Sound of Epiphany

My epiphany occurred a few minutes before his. 

The majority of Sound of Metal chronicles Riz Ahmed’s heavy metal drummer character’s (obstinate?) quest to reverse his “failing” hearing.

Confused by that parenthetical aside and those scare quotes? Good, because the movie’s basically about them, as is this navel-gazey article.

Riz’s character suffers from a mass affliction: the historically-conditioned, questionable perception that deafness is a handicap that must be remedied for all who “suffer” from and through it. Again, scare quotes, because the notion that all those “afflicted” are indeed “afflicted” perpetuates the idea that there’s something intrinsically wrong with being deaf. Riz’s arc charts his tumultuous journey to rid himself of this “lesser-than” psychology, made all the more painful by his addict past, and how his primary source of a D.A.R.E.-approved natural high — his music — conventionally requires what he’s “losing.”

If the very language we’re accustomed to using to describe “disabilities” — including the word disability, and all other scare quotes herein — only reinforces this false hierarchy between the “haves” and “have-nots”, then perhaps a complete reorientation of how we conceive of such natural “maladies” would aid our “ailing” peers, which seems to be Sound of Metal‘s predominant aim. Instead of accepting the welcoming of the deaf community just waiting to guide him through his transformation, Riz OBSTINATELY refuses to modulate his musical dreams in the face of his altering state of being, thereby rejecting the impasses of what could become his new community. If they’re trying to tell him that there’s nothing wrong with being deaf, and if he continually ignores their entreaties in his search to “heal” himself, then his actions unavoidably imply that he believes something is indeed wrong with being deaf — and, thus, with them.

Only after they turn their backs on him, and after everyone in his life has abandoned him, does he understand that his naturally-changing body can still provide a musical-esque natural high: the high of accepting yourself as yourself, not despite your “handicap”, but because of it. His “loss” becomes his gain, and he finds a sort of quiet peace previously inhibited by the noisy world he once occupied.

Yet at this moment of his revelation, I was still stuck on the scene a few minutes prior, when his deaf compatriots oust him from their tribe for his inability to view deafness not as a hurdle, but as a more-than-acceptable fact of his new life.

Because it made me realize how many fucking years I wasted feeling like my stutter was a similar obstacle to overcome.

So, yeah, if you’re only a reader and have never heard me talk before IRL, you may not know that I stutter (could it have been a contributing factor to my desire to become a writer in the first place? Ain’t no stuttering on the page).

Actually, no, I phrased that incorrectly.

I don’t just stutter.

I am a stutterer. It’s a core trait of my person, whether I like it or not.

And, honestly, what’s not to like?

Throughout much of my upbringing, my parentals drove me to consult speech therapist after speech therapist after speech therapist to break the habit, to no avail. All that was accomplished was wasting untold time and money, and it produced in me this sense that stuttering was and is a disease to “cure”.

But why though?

What if societally-deemed handicaps aren’t handicaps at all, and we only think of them as such because that’s how society deems them? Treating them as problems to solve, instead of as facts of our lives that we can learn to live with — like many other attributes that don’t bear a stigmatized taboo — perhaps does a disservice to us all.

Which is why Sound of Metal is doing the lord’s work for people like me. And, probably, for people like you, too.

And, for that, I will be truly, eternally grateful.

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