I’m alone with my guide dog Caitlyn in the back bay of Boston. Tonight we’ll take in a ball game at Fenway Park, home of the Red Sox. Dog and man going solo to a stadium.
Sometimes in this blind life I worry in advance: how will it go? Will everything be OK? Will I find my seat? Will I find my way back to my seat after searching for a hot dog? Will strangers be helpful? Will I experience kindness?
Then it occurs to me, these questions are ordinary—everyone has them, blindness or not. Will this day receive me? How will it go?
There’s a song by the late great Lou Reed that I like which has the refrain “it takes a busload of faith to get by…” I’ve always liked Lou’s employment of “faith”, which he offers with a hint of irony to be sure. A busload of faith is a crowd’s worth of faith—we will get where we need to go without mishap. And we’ll manage it because we all had the proper thoughts. We kept that bus on the road with our individual and collective magic. Faith is hard work.
I think this is why I like to just take off and go places by myself. Or with just my dog for company, I feel the skin of my faith grow tighter. I step out into the unfamiliar. I’m alert to the mysteries of being alive and the sheer improbability of having a consciousness. I walk down Boylston Street and feel how provisionally alive I am and how lucky. And I don’t know precisely where I’m going.
I’ve come to understand how my life of motion defies traditional masculinity. I’m not fully independent as I require directions from strangers, a dog’s behavioral intelligence and loyalty, a recognition that being the strong silent type is a prescription for blind failure. I need others, lots of them.
In turn, this means I must open my heart to others. What makes any life beautiful and nuanced seldom has anything to do with what we look like. This is a common enough assertion.
Yet when I look around (yes blind people look around) I see too many people making first glimpse assumptions about others. I’m just a blind person. She’s just a woman of color. He’s tall, probably a basketball player. As the novelist Kurt Vonnegut Jr. would say: “and so on.”
I’m talking about a different kind of strength than is customarily imagined in masculine circles—too many men make quick assumptions about others regardless of race or background. First assumptions are invariably driven by bad ideas and fear. Fear is the enemy of curiosity.
Unless you’re a history major you probably won’t remember that one of the ways Franklin Roosevelt tackled fear during the Great Depression was to create a program that put artists and writers to work celebrating local communities across the US. FDR knew that when we take an interest in each other we get strong.
I want to see us become strong together. Please, when you see me walking with my guide dog, say hello. Introduce yourself. I’m never in so much of a hurry I can’t take time to talk. That’s what the civic square is for. We need more unburdened men with curiosity.
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