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Life Lifter (283 posts)
This may be an unoriginal thought, but it's true: being a parent is hard. You worry. You worry that something will happen to your kid. You worry that the world will make your kid sad. Then today I read a story that made me think: True, but also, maybe your kid will someday make the world happy.
Doug Wells is a 15-year-old Little League pitcher who recently achieved an athletic accomplishments many professional baseball players can only dream of: he pitched a no-hitter. Pretty cool.
Oh, and also: Doug is legally blind.
As an infant, the New Jersey boy was diagnosed with glaucoma, and he has undergone surgeries his whole life to restore his sight, none of which was worked. According to Today, "When he pitches, Doug says his vision is blurry but he can vaguely see the catcher's mitt. When he bats, he only sees the ball a moment before it reaches him." Disability? Doug doesn't seem hampered in the least. (Did I mention he also plays football?)
Reading about Doug, I thought of his parents, of how they must have felt upon learning their baby had a vision problem, of all the worry they have undergone. How lucky (or is it luck?) that their child has seemingly adapted to what the world has given him. And what a good reminder for the rest of us to make the best of the bodies we live in, the circumstances that have chosen us. Now, no more excuses: play ball!
(Read the whole story for Doug's little brother's endearing reaction to the news.)
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I love a good miracle—especially when it's the kind somebody took a picture of to prove it actually happened. A few days ago, scientists at the University of Pittsburgh and Johns Hopkins found a way to help a paralyzed man use a robotic arm to hold his girlfriend's hand—just by thinking "I want to hold your hand." A chip in his brain directed the the high-tech limb to operate the way a real one does, by desire and mental direction. The man, Tim Hemmes, and his girlfriend had met after his motorcycle accident in 2004, Business Week reported. He had never been able touch her before.
The pictures published in the San Francisco Chronicle—are astonishing, not just for the contrast of her human hand in his robotic one—but for the expression on her face.
While being interviewed Hemmes added, "I always tell people your legs are great ... but...your arms and fingers and hands do everything else. I have to get those back, I absolutely have to." He also said his goal is is to hug his 8-year-old daughter. "I'm going to do whatever it takes, as long as it takes, to do that again."
Uh-oh, I thought. Because what if his beliefs don't come true? What if he doesn't get his real flesh-and-blood hands back, no matter how much faith he has in himself and technology? What do we do as humans when we put all our energy and time behind something that might not pan out? I had that horrible feeling I get sometimes when I watch my son try to do something impossible, like build a race car out of paper that will drive—only it was worse because this man's life was at stake.
Which was the phrase that snapped back me out of my dark little mind cave. His life was at stake. I realized something, something I should have realized all along. Hemme's belief is not in the power of robotics or brain chips. His belief is in hope—and this is the quality that is defining is his life. For example, he could have done anything with that hand: scratched an itch, brushed back his hair, shook hands with the doctor. But he chose to reach out to someone he loved—and to show her how he felt.
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Somewhere between, say, brushing your teeth, taking the car in, and paying the cellphone bill—try adding Derek's Walcott's classic poem Love After Love to your to-do list today.
The time will come
when, with elation,
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other's welcome,
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.
There are so many reasons his poem is so moving: the idea of nurturing (instead of denying) yourself with food and drink, the idea of re-meeting who you were (and who you still are) despite all the years of disconnection due to ego and its insidious double, insecurity. Most of all I love this idea of feasting on your life, from the wonderful moments (the love letter) to the revealing moments (the photographs) to the painful moments (the desperate notes). Let's all feast today, even if that feast takes place while we're buying coffee filters or "making" a premade rotisserie chicken for dinner. Reflection happens everywhere—even in the aisle of the supermarket.
Things in life are so rarely as they seem. Take the insightful new blog we discovered, Bowl of Saki, whose names suggests it will extol the virtues and varieties of drinking high-alcohol Japanese wine. This saki has to do with metaphorical wine—a way of "drinking in"the world that was advocated by Sufi teacher Hazrat Inayat Khan in the early 1920s. Each day, the site features one intriguing—and challenging—idea, my favorite being this one from September 23, which focuses on (ouch) the ego. "The whole tragedy of life," says Khan, "is in losing sight of one's natural self, and the greatest gain in life is coming into touch with one's real self."
I have felt this pain, as I suspect we all have from the moment we start picking lipstick—and the shade of smile beneath it—to appeal to the larger world. And yet what followed was what really stopped me."The real self is covered by many layers of ego; those which preponderate above all others are hunger and passion, beneath these are pride and vanity."
Contrary to what we usually think, pride here is regulated to a distant third in the recipe for an raging ego. First is hunger. Not hunger as in meatballs, hunger as in "strong desire." What, I wondered, did I have a strong desire about? Oh dear, I knew instantly. I have a strong to be a lunch-box note mother.
A lunch-box note mother, to me, is a mother who remembers to tape loving but not embarrassing notes on her child's sandwich each morning. She volunteers at recess and never loses her temper and never runs around the house in her underwear, bitterly accusing her offspring of purposefully hiding her office shoes. Her children revere her, and grow up to be popular, smart, and marvelous at the clarinet. All the other mothers, too, worship her and invite her and her kids over for playdates just to study her maternal perfection and get her recipe for banana bread.
All this glittering accomplishment and adoration, unfortunately, has nothing to do with mothering, which is the process of loving your kids and raising them to adulthood and sending them to school with a lunch and a note. I am no a wise old Sufi soothsayer, but I can see the value of a certain test I like to think as my pocket egometer. Compare the noun form (marathon runner) with the physical action (run long distance as fast as you can) of what you want to do. If your hunger for the noun form is stronger, please consider that this impulse is exactly what's preventing you from doing it to your best ability. Then go drink a glass of wine or get a hug from a friend—and start over in the morning at the action, not the ideal.
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I have a dream house. Some of the details are slightly fanciful, for example, the stained glass windows and the full-on turret. There are covered porches, a bay window, and a rambling yard. Plus: a distinctive color scheme. My house (one dream day) is very pale yellow, with shutters and a dark green, glossy door with a pineapple knocker.
The door, however, is suddenly up for revision—due to a recent development in the larger, realer world. The Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas, Austin has put the door to the Greenwich Village bookshop online. The tiny store was only open for four years, during the 1920s, but served a famous meeting spot for bohemians of New York. While visiting there, literary heroes such as Sherwood Anderson, Theodore Dreiser, and Upton Sinclair dug their names with blue pencil into the wooden panels, which you can now scroll across in order to read brief bios or anecdotes.
Even more interesting to me were names of lesser known literary folk, like Mary Aldis who "constructed a playhouse from an old cottage on the grounds of her summer estate in Lake Forest, Illinois." It got me thinking. What I'd really like is a door signed by anybody who comes over to my very real house with the leaky bathroom—friends, family, the UPS man. They all have a story, and I can't think of anything more satisfying than to come home at the end of the day and run my finger over all their names. I know their bios and they know mine. They have laughed with me and eaten my lousy stews and played with my kids. We have created something—perhaps not a theater troupe or a painting—but something worth signing nonetheless.
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