Archives For Coping in the Hearing World

About being deaf…

JEFFREY BROWN: But couldn’t you make the argument that it would be better if we all spoke the same language, that we all understood each other? There would be — well, there would be more understanding in the world.

BOB HOLMAN: Well, I love that argument, and it makes so much sense, until you understand what understanding is.

Icon_apps_22 [Converted] [Converted]You know, language is much more than communication. When we talk about it on the surface, that’s what it is. But language is the way we think. And it’s the way it’s been handed down through generations. If you begin to think in another language, that’s fine.

But if you have to lose the way that your family has been speaking, that’s not so fine. That’s losing who you are. And when we lose who we are, that’s when we become this homogenized consumer of life, rather than a citizen who comes from a place and knows who you are.

SOURCE:  What does the world lose when a language dies?.

The above quotes came from a transcript of a recent PBS Newshour segment about languages that are being lost in recent years. I will tell you up front so there is no confusion that I simply don’t buy much of the reasons to lament this happening. To me less languages in the world is instead something to celebrate.

Being deaf and living fully in the hearing world I know that communications is vital to how we live our daily lives. Daily conversations, yes even chit-chat is important. When communications is broken for whatever reason conflict often arises, sometimes deadly conflict. I have often said that the times I feel the most lonely is when I am surrounded by people who I am unable to communicate with. Sitting with a group of people and not being able to join in on whatever the topic of conversation happens to be about is totally isolating to me.

Even communications between those of us who are deaf are often nearly impossible because of different languages. The 20% or so of the deaf are those who were born deaf and part of the Deaf culture. They use a sign language called ASL. For the other 80% of us who went deaf after learning how to speak we use Signed English if we use signing at all, and many don’t. While the two share some common signs they are very different in context and application.  I have great difficulty knowing what a person using ASL is saying.

If only we all could talk directly with each other without the social, political, or physical barriers of different languages much of the world’s current problems would cease to exist. Because I am not privy to many conversations around me I often come to very  wrong conclusions about what is being discussed.  Because, for the most part Christians and Muslims speak different languages communication at the grass-roots level are simply not possible.  Communications is everything in today’s world. Speaking  and writing different languages kills communications.  Languages are not to be confused with thoughts. They are not the same thing. Thoughts, philosophies, cultures and such promote different ways of thinking. We should never lose our ability to think differently than the crowd.

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They say that deafness is a hidden handicap in that it is not an obvious affliction. Maybe I should wear a sign :) .  Sometimes when I tell people I am deaf it doesn’t seem to get through to them. What many do is to apparently just speak louder. For those who I have difficulty reading their lips,and that seem like most people, I hand them a pencil and notepad and ask them to write they just don’t seem to understand.

I know that a common misconception is that deaf people aren’t able to talk. That is often true of those who were born deaf or went deaf at a very early age but for the 80% of us who went deaf later in life almost all of us maintain at least some ability to speak. I thank the Lord that most people can still understand what I say, at least when I slow down and try to speak very clearly and am not too tired. But it seems like many refuse to believe I am deaf because I talk so clearly. Maybe I should shut up and wear a sign.

 

Don’t Label Me …

October 13, 2014

2014-10-07_08-16-26In fact, Raven tells Oprah that she rejects the notion of labels completely in all areas of her life. “I’m tired of being labeled,” she says. “I’m an American. I’m not an African-American; I’m an American.

“The remark seems to catch Oprah off guard. “Oh, girl,” Oprah says, shifting in her chair. “Don’t set up the Twitter on fire… Oh, my lord. What did you just say?”

“I mean, I don’t know where my roots go to,” Raven explains. “I don’t know how far back they go… I don’t know what country in Africa I’m from, but I do know that my roots are in Louisiana. I’m an American. And that’s a colorless person.”

“You’re going to get a lot of flak for saying you’re not African-American. You know that, right?” Oprah asks.

Raven puts her hands up. “I don’t label myself,” she reiterates. “I have darker skin. I have a nice, interesting grade of hair. I connect with Caucasian, I connect with Asian, I connect with Black, I connect with Indian, I connect with each culture.”

“You are a melting pot in one body,” Oprah says.”Aren’t we all?” Raven asks. “Isn’t that what America’s supposed to be?”

SOURCE:  Raven-Symoné: Don’t Label Me ‘Gay’ Or ‘African-American’ VIDEO.

I was totally fascinated by Raven Symone as a little girl on the Cosby Show. Even at that young age she was a person well beyond her years and proves to be that way even today. She might be naive in some aspects of life and an idealist but those are assets the way I look at it.

I too don’t like to be labeled and I never have. I very seldom talk about my deafness and I definitely don’t label myself with that affliction.  Yes, I am deaf and that means I cope daily with different obstacles than many but that is not who I am.

I think, but am not sure that my distant relatives came for Scotland but that fact does not mean that I am a Scottish-American. One blood line is in the native-American category I am kind of proud of that fact but I don’t go around calling myself a native-American.

Yes Raven America has been labeled as a melting pot but in some sense it is far from that.  A melting pot means everyone is the same and treated the same and we all know that is simply not the case, at least yet.

I need to find out what Raven has been doing in the entertainment field since the Cosby show. She still seems to be quite a unique young lady…

I Read…..

September 2, 2014

readingReading the written word is a very important thing for all of us but especially so for me.  For some reason I have been thinking about just how much I personally read. Being deaf hearing the spoken word is no longer possible so with that sense gone reading has become my primary method of knowing what is happening in the world around me.

My computer and the Internet are a vital part of my life. But then again they have been since their invention three decades ago. I spend between a half and a full hour each morning reading about what happened in the world lately. One nice thing about the Internet is that I can quickly browse a large number of articles and only spend the time to thoroughly read the few that I select. When I was growing up we never had the money to afford a set of encyclopedias. But now Wikipedia is just a click away for all my questions. I read things there very frequently.

There is no such thing as closed-captioned radio so that venue is worthless to me. For that matter I really don’t know how much about how radio is used since the invention of iPods and such. Maybe no one listens to it anymore. But I do know that some of the radical hot heads such as Rush are on the radio? Maybe that is the venue now? If so then I wish it would just go away.

When I sit down to watch my favorite TV programs it is still about reading. I thank heavens for closed-captioning but my eyes do get a little tired of trying to read the captions and watch all the action at the same time.  TV is as much about reading as most other media is for me.

Then there are books and magazines which I continue to consume on a daily basis. I even subscribe to a few of the hard copy versions. The one problem I have with reading is that the letters are getting smaller and smaller. Or maybe it is my eyes are getting older and older. I don’t know which?

Reading is who I am and what I am about. Like my hero Will Rogers about everything I know about the world I get from reading….

A few months after I came to America, one of my American friends showed me a picture of her sister. “Isn’t she precious?” she said. I was taken aback ; her sister had Down’s syndrome. On another occasion, when I first met my new neighbor, she revealed that she had a mentally retarded son who was sixteen but had the mental capacity of a five-year-old. I admire Americans’ openness about disability….

In Asia, the disabled are treated as less than fully human… Mental retardation or physical disability is a stigma to a family, partly because of the influence of Buddhism. According to Buddhism, life is a series of causes and consequences, and a person’s disability may be punishment for having behaved badly in a former life or for having a cruel ancestor. Thus, family members with mentally retarded children are often ashamed and rarely tell others about them. An elementary school classmate of mine in Korea had a handicapped brother. Whenever I visited her house, her mother put him in a bathroom or somewhere else where visitors couldn’t see him. Thirty years later, public perception of disabilities in Asia has not improved much. Even in Japan, the most industrially advanced and urbanized society in Asia, disabled people face discrimination, humiliation, and inconvenience every day.

Kim, Eun Y. (2001-07-05). Yin and Yang of American Culture: A Paradox (Kindle Locations 810-820). Intercultural Press Inc. Kindle Edition.

This post of course is going to get rather personal with me. Being deaf I have experienced prejudices in my life even in the U.S. but it has probably been very minor compared to those in Asia.  America was not exempt from the description above, it is just that we for the most part conquered that phobia years ago whereas Asia has yet to approach it.

Almost anyone who doesn’t know me and approached me as a deaf person automatically assumes several things. The one that gets to me the most is that I am less intelligent than most. Even though the saying “deaf and dumb” is pretty much a thing of the past the thought still flourishes among many. The second thing is that since I am deaf I am not worth the effort to get to know me. Many simply write me off as a possible future friend.  I must admit that these feeling are not limited to just those of us who are deaf. They also apply to many who are handicapped in other ways. A person in a wheelchair is for the most part ignored by most.  I personally make a diligent effort to make eye contact and greet everyone I come across who is handicapped.

I can’t imagine the obstacles put in front of people with handicaps in Asia. To be put into a virtual closet away from family and friends is shameful to me. Asians need to get over the idea that mental and physical handicaps are God’s punishment for past actions. At least for Christianity Jesus tells us very directly that that is not the case.  Stigma is hard to break in any culture. I am at least grateful that we have done a better job in this area than our Asian brothers and sisters. But haven’t we found that to be true in so many areas in this yin/yang study?

College Years 002The header of this blog contains one of my favorite Will Rogers quote.  “Do the best you can and don’t take life too serious”. It would be years before I realized the power of putting those two things together.

We all have different skills and capabilities. We all have different talents. I think that the secret to a satisfying life is to discover just what your skills and talents are and then do the best you can to make them flourish. My personal history it this regard is kind of so-so. But I did for the most part do the best I could with the knowledge I had at the time and maybe that is all I could have asked for.

As a kid I seemed to always be looking to the future and trying to imagine where my place would be in it.  But I never seemed able to latch onto that one specific thing. Looking back I seemed to be looking at the forest and not concentrating on any particular tree for potential growth. It would have been nice to have the knowledge and wisdom I now have in those early years.  But, I guess that is what growing really means.

As much as can be expected I did do the best I could with all my circumstances in life. I got into a profession that I really didn’t have much passion for but I did the best I could while there.  It would be more than twenty years into my thirty year work life before I found an area that I was passionate about and that was software development. My analytical mind thrived in that area.

But then along came deafness that put another obstacle in my path and it proved to be a tough one. What should have been sure fire advancements in this new area were not there because of my new affliction. My superiors just couldn’t see a deaf person leading a bigger team than I already had.  The depression that my deafness caused almost took me down for a while. And then I got my second wind and started coping as best as I could. Struggling without hearing in a hearing world was certainly  my biggest challenge.  But I did the best I could.

Perhaps the biggest challenge in realizing Will’s quote above was the last part. It would be years before I was finally able to not take life too serious. The first part of meeting that challenge was to not take myself too serious. I was convinced that I needed to change the world and was always disappointed in my lack of being able to do much of that.

The progression from not taking myself too serious to not taking life in general too serious was a natural one it seems. The first serious stage in that process was to realize that today’s politics are just not worth the worries that they inevitably cause. Our country is just too divided right now to allow any serious advancements in the political realm. I found it very satisfying to finally realize that fact and to put the muddy politics of our times to a very remote rear burner of my life.

So, here I am approaching my 68th year on this earth and I think I finally have Will’s quote down. It’s about time…..

The picture above is of me in 1966 during my college years….