March 26, 2013
Overcoming Disability In Order To Find Inspiration
Inspiration comes in many ways. For some, inspiration is an ethereal Muse who comes and brings inspiration to the painter, sculptor, musician, or writer. To others inspiration happens in dreams. And still some find inspiration in the everyday moments. As CNN reported, for many disabled children, inspiration comes from a violinist with just one arm. That violinist’s name is Adrian Anantawan.
Well, he has a second arm, but CNN described it as “only a stunted appendage with tiny stubs instead of fingers.” They went on later in the report to explain that doctors think the umbilical cord wrapped around Anantawan’s hand in the womb, which then cut off the blood supply thus keeping it from growing properly. However, this did not stop Anantawan from learning the violin. Learning and accomplishing much, I might add.
Anantawan plays his violin with a prosthesis called a spatula to help him grip the violin bow. He has performed in many prestigious places including the White House and Vancouver Winger Olympics. He has played for Pope John Paul II, Christopher Reeve, and the Dalai Lama. He told CNN about his experience with the Dalai Lama, where he performed a piece by Bach:
“He [the Dalai Lama] put my hands together, and put his hands around mine, and our foreheads touched for six or seven seconds…And I’m just thinking to myself, ‘My goodness, where has this instrument and music taken me?’ I feel tremendously blessed to have had experiences like that.”
Through these experiences, Anantawan has found inspiration to help disabled children realize their own musical potential. He has devoted his career to this endeavor. He helps children learn adaptive technology to make music. In some cases, this technology is a prosthesis like his own, while in others he teaches them to use sophisticated computer software.
One example of helping kids with disabilities learn to play music through software is the Virtual Music Instrument. This translates movement into sound. Through a grant from Yale, Anantawan helped young musician Eric Wan play the violin again. Wan was forced to give up playing when a neurological disorder paralyzed him from the neck down. However, Anantawan used the grant and the Virtual Music Instrument to help Wan learn to move his head to play the violin.
And that’s just one example of Anantawan’s inspiration. Of his experiences with helping others, he said, “In most of these stories, it’s never about the technique or technology that is important, but the desire to live life authentically and creatively. We often forget even ‘traditional’ musical instruments are technological adaptations in their own right—they are tools to manipulate sound in a way that we couldn’t do with our bodies alone.”
If this man and his desire to help others learn to play music is not inspiration, then I do not know what is. As I read the article about his life, his music, and his teaching, I found myself smiling. Though I work with college students, my desire is very similar to his. I want to help students find their voices. I want them to see the power in writing and reading and how the tools, be they pen and paper, book, or a computer, can aid their voice and their passions. I want to help those who lack confidence find it, and I want those who feel words are not important to see what can be done through writing and what can happen through reading. I teach to inspire.
I think that inspiration comes from within, and Anantawan definitely found what inspires him, which helps him to inspire others. May we all find that sense of inspiration and fulfillment in our own lives.
Image Credit: Photos.com