Thursday, July 20, 2006

The Sound of Human Potential


















I don’t often get the opportunity to marvel at the seemingly limitless potential of human beings to overcome severe personal obstacles. Usually, I’m motivated to write by cruelty, bigotry, foolishness, excess, crookery or some combination thereof. This post is different. A friend recently sent me a simply remarkable story (pulled from People Magazine, of all sources) about a young, blind man named Ben Underwood who uses echolocation to navigate the world around him. That’s right. Echolocation. Up until now, I’ve only heard this term applied to bats and dolphins as a way by which they emit high-pitched sounds to determine the distance and location of objects. In short, it’s the way these animals use sound to replace sight.

According to this incredible story, Ben Underwood a fourteen year old kid from Sacramento who, as a result of retinal cancer, has been completely blind since age three, is able to use echolocation to walk and run around, play basketball and video games, skateboard and perform a wide range of tasks without assistance from others. The authors of the article, Alex Tresniowski and Ron Arias write:

“Ben has learned to perceive and locate objects by making a steady stream of sounds with his tongue, then listening for the echoes as they bounce off the surfaces around him. About as loud as the snapping of fingers, Ben's clicks tell him what's ahead: the echoes they produce can be soft (indicating metals), dense (wood) or sharp (glass). Judging by how loud or faint they are, Ben has learned to gauge distances.”

It’s difficult for me to explain the joy I felt while reading this piece. Learning about Ben’s resourcefulness and courage was like receiving a salve. Here’s a young brother with prosthetic eyes whose motto is, “I’m not blind. I just can’t see,” and believes he can accomplish anything in this life that he chooses to undertake.

Yet, I’m certainly no Pollyanna. I realize the hardships that Ben will have to endure as he negotiates relationships or career, and the difficulties he’ll face when he leaves the nest and clambers into adulthood. I also recognize that he may occasionally be stymied by the pity, condescension and low expectations of others. But my hope is that Ben will surmount those challenges in much the same way that he has compensated for his blindness – with character and resolve. I also hope that those of us, like me, who are too often distracted by inanity and immorality, will, by Ben’s example, have their hope in human nature renewed. If only fleetingly.

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10 Comments:

At 6:45 PM , Blogger Changeseeker said...

Amen, ACT. And thanks. I needed that. Ben's cool. And his mom's no slouch either.

 
At 12:04 AM , Blogger BlackJack said...

That story was just phenomenal to me! Talk about the power of overcoming! Ben really made my day I tell you. I read his story around midday and I was sullen over having to be at work on a tough job, etc., etc. After I read Ben's story, it made EVERY problem I've ever had become so miniscule that I was ashamed to even have thought they were problems. They were just inconveniences that I had to overcome. What Ben and his mother dealt with was a real issue. And they overcame and they are now shining. This 14 year old young man is an inspiration to me and he really recharged my batteries, jaded mentality, and spirit. Thank you Ben and Aquanetta.

 
At 8:50 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Finally something refreshing! If we only heard more of these stories that had nothing to do with race or SES maybe the world would realize the talents each of us has. Thank you for the enlightenment!

 
At 12:24 PM , Blogger Chap said...

Profound piece! Thanks for the inspiration.

 
At 3:56 PM , Blogger seedofeve said...

Ben truly believes that the world is his and that's something I hope he never loses.

 
At 3:19 PM , Blogger belledame222 said...

Wow! thanks for sharing that. that is amazing.

that and the recent Times article about the guy who's paralyzed from the neck down who got a cip of some sort in his brain; now he can control his computer with his *thoughts.*

it's stuff like that that makes you realize: you know, we really do have a lot more power (collectively, as a species) than we think. we could make this earth a heaven or hell. it is not fate that causes war and so much unnecessary suffering; it is our lack of imagination.

 
At 3:55 PM , Blogger Ruben said...

You have a strong, intelligent writing style. I will definitely be vising your blog more often:)

 
At 9:53 AM , Blogger Changeseeker said...

I know this is off-topic, but I'm tagging you this morning if you haven't yet answered the book questions that are making the rounds. See this.

 
At 2:39 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

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At 1:12 PM , Blogger BLESSD1 said...

Excellent, positive post, man. I saw a piece on this brother a couple of months ago, and it lifted my spirits. Again, kudos!

 

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