Quite by accident, I came across The Book of Five Rings (五輪書 Go Rin no Sho) written around 1645 by the Japanese swordsman Miyamoto Musashi. The passage I came across was: The way of the warrior does not include other ways
I found this quite personally profound, in relation to our vision for GSL, and then I changed my lens. I've watched many children grow into adults and when I interpret this passage through a 'disability lens' I can't help but think of 'social conformity' being the other ways.
This got me thinking about a scene in Derry Girls (Season 1, Netflix). The group decided they were going to be individuals by not wearing the school uniform. When they met up in the morning to walk to school, only one was out of uniform. She protested to the others saying 'I'm not being an individual on my own'.
I can't help but see how much our kids want to be an 'individual with others', particularly through those horrible, judgemental teen years. I see it in what their parents want for them too. Let's face it, social conformity is almost written into our DNA. In early evolution, survival depended on being socially accepted and it was even better to have social status.
I think Musashi's words are about self awareness and self actualisation, and for anyone who knows about Maslow's hierarchy of needs, this is at the top. Maslow argues the needs underneath must be met before a person can reach self actualisation; the five rings are Musashi's way. I am not in the league of either, but in my mind finding your own way means having the confidence to be an individual; perhaps even a rebel.
Not conforming isn't only about not conforming. I listen to all the 'anti-ablism' posted on social media, and see it's function. Challenging social convention to include human diversity is an important quest; it just that I'm not sure activism is what Musashi was talking about.
Not conforming is about being comfortable with not conforming. I see people carving their own way like Dylan Alcott, and I think perhaps this is a bit closer. Watch Dylan's Ted Talk from when he was younger to know what I'm talking about: The Truth About Growing Up Disabled
I may be taking a very literal interpretation to all of this, but it's philosophy so I think I'm allow to ...? When I think about our kids, and all the hurt they go through, I wonder if we ditch Maslow's hierachy and follow Musashi. Work on self actualisation in it's own right, as something that can be attained directly.
Life's lessons for kids growing up are hard. It's not easy and maybe the function of all the lessons is to produce healthy, resilient adults. The harshness that kids with a disability have to learn is unnecessary. I wonder that focusing on self is something our kids can do. With this in mind I like the rest of Musashi's quote:
If you know the way broadly you will see it in everything. Men must polish their particular way.