deafness is an excuse

February 25, 2007

Today, I was talking with my sweetheart about something and was trying to use my deafness as an example when she said to not use it as an excuse.  There is a big difference between an example and an excuse.

I got a little huffy about it because as the old saying goes, “Emotions cloud judgement.” So, I took the time to clear out my emotions and began thinking about how I explained it. 

With a clearer judgement, I can begin to explain more clearly and less emotionally.

This is my blog about not using deafness as an excuse.

I suppose there are people who view certain comments by other people as excuses which can be understandable in certain cases. 

Such as calling in sick to work in the middle of the week when everyone at work has seen you perfectly healthy the day before and in reality, you just partied a little heartily the night before and had a killer hangover. That is an excuse.

For a different example, not showing up for work when there is a monster snowstorm dumping 10 inches of snow and the roads were not plowed.  That is a reasonable explanation to me, not an excuse, although in the loosest tongue, it could be viewed as a reasonable excuse.

I began to explore how deafness became an excuse which meant going back into history to understand this.  After all, there are many successful deaf people in today’s world in all kinds of prominent positions.

This was not always the case, for once upon a time in history, society once regarded those with deafness or muteness with a dismiss of a phrase “deaf and dumb”. 

This was due to the stigma that those who were born without the ability to hear or talk were considered inferior to those born with five senses.

Somewhere along the way in the development of humankind, those who were deaf began to show signs of intelligence. 

By using that intelligence, they were able to rise above certain stigmas imposed by society to become role models, or in extreme measures, a legend. 

Deafness is about seeing, not hearing so we naturally do not believe what we hear, we have no ability to hear anyways. [I will write a blog in the future about this]

We did not have a natural need to believe those who spoke to us and said “You can’t do this” or “You never will be able to do this”.

One noteworthy person is Helen Keller, although she was deaf and blind.  Her legacy is the perfect example of being a role model who also became a legend in certain communities.

Nowadays, there are many successfully deaf people in their own right who have risen above certain stigmas.  We have a deaf Miss America, a few well-known deaf performers, a deaf president of the only deaf liberal arts college in the world, and even an award-winning movie scripted about a deaf woman. 

Part of these opportunities to achieve recognization came about due to several factors, including technological advancements, educational advancements, among others.  Probably the most important factor above all else is humanity.

There were those among the hearing population who tirelessly lobbied against the “deaf and dumb” stigma such as Alexander G. Bell, Thomas Edison, and Gallaudet by creating an educational program for the deaf students, or by creating technologies to assist people with hearing loss.

So despite knowing all this, I still needed to explore why did such stigma come about.  The only explanation I could come up with is fear.  Ignorance is a form of fear.

In the race for the quest of the superior human, we often dismiss people with ailments, or lesser education as inferior to our quest. 

There are people who have earned multiple degrees from institutions for higher learning, working a significant role such as a neurosurgeon or an adviser but they still pale in comparison with those who were college dropouts leading some of the top Fortune 500 companies in the world.

These dropouts were dismissed with the stigma “lucky”.  We till consider them inferior because we view our own intelligence superior to the “lucky” ones.  This makes me wonder where the old saying comes from, “Ignorance is bliss.”  Those who say it must be scared to death.

So how did “using deafness as an excuse” come about?

I suppose there are more reasons than I am aware of but they all probably stem from a few basic characteristics.  Laziness, and ignorance to name a few.

to be continued…

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One Second [vol. 1, part 3]

February 6, 2007

Count.

One mississippi…

Stop.

One second, that’s all it took.

Count again.

One mississippi…. Stop.

So now that you have one second held in your mind, you know a lot can happen in that one second.  It was all I had to freeze myself in mid-step as I noticed my friend L’s eyes widen, her face forming to make a sound, her arm beginning to reach out to our friend P who was walking between us.

One second, I noticed all this and froze.

Now count another second, two mississippi… stop.

That was when I turned my head and simply stopped as the car drove past me, increasing speed without slowing down.  My foot which was frozen in mid-step was dangling in the air no farther than 6 inches from the door of the car. P stood still in surprise as L reached out and the sound escaped from her throat.  I did not understand what she said because I was not reading.

I was too busy taking it all in.  An old four door sedan from the 70’s with two passengers.  Barely 15 seconds earlier, the same car was stopped at the light with two other lanes of cars waiting for the light to turn green.  My friends and I were getting ready to jaywalk the street to head over to another bar.  It was a nice warm evening in the historic district of Savannah.  Without a care in the world.

And it all came down to one second.  One mississippi….stop.

It was all I could do to grin.  All my life I have experienced close calls like this one, my parents taught me to look both ways before crossing the street and we had looked, that is, 15 seconds ago.  A lot can change in 15 seconds, so it was all I needed, the look on my friend L’s face to realized something was different.  L kept looking at me the whole time through the next couple seconds or so because she noticed I knew right away.

When I looked back at her, she saw I was grinning and reached up showing with her index finger and thumb how close I was.  Slowly a look of relief and amusement filled her face as she realized how alert I was, how this must have been normal for me as she started to comment “Oh, man!”

See, if you can’t hear a car coming, if you can’t hear your own voice, that means you can’t hear anything at all, so all you have left to help you become aware of your surrounding are your eyes.

 So never take your eyes for granted.

vol. 1 part. 2

February 5, 2007

sayonara is Japanese for “goodbye” or a farewell remark, according to dictionary.com; so loosely translated in my version, sayonara means “till we meet again”…

I chose this word because of the appropriate translation I chose, “till we meet again” because of the reality of my deafness, every time I turn my hearing aids off, or the battery power fails, or falling asleep, silence returns.

I do not see deafness as an “inability to hear” because silence is another sound that can not be measured by science.  There is an “abosolute silence” but I do not know what can define this, for it is without thought.  We all think to ourselves using the voices in our head, a phantom type of sound. 

So anytime when I wake up, there is a moment before I put on my hearing aids that can last as long as it take me to remember to look for my hearing aids.  I could have them on and turned them off for a nap or taken them out for the night before bed.  Either way, the moment will last anywhere from a few seconds to as long as days.  It is a rare freedom I have to make that choice.

Neverless, when I wake up, I often notice the silence before I begin to form the thoughts in my head into words as I begin to speak to myself in my head.  It is similar to a “background” noise, just this constant energy that fills my head without sound.

Like I said before, it can be a blessing and it can be a curse.  For the first 10  years of my life, it was something I knew as part of who I am but I was at an age where the innocence of youth was a factor. 

That innocence was destroyed when I began to realize the degree of separation between myself and hearing people, the degree of silence.  More on that later…

For now as I end this blog, to sum it up, I have come a long ways over the past 30 years to embrace silence like a warm blanket, a blanket where I can snuggle under the covers of darkness [visit my blog again in the future to read about the covers of darkness].  A blanket where I can simply fall asleep, oblivious to the world without a care for my own security, and wake up with an explosion of sight.

So silence, an old lifelong companion of mine, as I wake up each day knowing that silence will return the next time I lay myself down to sleep, I always end up with a fond farewell.

 Silence, my old friend, sayonara…

Blog Of The Day Awards

vol. 1, part 1

February 4, 2007

Knowledge is power, or as the saying goes.  There are times when I am surrounded by noises, whether it is created by people’s voices, machines, instruments, or even nature when the constant exposure to sound is annoying. 

Friends have told me they wish I could hear and to be honest, I do not feel left out.  In fact the opposite, I feel grateful for a little secret.  I can hear noises to a point as long as I am wearing my hearing aids but hours of constant exposure is maddening.  I do not truely understand how hearing people can stand it. Hearing people still listen on some level in their sleep so they are easily awakened to the things that goes bump in the nights.

Not me, I am “sound” asleep till dawn. Well, past dawn.  All my life, sleep has been in a world of silence.  When I fall asleep, not even my hearing aids turned on at full blast, am I able to register the loudest trace of external sounds.  I have sat down at rock concerts in front of the large speakers where my friends’ bands would play, I have sat down in the basement when the same bands would pratice at full blast, with ear plugs securely snugged in their ear canals, and fallen asleep.

I used to tell people these bands were my lullaby bands, mostly punk rock type of music, with some alternative methods thrown in.  If you have been to these types of concerts, then you know how loud it can get.  For some reason, they are the best types of bands for me to fall asleep to, enjoying the bass rythmn, the loud acoustics of the guitars, the screaming of the vocals, until silence overpowers them as I drift into my slumber.

There are times where I am working in an environment where the phone is ringing off the hook, multiple voices are talking over each other in endless streams, the office machines churning out copies, printouts, or faxes.  It is bearable to a limit, but in the end, when these noises reaches my limit, I simply end up lowering the volumne of my hearing aids to the point where I simply shut them off.

 A friend wrote once “When the lights goes out, everyone’s black.”  In my case, when the hearing aids goes out, everyone’s silent.

So back to my first line, knowledge is power.  Indeed, the knowledge that even sound can never escape silence for silence is far much more powerful is a blessing in disguise.

Neverless, even this blessing can be a madness.  But that’s for another time.