On Monday night Renate and I listened to Jonathan Mooney, at the College of Mount St. Joseph, as he analyzed and often skewered institutions–especially schools–for their adherence to the “tyranny of normalcy.” On Wednesday we went to Cincinnati’s Mercantile Library to hear Anne Burleigh deliver the “Founders’ Day” lecture on “Wendell Berry and Membership.” Mooney drew a picture, from his own experience, of a student with disabilities being searched out by schools and then singled out, day after day, year after year, with the clear intention of spinning that student right out of “normal” society. He concluded with an appeal that we recognize “disability” as part of the human fabric, part of the diverse community.
Wendell Berry doesn’t write much about “disability,” but he does hope for (as he brings to life in narrative and dialogue) a community where everybody belongs… a locality where the members of that local community are bound together by mutual knowledge, interests, and faithfulness to each other and to the land. Anne Burleigh said that what Berry portrays is a “little commonwealth,” a good place where everyone’s vitality is of concern to every member. And, if every member is included, then “normalcy” no longer matters. If all (diverse) members are important to each other… well, I suppose that Jonathan Mooney and Wendell Berry are speaking and writing toward similar hopes.
It’s been quite a week.