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Thursday, November 22, 2012

Meditations in Watercolour...

It’s official. I will be moving soon to my new house at Qawra. This house, made possible thanks to the funding and support of, mainly, the local Church and the state, was officially opened. Given that, behind this project, there were important stakeholders, it was inevitable that this event was covered by local media.

I was asked to be one of the speakers. As one of the three residents who are going to live there, I was chosen to write a short speech and deliver it during the official opening. I am not a stranger to public speaking but I always get a little bit anxious before speaking. Especially since I was asked to talk about an event which will radically change my life and the lives of two other mates who I will be sharing my house with.

In my speech, I wanted to convey two main ideas as I reflect ed on what this move would mean to me as a disabled person. I remember how I often thought about the prospect of living on my own but, recent occasions when my health and general condition regressed, I feared that this dream would remain just that. A dream. So, when I was asked whether I would want to live in my own place, I grabbed the opportunity. I had my doubts, of course and I still do.But, sometimes, you must take a leap into the unknown.

In my speech, I also wanted to express my deepest thoughts about this important moment in my life. I expressed my hopes that, together with my mates, this building will not remain a construction made of stones but, I hope will become a community of friends. We chose to call our new home “Akwarell”, which is the Maltese word for “water colour painting” and I explained how our individual differences as disabled people could be compared to the colours found on an artists’ palette. We all have our distinct qualities. We all have our unique beauty. Yet, like the blend of colours found in a water colour painting, together we can create a thing far greater than who we are as individuals.

Another reflection I shared concerned the question of independence. I tried to explain what I meant to me to live independently. That is wasn’t about doing everything on my own. That it wasn’t about denying the support of others. I tried to explain how independence meant to me, as a disabled person, the opportunity to make choices over my life. And even if I may need the support and assistance of others to realise my choices, as long as it’s my decision, then I’m independent. I also reflected on the fact that nobody in real life is truly completely independent from another as we all, disabled or not, depend on one another to live in this world (1).

Finally, I talked about how all the people in my life have contributed to making this moment possible. How, if it wasn’t for the people who sustained me throughout my life - my parents, family, friends, work mates and many others I knew and others I didn’t know - I might have been a different person. I also talked about how if it hadn’t been for visionaries like Mons Azzopardi, a charismatic priest, who worked to promote the idea that we, disabled people, had a right to an equal human dignity which challenged the false idea of charity which belittled us to inferior examples of human beings. I expressed my gratitude because thanks to people like Mons Azzopardi and those who followed in his footsteps, Mons Gatt and Fr Micallef (today), that we have a culture shift also in the Church (2).

Even if I am committed to Buddhist practice, I cannot deny that if it hadn’t been for the good works carried out by the Church in ensuring social justice, I wouldn’t have the opportunity today to live my life to its full potential. I’m also grateful for this and for being able to have a choice in how I live my life and in how to express my authentic being. I remain indebted to the many people who have helped me every step of the way. That, I may never be able to repay. I decided to spend this weekend at home where I have lived most of my life. I’m sure I’ll have moments of doubt on whether I was really ready to make this transition.

However, I feel that, as with any change, there will always be a degree of uncertainty. It’s part of the process of life and refusing to accept the cycle of change leads to decay and death. I will be probably doing a lot of meditation over the coming weekend. However, I trust that this change will bring me new experiences and a fresh insight into who I am and on my relation to others and the world.

For now, I can just say thank you to all those who helped me get to where I am today. To who I am today. Thank you!

(1) This idea was inspired by the idea of co-dependence found in Buddhist teachings, or the idea that everything depends on another to exist.
(2) Another idea borrowed from dharma, or the idea that we create and are created simultaneously by other objects in the world (whether material or abstract).

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