Nature Institute Perspectives #1

cover of “Extraordinary Lives”

Extraordinary Lives: Disability and Destiny in a Technological Age , by Stephen L. Talbott (Nature Institute Perspectives #1, 62 pages, $10 plus tax, shipping, and handling). Order from our Bookstore

Termed "a gem, a gift to humanity" by one reviewer, this booklet contains the remarkable stories of human beings who, in facing their own disabilities or encountering those of others, have developed unique spiritual qualities that enhance not only their own lives but also the lives of the people around them. The first task of the disabled person is to rise above his or her disabilities, and if technology can assist in this, then so much the better. But the preoccupation with technology can also lead to disregard of the extraordinary human gifts so often found in association with disability.


(Click on the links for full text)

Chapter 1 (Introduction): When Technology Can Alter Destinies – Disabilities often challenge our sense of who we are — challenge us to become more than who we thought we were. But the invitation of the various technological assists may well be to become less than we were. It is an invitation to define ourselves by our lack — a lack we must try to cover over through technical ingenuity.

Chapter 2: Can Technology Make the Handicapped Whole? – The remarkable story of a blind boy who led a French resistance movement during the Second World War. The "answer" to blindness, for this boy, was something that no technology could ever provide — but also something that the wrong sort of reliance upon technology could easily take away.

Chapter 3: The Many Voices of Destiny – How a fast-track Harvard graduate student decided to give birth to a Down Syndrome child, and how the decision transformed her life. We gain profound insight into contemporary debates by juxtaposing the story of this woman and her son with the many claims of forthcoming human improvement through genetic engineering.

Chapter 4: On Forgetting to Wear Boots – Personal experiences in a Camphill Village for the developmentally handicapped. Silicon Valley is famed for its pride in raw efficiency, in supreme technical ability, and in "don't get in my way or I'll run you down" aggressiveness. At Camphill, by contrast, the whole point is to allow the other person to get in your way. The result is a revolution in human relations.

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