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Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Man on the Wire


                                                                  
  
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written by The Renown, Wheelchair Kamikaze

Of late I find myself in uncharted waters, my creeping paralysis taking me to places in mind and body that I could never have imagined I’d visit. It’s simply getting harder and harder to do everything, and as a result my contacts with the world outside of my apartment grow fewer and farther between. As my disabilities progress and my abilities regress, the familiar patterns and rhythms of everyday life fall further and further away, my healthy days now so for behind me that the memories of them often seem false, the stuff of imagination. Strangely enough, even as my old reality seems to vanish into the ether, certain incidents and instances do suddenly pop into mind with crystal clarity, richly detailed and full of life, decades old events recalled as if I’d lived them only yesterday. This juxtaposition of the old and the new, cast in such stark relief, reveals just how obsolete the rules that governed my old life have become in the context of my new reality. 


As my existence has shifted more and more from the physical to the mental, certain truths about myself and my fellow inhabitants of this planet have become clear. Almost from birth we are taught the constructs and customs of the societies in which we live. Now more than ever the mass media plays a tremendous role in shaping our ideals and expectations, and in defining the parameters of social interaction. Along with reading, writing, and arithmetic our 12+ years of formal schooling provide us with a variety of  behavioral templates for daily life. In combination, these ever-immersive entities imprint within us a library of scripts that cover almost every situation we might encounter, almost every part life might call on us to play. 



We are taught that our destinies are largely a function of free will; in reality, though, most people live lives that fit neatly within the confines of predefined boundaries. We each flesh out our roles with our own particular quirks and peculiarities, but rare is the person who shatters the restraints and expectations of social norms. Some of the people that do so with audacity become rich and famous as a result, but many others who can't or won't comply struggle through life on the fringes of society. Woody Allen famously said that 80% of success is just showing up; this is largely true due to the fact that most human beings can fake it till they make it, falling back on sets of learned behaviors until they can grow into the roles they are expected to play.

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