TED Talks Worth Talking About | Aimee Mullins: How My Legs Give Me Super-Powers

Posted on March 14, 2009


Aimee Mullins: How My Legs Give Me Super-Powers. February 2009.
(Running on High Tech Legs, February 1998).



Aimee Mullins

First, some fantastic quotes and nuggets.

Regarding kids and curiosity:

Kids are naturally curious about what they don’t know or don’t understand. They only learn to be frightened of those differences when an adult influences them to behave that way. Maybe they censor them in hopes of them being polite.

Regarding “disability”:

What is the definition of “disabled?” Pamela Anderson has more prosthetic in her body than I do, and nobody calls her disabled.

Regarding poetry:

Poetry matters. Poetry is what elevates the [benign?] and neglected object to a realm of art. It can transform the thing that might have made people fearful into something that invites them to look, and look a little longer, and maybe even understand.

And then, the amazing summation of the talk at the end, a poignant commentary on technology and culture.

The conversation with society has changed profoundly in this last decade. It’s no longer a conversation about overcoming deficiency, it’s a conversation about augmentation; potential. A prosthetic limb doesn’t represent the need to replace loss anymore. It can stand as a symbol that the wearer has the power to create whatever it is that they want to create in that space. So, people that society once considered to be disabled can now become architects of new identities  and indeed continue to change those identities by designing their bodies from a place of empowerment.

And, what is exciting to me, so much, right now, is that by combining cutting edge technology (robotics, bionics, etc.) with the age old poetry, we are moving closer to understanding our collective humanity. I think that if we want to discover the full potential of our humanity, we need to celebrate those heartbreaking strengths and those glorious disabilities that we all have. I think of Shakespeare’s Shylock: “If you prick us, do we not bleed, and if you tickle us, do we not laugh.”

It is our humanity and all the potential within us that makes us beautiful.

— VIA —

First, I love Aimee’s approach to the kids and the curiosity intrinsic to them. Creativity, curiosity, the willingness and desire to learn, engage, and interact with the world does not have to be created within a child. It is alive and well, and we so often kill it, and wonder why our children are not more alive. Perhaps our American culture can learn that tamed sensibilities, while “cultured” may damage a more healthy sense of interaction with the realities of the world in which we live. In an effort to care, we may actually be carousing a overt sense of self-awareness and narcissism. Perhaps.

Second, I’m thankful for her approach to disabilities, and especially her closing commentary. There is a grand partnership between our “brokenness” and our “deficiencies” and the “poetic” and “creative” side of humanity. And herein lies the tension, that we must accept whole-heartedly, both. And that in believing that all of the “disabilities” of humanity are fertile soil for the seeds of creativity, we thrive. Strengths can be heartbreaking, and disabilities can be glorious, and to ignore the power of the partnership between the two is to cease to be fully human, and to miss out on the greatness of humanity.