Disability is a Work of Art

The phrase “inner beauty” is callous. The phrase implies that beauty in this instance is limited to something mental or psychological. It is another way of saying, “You are ugly on the outside, so if there is beauty in you, it must be where I can’t see it.”

We do this the other way around. A beautiful person on the “outside” who we learn has a mental illness or learning disability then becomes less beautiful. Their minds make them suspect of unpredictable behavior and that scares us.

Forms. Plato’s understood everything in the universe to be copies of an ideal that we cannot directly apprehend. So the marketing industry doctors up photos trying to achieve some ideal form of beauty. This ideal necessarily excludes every other idea of beauty.

When we apprehend someone who is a “poorer” copy of that ideal they become sideshow grotesqueries. With such great arrogance we proclaim them ugly and offer space for their freedom if we can only “look past” their grotesque form to see their inner beauty. At the very least our minds can correspond to something mentally beautiful inside that grotesque figure. No matter what, our senses are governed by a perfection we can never apprehend; a perfection that reflects the perfection of the ideals in the universe as we understand them.

This gaming only serves to cleanse a guilty conscience from its lack of tolerance. When our instinct is to lurch away from someone with a skin color that does not fit our ideal, a language that does not fit our own, a body without a limb, or a voice that cannot be heard, we prop up our self-righteous indignation or fold into a guilty chaos. Tolerance is the easy out; a way to retain the ideal while making room for something we still consider grotesque. Our mental boundaries remain solid, immigrant forms of beauty stay outside, but we give them temporary visas so our guilt is clean.

There is another way out of this conflict. That is to comprehend the art of all forms in the world. Step outside of the idea of perfection and sit with what is in front of you. The world is an active museum of beauty in motion. We participate in a grand movement of performance art; an infinity of objects and ideas contributing in unique ways. The body in all of its forms is art and beautiful in itself.

Plato was wrong.

Take a moment to watch the following video. In it, German artists replace the post-modern statues of David we see in display windows with the reality of bodies normally excluded from the pantheon of contemporary beauty. It it we see that these bodies are inherently beautiful. The once grotesque form is revealed for what it truly is: A work of art.

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2 thoughts on “Disability is a Work of Art

  1. Pingback: Bipolar Romance, Artistic Disability, Medication Choices, Mothering with a Mental Illness, and The Isolation Door: Mental Health Monday | A Way With Words

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