Belief Exists

John Lee Clark

It’s an old trick, blaming injustice on its targets so that the privileged can pretend there’s nothing wrong. We are at the bottom of society because, what? Because we are DeafBlind. Which cannot be helped. Therefore, we belong at the bottom of society. It’s an amazingly easy trick to pull. They take things out of our reach and then they say we have limited awareness. Whatever they do is our fault.

John Lee Clark

The Diagnosis

by John Lee Clark

An erasure of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “Palingenesis”

I, sobbing in the rolling mist,
Started for peopled days. In dreams
A faded, lonely promontory shed petals.
Belief exists. Cunning with its perfume
Working from youth, defiance. A phantom
Vanished. The swift surrenders, leap into
The old dead heart of lies.
I will give, remembering my turns
Into foliage. Of what light unseen!
What, what, what, what, what, what
Will hold still without its end.

We are taught at a young age to look for patterns.  We are rewarded for developing this skill. But in truth, we see connections where none may exist. We fall into the trap of believing that coincidence has divine providence.  However, even falsity can connect with good intent, by creating curiosity or empathy.   
I am connected to the last name of both of these writers through my Mother, Clark her birth name, and Longfellow the married name of her Father’s sister, her Aunt.  There are claims by the Longfellow clan to which we are connected by marriage is related to the famous poet below.  I have my doubts, but if it makes the cousins feel a bit more literary to claim him as a distant namesake, there’s no harm in it.  
Today is the 6th anniversary of my Mother’s death.   In one sense that time has passed quickly.  In another it feels like a distant epoch, completely detached from our current reality.  What would my Mother think about the state of our world?  She would be devastated by world events, loss of freedoms, the fundamental destruction of democratic norms.  She would be frustrated by the Minnesota Twins lack of pitching.  I have no reason to believe that if she were alive she would be anything but her normal wonderful self.
I stumbled across John Lee Clark’s essay on distantism.  A word he coined himself.  It is a remarkable essay.  In it he unpacks the ways in which the deafblind are put in boxes by the sighted and hearing community, those of us who think of ourselves as normal.  But in his clear writing, he outlines an idea I found fascinating.  The concept of having senses that bring autonomy, also bring us loss in ways that accepting a life based on the willingness to be dependent on each doesn’t create.   In it he writes;
I propose to call it distantism. The English word “distance” comes from “distantia,” Latin for “a standing apart.” A point could be made that distantism refers to the privileging of the distance senses of hearing and vision. The ways in which many cultures have evolved on the almost exclusive basis of these two senses have indeed been harmful to us. That insistence on sight or hearing to function in society means only one thing for us: death. But that would be putting it too simplistically. Each form of social bigotry has its distinctive personality and its unique set of intertwining evils. So I would like to dwell on the concept of distantia, or a standing apart, which lies at the heart of distantism.
We all come into this world completely dependent on our mothers.  I was fortunate to be nurtured by a woman of considerable grace and love. Though I will always miss her, I am still feel very much connected and blessed. Her memory is alive and vibrant in my heart, a heart that must now hear and see her with a different sense, the kind of completeness that John Lee Clark suggests is possible.   



by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I lay upon the headland-height, and listened
To the incessant sobbing of the sea
In caverns under me,
And watched the waves, that tossed and fled and glistened,
Until the rolling meadows of amethyst
Melted away in mist.

Then suddenly, as one from sleep, I started;
For round about me all the sunny capes
Seemed peopled with the shapes
Of those whom I had known in days departed,
Apparelled in the loveliness which gleams
On faces seen in dreams.

A moment only, and the light and glory
Faded away, and the disconsolate shore
Stood lonely as before;
And the wild roses of the promontory
Around me shuddered in the wind, and shed
Their petals of pale red.

There was an old belief that in the embers
Of all things their primordial form exists,
And cunning alchemists
Could recreate the rose with all its members
From its own ashes, but without the bloom,
Without the lost perfume.

Ah, me! what wonder-working, occult science
Can from the ashes in our hearts once more
The rose of youth restore?
What craft of alchemy can bid defiance
To time and change, and for a single hour
Renew this phantom-flower?

“Oh, give me back,” I cried, “the vanished splendors,
The breath of morn, and the exultant strife,
When the swift stream of life
Bounds o’er its rocky channel, and surrenders
The pond, with all its lilies for the leap
Into the unknown deep!”

And the sea answered, with a lamentation,
Like some old prophet wailing, and it said,
“Alas! thy youth is dead!
It breathes no more, its heart has no pulsation,
In the dark places with the dead of old
It lies forever cold!”

Then said I, “From its consecrated cerements
I will not drag this sacred dust again,
Only to give me pain;
But, still remembering all the lost endearments,
Go on my way, like one who looks before,
And turns to weep no more.”

Into what land of harvests, what plantations
Bright with autumnal foliage and the glow
Of sunsets burning low;
Beneath what midnight skies, whose constellations
Light up the spacious avenues between
This world and the unseen!

Amid what friendly greetings and caresses,
What households, though not alien, yet not mine,
What bowers of rest divine;
To what temptations in lone wildernesses,
What famine of the heart, what pain and loss,
The bearing of what cross!