I remember the first time I ever saw one. I was in the college cafeteria, and I’d never seen anything like it before. I’m sure I stared, but I didn’t mean anything by it. I mean, they didn’t have anything like it back where I grew up, not that I am all that sheltered, you know. I mean, I have seen things, and I’m not prejudiced or anything. Really, I’m not. It was just a natural reaction to something so different. I just didn’t want to use it. I just didn’t really trust that that something so odd would even work. Hell, it was so strange that I wasn’t even sure how to use it. But I pride myself on having an open mind, so I tried it. I used it on the meatloaf, and it worked. And then I used it on the mushroom soup and it worked again. “I’ll be damned,” I remember saying to my friends, “this spoon-fork is pretty creative!” And then someone told me that term was impolite, that the correct term was spork!
Okay, I’m having a little fun in that paragraph as a way to introduce some more serious points. The first part of that paragraph reads a little sinister, as if it might be about someone different, like a person of color (black, white, whatever, pick the right situation and any color works). I think that’s the most likely reaction for a general reader because racial discrimination tends to be closer to the surface in most people’s minds. But that paragraph could also be about a disabled person (or someone who is differently abled, if you prefer). To those of us who are different in any way, the reactions look the same: We are the other. The problem for disabled people is that we tend to be the forgotten other, the pitied other, the other that is feared because we could be you someday, and thus not other at all. That last one is the worst for the abled because if they live long enough they will become a member of this club they generally pity and would prefer to forget. “Such a horrible fate!” they exclaim. “I would rather die!” they cry.
But wait! They are looking at it all wrong. A professor friend of mine once told me that higher intelligence is just finding more creative ways to solve problems. I like this definition of intelligence a lot. It opens a lot of doors that IQ (which is how most people think of intelligence) closes. To be really specific, I want to rephrase it and say that intelligence is a door lever, not a knob, because the creative solution of opening a door with a lever allows everyone to open a door. When everyone can do something, there is no other. We become a little closer to one people that way. Thus there not being anyone or anything to fear or pity.
One of the greatest things I have learned in living my life with a disability and hanging around people with disabilities in some form or other for the past 55+ years is that we are really good at finding new (differently abled) ways to do old (abled) things. In fact, people with disabilities are so good at finding creative ways to solve so many of the myriad problems created by an abled world that we should be especially proud of our intelligence. Our list of creative accomplishments is legendary, if only the abled bothered to look, but I will leave that list for someone else to compile.
The old saying is that necessity is the mother of invention. Well, I say disability is the mother of necessity. Abled readers, I ask you to not fear or pity disability. Instead, I invite you to live so long that you have an opportunity to get smarter by coming home to the mother of creativity. Why make such an outlandish statement? First of all because I am proud of all the things disabled people accomplish now and have been for all time, but also because everyone benefits when the other disappears. You abled folk may not realize it, but we benefit you a great deal.
Oh yes, one more thing, back to where I started. Sporks are functional. Like us, sporks might look weird, but they work. They are a creative solution to the problem of cheaper plastic eating utensils. I’d be willing to bet the original inventor (buried in history, not the patent holder, if you bother to look it up) had a disability.
Be proud and share your creativity, fellow Sporkability readers!