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Sundance 2012

January 30, 2012

January is an exciting month in Salt Lake City. The Sundance Film Festival is here again. This is my third year attending and I don’t think I’ll ever stop going. No matter what movie I see (documentary, foreign, claymation, comedy, you name it) I always walk away with a love for humanity and the creative life.

On Thursday I saw two films: The Movement: One Man Joins An Uprising and The D Word: Understanding Dyslexia.

The Movement is all about various handicapped individuals who all have a love for skiing. Most were paralyzed or paraplegics. But one man was blind. I had no idea that blind people could ski! It was amazing how he followed a guide down the mountain! But something they said in that movie made me think. The title of the movie is Movement because that’s what they want people to do. They want them to move physically, as well as take part in the movement or community and volunteerism.

It got me thinking. People always say about literacy that someone who can read but doesn’t has no advantage over someone who can’t read at all. I believe this and feel very strongly about it. I read every day for pleasure as well as for information. I am a part of that movement.

But exercise? Sports? Forget it. I’m not very coordinated. I learned to ride a bike only a few years ago. I’ve been asked not to play in Ultimate Frisbee games. For the longest time I actually thought I wouldn’t mind being in a wheelchair because all I want to do is sit around and read anyway. My mind has been slowly changing on this topic since I had an emergency surgery in 2008 and this film has changed it for good. Those who don’t move have no advantage over those can’t move. I live a fairly sedentary lifestyle, like many other Americans. I eat semi-healthy and I like to take a walk now and then. I even snowboard once or twice a season. But every day? I have not embraced movement.

Too many people emphasis exercise as something you do to lose weight and then you stop. I want to chose movement for life. It’s going to be awkward, for me and for those who witness my unpracticed movements. But I don’t want to take my body for granted. I want to use it.

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In The D Word, they talk about dyslexia and share a few experiences from a variety of people. The best way I can describe trying to read when you are dyslexic is to compare it to breathing when you have asthma. It’s not that you can’t breath, it’s just very hard. You can’t get as much air as every one else so it takes you longer to get what your body needs. You need to concentrate and it never goes away. Not a perfect metaphor but I’m writing this rather late at night so forgive me.

My brother has dyslexia. Yet he is one of the most glib people I know. Creative too. Yet people see dyslexia as a learning disability, a handicap, if they accept it as being real at all. Unfortunately, I’m finding more and more that if what makes you different is invisible, people just think you’re lazy, stupid or crazy. I’ve been told that depression doesn’t exist, that I should just buck up and get over it. But I know it does exist and I fight it in my own way. However, you can’t see depression or dyslexia the way you can see that someone is an amputee or blind. And some people have the empathy and understanding of a teaspoon. These same people also probably don’t read even though they can.

What I found most intriguing is that almost every dyslexic person interviewed in the film worked hard, harder than anyone else they knew. And yet, because it takes them longer to read, they are called lazy. This paradox annoys me. And many of these hard working people have gone on to do great things such as become a lawyer, a surgeon or the head of the Virgin empire.

Dyslexia can’t be cured and it doesn’t ever go away. My brother will always be a slow reader. He will probably always have terrible handwriting too. But I know that he will do amazing things because he has learned to work hard as well as cultivate his creativity to find new ways to overcome the problems he faces. He’s like a knight battling a dragon without a shield and only a butter knife. He has to improvise.

Showing these two films together was a perfect blend. The mental and the physical. My strength and my weakness. I want to live a more balanced life. I want to use all the talent I’ve been given, even if I don’t know I have it yet. It will be hard. Because anything worth doing is hard work. I can do hard things. And so can you.

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