and bullying. These tales planted the seed inside of me that I wanted to adopt a kid who was blind, just so I could raise her like any other kid. 

I doubt I would have felt so strongly about this if I wasn't scared and bullied and misunderstood myself. I doubt I would have made it through the incredibly daunting adoption process and adjustment phase. I doubt it would have ever happened if I hadn't knows deep within myself that she was one of my people.

I'm In The Club

They call it the blindness community. I didn't think I'd ever be a card-carrying member, since I didn't have a proper diagnosis. the gatekeepers wouldn't let me in, so I figured the "real blind people" wouldn't either. I was wrong.

Mostly online (I live in a town slightly larger than a breadbox, so not many blind people here) I have met the most wonderful and supportive friends. Friends who "get" me in a way I didn't realize that I needed. They have their own stories of misdiagnoses and of bullying too. They understand broken toes on a regular basis, and why my shins always have bruises. I'd take the bruises any day to get to be friends with these people. Thoughtful, caring, compassionate, diverse, humorous people that I am honored to stand among as friends.

The blindness community has plenty of internal fractures, oddly enough. For being as small and specialized as it is, there are strong opinions, and plenty of conflict. Some of us believe that society is the only cause of problems, while others desire to find a medical cure. Some of us advocate politically; some push back against stereotypes and misunderstanding by blogging or talking to people they meet on the street. Some of us love the sighted professionals or charities that help us; some feel oppressed and misunderstood by them. But all of have things in common, and all of have a will to live our lives as we choose; all of us share the similar fight to do so. Maybe they let me in because I know too much about this; maybe it's just because I can spread peanut butter in the dark. but I've discovered that I need them, and I love them.

I Like the Challenge

Everything I do, everywhere I go, everything I have to read requires problem solving. The world constantly has to be translated into a method that will work for me, and rather than being annoyed by that, I embrace it! I love rising to challenges and solving complex logistical problems. Maybe that is why I stayed covert for so long; I knew the challenge I faced just getting through everyday life, but nobody else did, and that was kind of neat.

Now that I'm open about it, I face other challenges. When nobody knew I couldn't see, they let me work fast food (even fryers!) and march in band. They held the same educational standards for me as everyone else, but I couldn't read the board. Now, the challenges are more social. I have to fight for the right to have equal opportunity at employment, even though I know I can still work the fryers just like I did years ago. I have to fight to be treated as an equal, a fight that my daughter will share. At a recent workshop, I requested a certain accommodation due to my vision and was denied for the simple reason that it was too technical for the workshop presenter to accomplish, or she was not organized enough, I don't know. For whatever reason, I was denied access, and unlike years ago, it wasn't my fault for not telling anybody.

Still, there is a part of me that likes it. I think if I had a bit thicker skin I could enjoy politics, because I enjoy trying to change the world for the better through rhetoric, through education, through example. I like the arena this gives me to help myself and others achieve more.  Sure, it hurts to have family members tell me I'm hurting my children and husband by being blind, as if I could do anything about it. Sure, it makes me angry to have a potential employer tell me there is no way I'd get hired and that is the reason. But it steels my resolve to not be silent. Other blind people I know who are not feisty people at all have joined the crusade, like Becky, because they don't want to see the ignorance and discrimination continue.

I Have an Automatic Friend-Sorter

Some people can't tell who their true friends are. Oddly enough, I don't have that problem. As a friend who has a multi-racial family wrote once: "It just makes it easy to tell who the a-holes are." Like other blind people, I don't judge people by looks, or by so-called social class, but by character. I'm never shy to make friends with other people who may look different or have a disability, and in so doing, I have found beautiful people that others sometimes overlook. Some people who are mean or cruel wouldn't make good friends anyway, and I don't need to bother with them. 

Once in a while I run across the odd duck who wants to "collect" interesting friends and tries to add me to their collection. But this ends up being so laughably obvious, it's usually not hard to let it drift, and see if they are interested in being real friends based on mutual respect.

I've found that while I am more awkward to some people, I'm more approachable to others. Since I have never felt very socially savvy, it's nice to have people feel like they want to come talk to me or ask questions, which I never mind answering. All in all, I find that people are quite a bit more fun once they know I can't see them. Before, I was the one who felt at a loss and awkward, but after I let people know I don't need to worry any more.

Walking Is Awesome

The only time I have ever minded not driving was the few times that Curly got left at school by whoever was supposed to give her a ride home. I wanted to hop in the car and go get her, but that happened only maybe once or twice, and the rest of the time I really like not driving. A huge amount of stress and tension has gone because I knew I wasn't safe, plus it gave me horrible headaches and always had.

I love walking, even in weather most people would consider bad. I just wear a good coat, like skiers do. The world is beautiful and I love watching the seasons change, and smelling the air. I love getting exercise for a useful purpose, and I love teaching the kids that there are other ways to get around than hopping into a gas-guzzling vehicle all the time. Riding the city bus with them is always a hoot. Riding with friends is fun, and there are so many lovely conversations I've had while sitting in the passenger seat. Usually, I try to ride with people who are headed somewhere anyway, and others enjoy the company and conversation as much as I do.

But most of all, I love to walk. Since I was in sixth grade and was allowed to walk down to the mini-mart, I have loved to get from point A to point B on my own two feet, with the minor exception of high school, because it was supremely un-cool to walk. Oh, and college when it was supremely cool to go to church in the next town over, and to be involved in every activity under the sun there! Still, I love walking best, and I love that it really is my first choice now.

Technology Rocks

Reading braille is cool. It just feels neat. And VoiceOver on the iPhone? Sigh. I'm in love. All the nifty GPS stuff they have now? And all the e-books? And LibriVox? and refreshable braille displays? Yes please! I keep trying to talk Hubby into inventing something nifty too, but he is too busy. Maybe someday. 



So... low vision, or whatever I have, is nifty. I don't know why I have sensory processing disorder, or cortical visual impairment or whatever I have. I don't know why the myopia got so bad. Or why correction causes headaches. But I do know that there isn't much that is bad about it. there never has been. I like it, because it's normal for me. Do I feel sorry for myself? Nope. Do I feel sorry for Hubby and the kids? Nope. They might get a blind mom who happens to struggle with depression and hypoglycemia, but they also get a smart, savvy mom who can teach them a lot of cool stuff. They get a mom who adores them and works my tail off to take good care of them and nurture them in the way each of them needs. Hubby gets a wife who can problem-solve and talk with him about theology, and cook a really mean steak. A wife who isn't scared to fly to Africa by herself (well, okay, I was scared. But I did it!) and who loves to read and learn and build things and hike. And I'm pretty sure he likes me for my differences, not in spite of them.

End of deep thoughts for today. I think I'm going to go put in Newsies tonight and have me a nice glass of something yummy. :)



Chocolate Math

Everyone who teaches math to blind kids says its really hard. Well, everyone who teaches math to kids says its hard. But teachers of sighted kids will push through and try ten different methods until something clicks. Failure is not an option. 

When Curly and Mister were three and five, I used to give them M&Ms almost every day and we'd practice counting and adding. It occurred to me that Abi and Bean need the same practice. Not to mention that nobody can say they hate math when it involves chocolate!



I've been pondering WHY it's hard to teach math to blind kids. The most immediate problem that comes to mind is that math is written in a visual, spatial manner, so it is difficult to merely get the information in using tactile (linear) or oral (linear) methods. Then, math uses visual-spatial methods to manipulate the numbers to arrive at the answer or understand the operations. 

Blind people are taught to use an abacus as a tactile method of manipulating numbers. Math problems are written in Nemeth Braille using a Braille writer and can sort of be lined up, but the fingers can't see the problem spatially like the eyes can. 

Once problems are identified, solutions can begin to appear. Tactile manipulatives are taking the early elementary math world by storm. Mental and oral math seem like obvious skills to practice. Learning Nemeth Braille will be necessary along the way. It's no different, really than learning to write the language of math using print. 

I hope we can do a lot of practical, hands-on math with Abi like I did with the other kids while Unschooling. The more that I can make math seem useful and understandable, the less intimidating it is. Games on the iPod Touch would be great if I can find some that will talk. 

Skills like measuring length, telling time and temperature and measuring volume can all be accomplished using adapted equipment, some of which we already have. 

Today, my goal was to merely introduce Abi to the language of addition. Using the candies, we'd say "If you have three here, and three here, how many are there?" Right! Six! So, three plus three makes six."

Now I need to figure out how to write that in Braille. Time to start studying Nemeth code!


Thursday, June 6, 2013

Pool Opening Day!

The swimming pool opened today! We all went, and I was so impressed at how confident both of the Littles were in the water. They really picked up right where they left off last fall.  Abi especially went right into the water and started splashing. Little Mister was just tall enough to go on the big slides, so he was absolutely thrilled about that. Curly met some friends and had a ball.




Contributing A Verse

Over at Hubby's blog, we're having an ongoing read/discuss/blog about some of John Hull's essays on disability theology.

I'd like to copy part of one of the posts here, addressing the question, "Why participate in such dialogue?"

I sympathized with Hull’s conclusionary statement that our culture, so long entrenched in ableism (disablism in the UK) has so far to travel before any significant change is effected that to view such a world seems merely like foolish idealism. Yet, I still hope, and dialogue about this because I believe that words and ideas have power. Doing nothing will bring nothing. Doing something as small as joining in these discussions and dialogues may someday bring society shuffling closer to this kind of respectful thinking that we today can only dream of enjoying.
As Walt Whitman says, that I may contribute a verse.
O ME! O life!… of the questions of these recurring;
Of the endless trains of the faithless—of cities fill’d with the foolish;
Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?)
Of eyes that vainly crave the light—of the objects mean—of the struggle ever renew’d;
Of the poor results of all—of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me; 
Of the empty and useless years of the rest—with the rest me intertwined;
The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life?
Answer.
That you are here—that life exists, and identity;
That the powerful play goes on, and you will contribute a verse.

Monday, June 3, 2013

In Search of a More Robust Theology of Disability

This morning, my Hubby sent me to read this blog post by a local reformed pastor:

Blind people are not themselves cursed. Jesus made that clear. Yet blindness is a sign of the curse. It signals the possibility of objectification, the possibility (unknown in Eden) of gazing at a person who cannot return the gaze, the possibility of a unilateral gaze. In blindness is embedded the possibility of sexual abuse, of totalitarian regimes, of anti-humanism. 
But Jesus came to give sight to the blind, which is to say, to give the gazed-at the dignity of a return gaze. 
In healing the blind, Jesus is busy healing human sociality and giving freedom to captives.


Source: http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/leithart/2013/06/03/blind-curse/

Note: I'd like to apologize here to Peter Leithart for what seems like a personal attack. I live in the same town as he does (or did), have been at homeschool events with his family, and have the highest respect for him. I merely used his post this morning as a convenient example of beliefs held by the wider theological community and  have tried to address those, NOT attack him personally.


Following was an email exchange that went like this:

Me:

The usual "blindness is bad" trope. Yawn.
Spoken like a theologian who has zero personal experience with blindness.

Hubby:

Ummmmm, but he starts out by saying there is nothing wrong with blind people. That is, that they are not cursed. Which is a good start at least.

Me:

From a purely theological perspective, this idea sort of might work, but from the perspective of trying to live as a Christian who happens to have this condition, this rhetoric can be extremely annoying if not downright harmful, when people who read it cannot separate out my life from the rhetoric of a spiritual curse from the condition with the same name. 

The disclaimer at the beginning does nothing for it. 
It would be exactly the same as saying "Black people are not cursed, but black skin is the curse of Cain." The rhetoric is still used to justify racism, completely ignoring the disclaimer. 
Hubby:

Theology has to be applied to be of use. But, behind any practice you find on the ground, behind it is a theology/philosophy, whether the person can actually articulate it or not. So, as we discussed earlier, the church really needs a good theology of disability. It really does. It doesn't have a very good one either for the most part, either because it's been overwhelmed by faulty ideas, (blind people are cursed, sinful, don't have enough faith, etc.) or just neglect from thinkers and leaders that should know better. That is, it simply hasn't been addressed very well. People were too busy dealing with other things and the disabled people got neglected by the church father's too. All of that is to say, that I think it's an important question worth asking and figuring out. :)
And it is, by nature, going to be a tricky one to work out and communicate. As far as rhetoric goes, that may in fact be the most challenging part. Probably is - communicating a graceful, biblical, holistic theology of disability without people jumping to conclusions and falling back on some silly established idea about it. Being able to separate out details is going to require a hearer who is willing to be patient and listen and who has at least half a brain on their heads. In the days of the 1-liner inspirational quote poster on Facebook, this is probably a tough crowd. And that is all to say that I agree that the disclaimer doesn't do it. There is such a danger of falling into wrong established patterns on this one, that if you were to try and teach someone or write about this, I imagine the "disclaimer" would probably constitute a good 50% at least of the whole talk. "What blindness is NOT and why" sort of thing. 
Thirdly, I think comparing it to that particular justification for racism doesn't work.
For one thing, black skin is NOT curse of Cain. Yes, some people have conjectured that it is over the years and those who want to hate black people will listen to them, but the overwhelming historical Christian consensus is that the idea is nonsense. Secondly, I've always found it baffling that this was used as an some kind of justification for treating black people differently to begin with. As God points out, the point of the mark of Cain is so that people would NOT harm him. Vengeance was the Lord's in the case of Cain and anyone who laid a hand on him was to be destroyed. So it's classic moron exegesis that you could use this as leverage TO lay a hand on Cain's perported children. Hater's gonna hate. 
In contrast to the mark of Cain though, as far as anyone can tell, wholeness of body is the natural state of man in Eden (pre-fall) AND that in the new Jerusalem (No death nor mourning nor crying nor pain... Rev 21:4). The fact that our bodies bread down, our teeth fall out, our limbs creak, and as is the case with most elderly, their eyesight fails and their hearing too - these are all natural consequences of the fall. Of "the curse" of the fall if you will. The same with the pain in childbirth and the weeds growing up everywhere and cramping Adam's style. And people can and do suffer in all kinds of ways. They can fall break their leg and it can maybe never fully heal quite right - they have a limp afterwards. So the fact that it's possible, in the current state of the world, for somebody's eyeballs to not work, IS a "sign of the curse" of sorts. Along with a great many other things. They are all around. I agree though that I wouldn't talk about that aspect too much but rather just state it and move on. 
I think the thing that I liked about Leithart's very brief comment on the topic (and why I even bothered to share it in the first place), is the idea that Jesus comes to give the blind dignity. That loving Christian communities, families, and friends, learning (through the redemption of their hearts and minds) to NOT treat disabled people like wierdos, is EXACTLY the sort of healing here and now that the gospel can bring. It may not make their eyes perceive light again (though that is occasionally the sort of healing the Holy Spirit works though). On a much larger scale, giving someone with a disability the respect and dignity they deserve as children of God is what should be happening. That's what I think anyway and I think that it's largely what you are getting at with your vision-impaired advocacy too. I think when Jesus brings freedom to the captives, it's not just from the internal existential guilt we feel for our own sins, but also from the oppression and "trappedness" we feel from those around us. He teaches us to love each other and so we treat each other less less like captives.

Me:

I disagree. When I compared it to the curse of Cain, I was saying exactly that. Just as black skin is NOT the curse of Cain, SO blindness is NOT a curse from God that needs to be redeemed by grace. 

"Who made the deaf, the mute, the seeing or the blind? Is it not I, the Lord?" The blindness as a curse theology is the exact one that messed me up for so long and I am largely rejecting it.  
Blindness is an erroneous metaphor for darkness and sin, and the biblical culture that used it needs to be rejected in light of modern living and technology. 
Sin and darkness are sin and darkness and NOT blindness. Just as black skin is not the mark of Cain and white people are not more blessed by God. 
The pre-fall man was made in VARIETY by God. I have no idea if pre-fall man might have been blind, because there was only one, but bats are not a cursed mistake. They are made that way. I think God can make blind people in a whole manner, not in a broken, dying, defective manner. 
I know this is radical and somewhat unorthodox. Not saying I am right, but these are my thoughts.

***********

I'd like to expand upon this a little bit. There are several points I'd like to cover with regard to this topic: First of all, I'd like to address the rhetoric used in traditional Christian explanation of blindness as a curse and the effect it has had on society in general and the blind culture in particular. Secondly, I'll hold a minute discussion of orthodoxy and biblical interpretation as it affects the discussion of disability. Thirdly, I'd like to respectfully propose an alternate view of disability from an insider's perspective that allows for a healthy view of living as a Christian disabled person with dignity and purpose in God's favor.

Rhetoric Used in Traditional Christian Explanations of Blindness

The blog post that I posted above contains some classic rhetoric used in theological views of blindness. Blindness has historically been a metaphor for darkness, sin, curse, spiritual ignorance, fear, death, weakness, vulnerability, beggarhood, poverty, sadness, and disorientation, to name a few. Notice the theme here. Everything negative, fearful, terrible and wrong are wrapped up in blindness. In spite of the obligatory disclaimer that blind people are not cursed (John 9), the state of being blind is so deeply connected in our culture with fear and death that most people when polled will admit that the sense they fear losing the most is their sight. Some go so far as to say that if they found out they were going blind, they would commit suicide. ( http://www.raggededgemagazine.com/blogs/edgecentric/metaphors_for_bad/000586largeprint.html )

As a person living with this identity, and with a daughter who shares this identity, I'd like to share a little bit about how this rhetoric practically affects our lives, and what it feels like to have people really say "If I were like you, I'd kill myself."


A Minute Discussion of Orthodoxy and Biblical Interpretation as it Affects the Discussion of Disability

First of all, I'll give my own disclaimer. I am not a theologian. I have been a Christian for thirty-two years, and have taken Bible College classes, have read the Bible through at least five times, studied parts in exhaustive detail, have read some Augustine, some NT Wright, some Chesterton, some CS Lewis (beyond Narnia), some Brother Lawrence, some others, but I don't claim to be able to sit at the round table of modern theologians and discuss with any degree of profundity the issues which affect the modern Church. That being said, I'd like to humbly share some experiences to make the theologians think a little more deeply about how the historical view of disability affects the lives of disabled people in today's church.

The idea that sight=good and blind=bad is so deeply ingrained in our culture that most of us are not even aware of its existence. I can't begin to cover all of the ways that this idea manifests itself, from sighted people giving pity to finding inspiration in how we "cope" with our "suffering" to fearing us, to assuming we have substandard lives, to fervently thanking God they are not us, to rushing up to us on the street and laying hands on us to receive healing, when we are trying to run to the grocery store before an appointment. We are constantly told in numerous subtle ways that we are "broken" or "damaged" and then in the same breath told that we are "brave" and "inspirational" when in reality to us it feels about as important as being tall or short. It is merely a physical attribute and life goes on. For a blind person, being able or willing to return the gaze of a sighted person is not an accurate measure of his dignity or self-worth. By the same token, to the blind person, the sighted person he is talking to seems undignified as a result of the noxious body odor or the grating, gravelly voice and repulsive manner of speaking even though he is meeting the other's gaze. I realize the above was used metaphorically, and thus am I also using it. Consider the actual source of dignity!

The disclaimer that "real blind people don't count" doesn't hold any water at all, because to talk about an attribute of our lives is to talk about us. You cannot propose a theology of dark skin without involving people who have dark skin, or a theology of Asian people without involving people who live in or come from Asia. You cannot talk about how God treats women in the abstract without it affecting real women and how people think about us and treat us and the ways we as people empower or disempower other people to live as Christians, or how apt we are to reject Christianity because it simply does not work as a realistic worldview.

An example of this is a discussion I read recently on social media between a group of mixed blind non-Christians and blind Christians who have experienced sighted Christians approaching them on the street and asking to lay hands on them so that Jesus can heal their blindness. The non-Christians in particular were incredibly repulsed by this experience, which unfortunately stems directly from the theology as put forth in the quoted post above.

Biblically, blind people are beggars, like Blind Bartimaeus, who come to Jesus asking to be healed, to be redeemed, to be given social standing and allowed re-entry into society. Blind people in ancient times were cursed; there is no denying that. They could not navigate or work at meaningful labor. They could not participate in civil government and were hardly better than lepers.

In third-world countries, blindness is the same today. Blind people are not offered an education and usually do not marry or have children. They are taught menial tasks such as basket weaving and are often a lifelong burden on their families or communities. They are poor, pitiful, in short, everything we assume blindness to be. My daughter, adopted from Ethiopia was "rescued" (cringe) from just such a life.

Contrast this with a blind person living in the Western developed world. Here, a blind person in ideal circumstances is taught to read and write using alternative methods. This blind person (we'll use the male pronoun for convenience and brevity) is taught to navigate using a white cane or guide dog (for example), and is allowed access to all public facilities and places of business. He can travel anywhere he wants to go by himself, and can hold a job is nearly any field. He can work meaningfully, marry and support a family, have hobbies, own and maintain a house, contribute to society, have honest dealings with other members of society and have a comparable quality of life to a person with perfect sight.

The barrier then becomes only society's perception of the blind person as pitiful and inept. Jobs are denied because the blind person is assumed to be undereducated. (http://www.smh.com.au/news/national/out-of-the-shadows-the-barriers-facing-the-blind/2007/03/25/1174761283881.html) Strangers express shock at blind parents, because blindness is assumed to be a barrier to safe and successful childrearing (when in reality, blind parents are beginning to be shown to be more affectionate through touch, more thoughtful and as involved as an average sample of sighted parents: http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2013/04/blind-mothers-babies/ ).

This begs for an updated theology of blindness as well. I'm NOT saying that modern life ought to dictate biblical interpretation; what I am saying is that modern life causes us to re-examine historical interpretation and begin new dialogues about it. Feminism opened these doors to a discussion of women's roles in the church. The Black Civil Rights movement opened these doors to the discussion of God's view of race and skin color. Now, what needs to happen is a robust discussion of disability with the primary voices being those of Christians who are disabled.

Proposing an Alternate view of Blindness from an Insider's Perspective

The trouble is, most theologians are not blind (and most blind people are not Christian theologians). The theologians who are blind have usually acquired blindness later in life, or are so accustomed to societal limitations on blindness that they themselves have an unhealthy view of blindness centered around lack and limitations, rather than creative difference.

Disabled people are beginning to see themselves as alternate rather than inferior to non-disabled people. Deaf culture views deafness as a difference rather than a disability. This often circles in the groups of congenitally disabled people rather than those who have an acquired disability and who may indeed feel "broken." A congenitally disabled person usually views himself as "normal," and from here springs this paradigm.

Again, I am not saying this ought to drive our theology; rather I am saying that this viewpoint ought to drive a re-examination of historical treatment of our theology on this topic and a willingness to see that historicity may not necessarily be truth, as the historical ideas that women are second-class or that black skin is a mark of Cain were rejected as inaccurate.

I propose that the idea of blindness as an accurate metaphor for sin, death, darkness, brokenness and pitifulness is also an outdated concept. It is a concept that needs to be relegated to the dusty tomes of the dim past and has no business in the current blog posts of today's theological discussions. While acquired blindness today certainly merits pity and grief for a while, in general, chronic blindness and congenital blindness need a new place of respect in theological discussions.

Beginning by centering on Exodus 4:11, I'd like to propose that blindness can be made by God, can be a gift from God and can be used for God's glory (also see John 9). I know this is a really radical notion to those who may not have spent years pondering it, but stay with me for a little while, please. As many blind people will tell you, blindness has rewards and benefits that outstrip the lightweight "you exist to provide inspiration to the sighted Christians or help them better appreciate their sight" trope. Far from needing redemption and prayer for healing, blindness gives a unique perspective on the world. Blind people often do not judge others by appearance, but by character. Blindness and low vision allow for a perception of the world that is equal to sight in terms of personal enrichment, even as it is different than sight. Blind people create different art, different music, different science and different writing based on a sensory experience of the world that is unique. Like sighted work, some is better quality, and some is poorer, but I'd propose that the ratio of quality work to the number of blind artists equals that of the work of sighted artists. If all the blind people in the world were healed today, this amazing body of work would cease. Blindness enables an ability to hone the memory, to enjoy a richer imagination and creative storytelling, to utilize better problem-solving skills, to learn alternate methods and technologies, to be part of a community of blind people and disabled people who share perceptions and experience while at the same time being made up of people from all walks of life, to react with greater compassion to people with other disabilities or experiences from our own, to be thoughtful in places that sighted people seldom venture. Time spent not doing activities that sighted people do, like driving, results in time spent doing comparable activities like riding public transit or walking, which means that a blind person might meet people on the bus he would never meet if he drove his own car. While I hold that enhanced senses of hearing, smell and touch are a myth, it cannot be denied that blind people pay more attention to those senses, which gives alternate rich perceptions of the world as described above that parallel the perceptions of the sighted while being completely different.

Certain animals who use other senses rather than sight are not assumed to be inferior. We acknowledge that the animal kingdom is made up of a beautiful variety by a thoughtful Creator, and so we must also allow the spectrum of human experience to include the same variety of abilities without assigning greater value to what we have historically assigned "normalcy" and assigning inferiority to what we assume is a result of the Fall, but which may instead be a deliberately created difference.

I'm trying to open a dialogue, here, not insist that I am right and that great thinkers before me are all wrong. But are you willing to entertain the idea that history needs to be updated as it has so many times in the past? Is it possible that I can view myself as a whole person created by God just as I am, not in spite of my blindness, but including it? Is is possible that I don't have a curse or manifestation of sin hanging about me, advertised for pity or shock whenever I carry a white cane, but am instead a lovely, beautiful, unique different kind of Christian human being, delightfully created by God to be the way that I am, redeemed completely from sin and death by the grace of God like my sighted brother, and able to contribute to the world through my own unique perceptions and viewpoints?

Theologians, stop and think for a minute, especially you non-disabled theologians who put forth your view of disability without realizing what your view is actually saying to me. Be thoughtful in what you're saying you think God thinks, because you are talking to me, and you're talking to the sighted person who is going to meet me on the street downtown in half an hour. What they will say to me is influenced by what you have told them, and what they say to me will dismiss me or uplift me, depending on what you have told them. You're talking to the Christians who present Christianity to those blind non-Christians who often today view Christianity as antiquated and lacking a worldview that meets their needs or includes them as meaningful members. Please be more thoughtful and more careful, and realize that a one-line disclaimer at the beginning of your blog post is no longer enough.

(Note: For further reading, please visit: http://www.johnmhull.biz/OnBlindness.htm as a beginning, and then try https://alastairadversaria.wordpress.com/2013/01/22/crooked-healing-disability-vocation-and-the-theology-of-the-cross/.)





Sunday, June 2, 2013

First Hike of the summer

This afternoon, we took the Goombas up to Kamiak Butte. Just as we got to the viewpoint, the sunshine turned into thunder and rain, so we hurried back down!

Abi hiked most of the trail by herself, including the rocky parts! I was really impressed at how much confidence and good cane technique she has gained since doing this same hike last year!




(Hilariously, in both this picture and the video, she isn't demonstrating a very stellar cane technique. Of course, most of the hike was good, but she is like our Siamese cat in that as soon as you get out the camera, she ends up in a really awkward pose! 

On a side note, I think she looks like a mini Jedi wearing my rain coat!)

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Jump Start Workshop

I spent all day up in CdA at a workshop for parents of blind children. I expected a lot of it to be too basic (and it was) but networking with other families, and hearing that parents and teachers are encouraging independence more... That was good.

Abi went with me and had a ball playing with the other kids her age, most of whom were also blind. Most of the blind kids Abi's age were using canes, which was super encouraging to me. All in all, we both had a fun day. 


(Unrelated blog note: it is the blogger app that is making all of my pictures look so terrible lately! I hope they fix it soon. Once they do, hopefully I can go back and re-upload the pics!)