Three Men: Creativity Beyond Disability
Three days ago, I received a sweet little notification from Facebook: “Stephen Kuusisto accepted your friend request.” When my eyes landed on that area of my notifications dropdown box, I immediately ignored all other sense to check comments or photo tags. I clicked to be linked to Stephen’s page.
The man is the author of one of my favorite essays on appearances, “The Beauty Myth”. I won’t go in detail about the essay because I’d like you to read it and come up with your own unbiased opinion on it. You may read it now or later but I’ll give you some background check on Stephen.
He’s a writer and he’s blind. It’s a different kind of blindness from the one we so normally encounter. Stephen doesn’t see black or the lack of anything. He sees colors, he sees shapes. It is like a permanent built-in kaleidoscope a kid accidentally wished for during his first time of looking through the lens.
The notification from Stephen came at just the right time. It was Saturday evening and I just finished watching Ang Kapuso Mo, Jessica Soho where they aired a segment on a rising artist in Philippine hiphop, Righteous One. Very much just like Stephen, Righteous One is a creative with a disability. He was born with cerebral palsy which meant he had to grow up with a loss of motor skills. This constrained him to a wheelchair.
Instead of playing outdoors as a kid, Righteous had to stay at home for most of the time. He spent his solitude just thinking and writing (reminds me of my own pensive childhood) and because of this, he mastered the skill of words. His screen name, he says, is based from the Bible.
Of course, I wouldn’t forget one of the fondest stuffed toys on my creativity bed. Nolan (not the Hollywood director) was an Irish poet and author who, like Righteous One, was born with cerebral palsy. I remember cradling his book when I was 13, running my hands through the pages, trying to get a hold of the words he excellently made tangible. He gave me my earliest literary climaxes and I would like to share one:
Westwards he trudged
Eastwards he scrambled
Northwards he stretched
Seeming lost he southwards beavered,
Urtication his grim destination.
Although he’s gone to rest, I don’t particularly agree that Christopher ever reached a grim destination. Also, his short poem sounds like Righteous One’s song “Para to sa norte, sa timog, silangan, kanluran…”
Human beings are admirable in their ability to make do with what they have to build something new, in their skill of turning seemingly bleak things around, and in their drive to defeat preconceived judgment.
Righteous One said it himself: “Malalaman ang katotohanan sa kasinungalingan.”
(Truth can be learned from falsehood.) Consequently, disability and lack can contribute to a different kind of completeness.
The men above are just some of the people who inspire me to go on with the creative business, however lamentable it is to call it a “business” (which is really most of it now).
I love creating for the sake of it and I know a lot of artists who venture into this artistic world without really minding the the value that comes back to them. To be fair to the underrated creative, the value he creates is indispensable and different. This capital-obsessed world doesn’t understand it and gives it either too low or too high a price because it doesn’t know what else.
But C.S. Lewis put it simply and said “Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like ART… It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.”