Some tiny creature, mad with wrath,

Is coming nearer on the path.

--Edward Gorey

Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S. Outlying Islands

Writer, lawyer, cyclist, rock climber, wanderer of dark residential streets, friend.

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Recommended Reading

For no special reason, I wandered from Michael Berube Online to his page linking some of his many essays, thinking to pick one at random to skim (since I've been unrelentingly pleased with the incisiveness and wit of his blog, and because I haven't read much in the way of humanities scholarship in some time (and because despite the fact that I'm at work, today just sort of feels like Friday, and I've cleared my plate of a lot of pressing work lately)).

As it turns out, however, what I chose to read wasn't really scholarship at all, but rather an essay reproduced in Harper's, concerning the birth and early development of his son, James, born with Down Syndrome.

To select one passage to stand for the longer work is very difficult, as it is for most truly affecting writing. But this will do:

[T]here's something very seductive about the thought that Down syndrome wouldn't have been so prevalent in humans for so long without good reason. Truth be told, there are days when despite everything I know and profess, I catch myself believing that people with Down syndrome are here for a specific purpose--perhaps to teach us patience, or humility, or compassion, or mere joy. A great deal can go wrong with us in utero, but under the heading of what goes wrong, Down syndrome is among the most basic, the most fundamental, the most common, and the most innocuous, leavening the species with children who are somewhat slower, and usually somewhat gentler, than the rest of the human brood. It speaks to us strongly of design--if design govern in a thing so small.

There are many reasons to recommend this essay -- among them a brilliantly accessible snapshot of neonatal development that should humble just about anyone -- but in the end either you'll take my word for it or you won't. Those of you who read it will be handsomely rewarded for doing so.


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