Once I wanted to write a book about being Crip. It was to tear away all the rhetoric, all the cant. I wanted to rip souls, to go beyond the uplift nonsense.
So I wrote a book, and it got published, read and reviewed. And now it is as if I never wrote it. The publisher still has 1,500 copies of it knocking about the garage. And I am still Crip. We don’t get cured by being honest and self-revealing.
Still, I realized recently, I have lasted a long time. And I am expert merely by surviving two score years in the non-Crip world. My old polio friends and I have come up with an army of insights about where we went, where we went wrong, where we are now, how we might have gotten there faster (and easier), and possibly, where we are heading. Robert Murphy, the master analyst of the sociological aspects of being Crip, once eyed a healthy young man running down the street, lovely in his fresh young body, and said, “There but for the Grace of God go I.”
If you ask me, the advice I have for the newly Crip, those who last week or last month or last year went to bed with one body and woke up with another — if you ask me what would be the best way to survive what Richard Brickner called, “My Second Twenty Years,” my advice would be simple:
1) Let being Crip work for you. Don’t fight it. Become it. Let its moves be your own.
What I am saying may make no sense to the non-Crip; the rest of you know what I am talking about, or are coming to learn what I am talking about. It even has a name. It is CripZen.
It is the sound of one palsied hand clapping. It is the paradoxical question that all Crips must ask themselves, “Why me?” And it is the equally paradoxical answer, propounded by Sheldon Kopp, “Why not?”
It is falling — falling down the walkway, falling out of the chair, falling off the toilet — and knowing that our particular fall means little to the gods who run our lives.