A (Perceived) Lack

April 15, 2011

There are moments–unseen, unexpected–at which I am simply overwhelmed, in the entirety of my being, lost in a simple yet all-consuming thought. Why? It’s an important question, of course. And an impossible one. The power it contains is awful. But for me, the question can take a specific shape.

Let me explain: I was born without a left hand. My arm stops just below the wrist, a ball of formless flesh as a thumb and the other four fingers locked in only the beginnings of development. I have no explanation for the cause–no disease my mother had while pregnant with me, no mishap with an umbilical cord, nothing. As far as I am aware, it is simply a random chance of Being. So, at various (albeit rare) moments in my life, I do not merely ask Why? but instead ask Why, of so many people, of all my faults and assets, am I one of the few Defects?

Most often I am unconcerned with my Defect. But in my weaker moments, I cannot help but look for meaning in a place where meaning cannot exist. And in these moments, the sheer scale of humanity and of human life weighs down on me, makes itself known and, for a brilliant but brief moment, refuses to hide. It is only in these moments that I have ever been able to even approximate the immensity of human life and of the place of an individual existence. To feel slighted, betrayed but an unforgiving world is necessary, with the particulars of a typically modern human psychology, to begin to gain any sort of existential understanding.

But this feeling of mine is not limited to me, nor to Defects in general. It is an emotion at the very core of human life. It is a question we must all ask. Whatever the basis which brings the issue to mind–whether positive or negative, trivial or epic–to really embrace one’s human-ness and to make the important search into one’s purpose, she must truly feel, in order to understand it, her place within the world. It must be brought from an abstract idea to a concrete reality. I simply have a physical manifestation of this human condition to aid in that process.

My Defect has not separated me from the typical human life, but brought me into the heart of it. Obesity, underserved tribulations, ugliness, or simple bad luck could easily serve the same purpose. And they often do. However, those feelings have been trivialized by modern culture–to use them to gain any sort of existential knowledge is looked down upon as childish or egocentric. Lacking normalcy has brought the essential questions of human existence to the light of consciousness, at certain moments, in a non-trivial way, and allowed me to confront them. And to be confronted, so plainly, with this all powerful why? has forced me into a distinctly human courage:the courage to seek out Truth. To demand it.

And that crushing, overwhelming feeling of immensity is the Truth. It is the Absurd. Very simply, there is no why. It is an unanswerable question. But in order to stand under the weight of it, in order to have the strength to still exist after it, we must search for the answer. The search is all we will ever have–no answer will come. But we must search in spite of that. At the same time, however, we must realize that the world is not cruel, it is indifferent. I began this by asking for a justification for my Defect, but I am searching for justification in events that were based on nothing, and in doing so, as long as I still expect to find a reply, I lose sight of the glorious radiance of life and of Being as such. The human condition is a void. We must search for meaning in order to maintain that space, but as long as we give up our hope of finding anything, happiness can exist within it. To be a Defect, that is, is no different that to be ‘normal.’