The third question at the WSM talk:
Do you feel disconnected from the community, since becoming Deaf?
I answered, almost flippantly - "Of course! How could I not!"
Within moments, I realized that the question was probably more generic than I was giving it credit for. My body and mind were looking at a more specific meaning. Again, time was not on our side, so I need to elaborate here: .
Changing from six senses to five was sort of like a gate closing. These six gates are not necessarily all the same size, and while Deafness is preferable over Blindness (to me), it's larger than smell or taste for example. Bottom line was, a sizable chunk of my contact with world was disconnected. It's a myth that the other gates become stronger to compensate. But it IS true that the other senses work harder and more often at fuller capacity to compensate. This changes how I look at, and experience my other senses, than I did before.
Zen Practice, over the last 2 years, has allowed me to explore this again, and again, bringing awareness to fact that I am disconnected, and the ways in which I am disconnected. In Buddhism, this particular Ayatana is called "ear and sound". Not just hearing, but the sound that goes with it is the thing that has been disconnected. That covers a bit ground! For me, that Harley outside does not exist. Unless someone tells me it just went by. Even then, the sound you heard connected you with the motorcycle in real time and informed you of many things. It's large, it's a Harley, it's irritating, on and on. I see the words (Motorcycle going by). Not much data there! Not much contact either.
People connect through many ways, both subtle and gross. What took me by surprise was all the myriad subtle ways that I was no longer connecting with you all. Deaf events provided a powerful contrast to this. When I was with the Deaf folks at an event or some such gathering, the primary way of connecting was Sign Language. The lesser ways were CART, notes, lip reading, and other creative ways, finally arriving at a whole set of subtle ways geared for the Deaf. I was no longer left out. We have body language that is indiscernible to the average joe - making much more use of tiny head nods, eye "pointing", and even twitching a lip very slightly to convey sarcasm. the connection there is potentially whole - or nearly whole again. But I am still somewhat outside that circle until I spend more time doing it. That's my responsibility, and is always being addressed and explored.
You may ask then, why am here? Well, that's question #4, so hang on to that thought, and we'll cover that next; right now I just want to say, yes, I feel very disconnected, but only because our connection, before all this, was rich, and much deeper than those connections outside this practice.
It's not an all-or-nothing proposition here. Connection, I imagine, is a matter of degrees in most cases. It is in this one. We probably, you and I, have very different perceptions about the degree and characteristics of that separation that now exists. And I feel that with painful awareness, stemming not so much from the inner story, as the experience I'm having. Part of what connects us is sympathetic understanding. We get to know each other so well that we begin to act certain ways around that person. We know the other persons humor, expressions, emotional buttons, and likes and dislikes. That actually causes up to tailor our relationship. Ideally, we tailor it for purpose of connection.
Sudden Deafness suddenly "reset" a large portion of our connection, and reestablishing it needs a different approach. I believe it can be done to some degree. Some ways of connection are lost forever. Such is the nature of impermanence. On the positive side, new ways are presenting themselves for connecting in new ways. Fortunately connection and Connectedness are not the same thing here.
It's hard to keep this thread going without starting to address the last question, so I'll pick this up tomorrow, with last question asked - question 4. We'll wrap it up, and who knows - maybe it will all tie together in some way. So, go have a cup of tea, and a cookie...