A nice piece in yesterday's Boston Globe by Beverly Beckham about her grandaughter, who has Down Syndrome, and how she and her family came to see the beauty in this girl's life. It is a familiar tale, to those of us who have lived this sort of story, of the initial time of fear and dread, not knowing what the meaning of disability might be. And then the gradual realization that, as Zhuangzi reminds us, all things move as one in Dao (道通為一).
Beckham comes to the same understanding I came to with Aidan:
Everybody’s life has challenges. Lucy’s has a few more. But what Lucy’s life is is not a tragedy. What Lucy’s life is is not a burden. What Lucy’s life is is not what we were led to believe it would be: sad and joyless and not worth living.
Her life is full of joy. Lucy is a happy child. She makes our lives worth living.
She is not the child we imagined. Nine years ago we cried over this. Sometime we still cry. But not because Lucy isn’t who we want. She is exactly who we want.
We cry because Lucy is sweet and good and imaginative and kind and funny and caring, and the world doesn’t see any of this. The world sees only a little girl with Down syndrome.
We cry now, not because of Lucy, but because of the world.
If we look at people simply as they are, not in comparison to some nonexistent ideal or some set of preexisting expectations, then we see them in their individual fullness and completeness. Each person has their place in Dao and, in that, they are all the same, of equal presence and value. And if we fail to see each person in their individual fullness and completeness, then we fail to apprehend the world. Zhuangzi tells us:
If you see the world in terms of difference...there are liver and gall bladder, there are Ch'u lands and Yueh lands. But seen in terms of sameness, the ten thousand things are all one. If you understand this, you forget how eye and ear could love this and hate that. Then the mind wanders the accord of Integrity. And if you see the identity of things there can be no loss.
There can be no loss. That was an understanding that helped me learn from Aidan. We can choose to see the world in terms of difference or in terms of sameness, and when we choose the latter we open ourselves to seeing the value of all things.