A Play of Identity
Reports from the Serious Play conference last week at Art Center.
One featured guest, Aimee Mullins, an amputee and real-life avatar who changes legs the way others change attitudes.
“I often get questions of bravery, [but] I do not have any special powers. I am equipped with the same magical powers that you are, and it’s your thoughts. At some point you have to recognize the amazing engine that is the way you think. Whether you think you can or can’t, you’re right. I’ve met so many more people who are so much more disabled in their heads than I ever was by having to put prosthetics on. I think you should set wild and improbable goals.
“Maybe I’m a real life avatar? I kind of do that by changing legs, like disability as a gateway to potential. Yes, I’m a girl with a dozen pairs of limbs, so you can imagine the kinds of reactions I get from people who meet me. The experiences must be so very different. We get uncomfortable when we’re unsure about our common grounds, the glaring differences, and people tend to pull back from that. We have all been that proverbial odd man out, the person where some unique factor made us feel separate from the group, which is why we first learn to mask our differences. The idea of being different [is often viewed] as a negative, or as a challenge we must overcome. But – in this crowd – we know it’s inherently powerful.”
“Wild and improbable goals. You have to see your potential as an absolute positive. It’s rejecting the practical and pragmatic and embracing the fantastical. This has to do with putting you ego aside, start with what you want. Holding onto childlike thinking was of utmost importance to me. I knew from a young age that I, and I alone, knew what the potential and limitations were and that they’re [ever] changing. And that real trust in myself, ignorance and arrogance about my own prognosis from the medical community, profoundly impacted me as that artifice of identity. The idea of never stop thinking like a challenge. You have to practice your curiosity like it’s a sport. Curiosity, imagination and trust in yourself – childlike qualities that are enormous. Children are open to all the possibilities, they don’t have preconceived ideas of what is and what isn’t possible.