5.3. Enjoying Life

Becoming open was a long process. She tells, for example, about learning from the way others cared:

The people who spend their lives working with disabled children are the most accepting, loving, optimistic-but-realistic human beings you could ever meet. To them, no child, no matter how disfigured or inept, deserves anything less than unconditional acceptance. Adam's therapists probably don't know that I, with my three Harvard degrees and my relatively sound body, got more from their sessions with Adam than did Adam himself. As I sat watching them, feeling the kindness in the air around them, all the parts of me that I had sent to the Deepfreeze years before thawed, and stretched and began to consider the idea that the world might not be altogether hostile.

While at Harvard, Beck had perfected a fierce and instinctive resistance to any betrayal of inadequacy or personal feeling or need for others. And yet, throughout her pregnancy this resistance was countered by the irresistible force of unsolicited kindness from others. "I had the constant sensation that I was a kind of radio tower, within which Adam sat broadcasting some kind of signal to the world around me not a verbal message but an unnamed energy, a sort of goodness, that drew out people's best and helped them connect with each other."

Adam doesn't seem to have lost that ability since birth:

When he begins each academic year, I am always surprised that school personnel who aren't used to dealing with "different" children seem concerned, and sometimes even a little angry, at the thought of having Adam around. Even the wonderful teachers and principals who are used to children with disabilities don't act inordinately thrilled by Adam at first meeting. I have to remind myself that the mysterious force field around him takes a while to affect people. By the second or third parent-teacher conference, I introduce myself as Adam's mother and wait for their faces to light up. They always do.

After a couple of years of unexplained dreams about dolphins, Beck read the story of another Down syndrome boy whose mother, afflicted by similar dreams, took her son to a dolphin research center in Florida. The boy seemed to connect with the dolphins in a profound way, and woke up one night in his room several miles inland, grieving for a dolphin friend who, it turned out, had just died.

Beck herself was slightly resistant. Referring to dolphins as "those brainy sea mammals with the endearing expressions and the highly social personalities," she goes on to say: "I was a little chagrined to have developed such a trendy passion, but there was nothing to be done about it. The dream kept coming back."

So Adam, too, visited the center, and there Beck sensed "the same strange electric energy between Adam and the dolphins that I'd sensed around me before he was born." It may sound silly, she grants, "but I've been through too much to dismiss these things. I've also learned that I will probably never fully understand it. That's okay. Just being nearby is a privilege."

Adam disliked the water, and he clung tightly to his mother as she took him into the Florida lagoon. But when the dolphin, Alita, its powerful muscles "flexed like steel springs," suddenly burst through the surface next to them and gently brushed its head against Adam's hand, the boy let go "without a second glance" and abandoned himself to the animal.

That day with the dolphins, Adam wasn't scared of anything. Alita rounded the curve at the edge of the lagoon and headed back toward me, pulling him like a towrope from her fin. Adam was still laughing, the face below his golden hair radiating happiness. It is impossible to look into Adam's face when he smiles this way and not smile back. For some reason, that incredibly contagious grin reminded me of something Albert Einstein said: that the single most important decision any of us will ever have to make is whether or not to believe that the universe is friendly. Adam appears to have made that decision.

Devices of the Soul. Battling for Our Selves in an Age of Machines
Devices of the Soul: Battling for Our Selves in an Age of Machines
ISBN: 0596526806
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2007
Pages: 122
Authors: Steve Talbott

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