Special Needs in Strange Worlds | Peter Orullian

About the Author

If you’re unfamiliar with Peter, you’ll find his creative endeavors come in two main thrusts: Writing and Music. Depending on the day, he’ll tell you one or the other is his favorite. Early on, a close third was athletics, baseball in particular. But somewhere along the line he became more a spectator than participant; that was about the time he began to write and make music in earnest.

As a writer, Peter tends to write the stories that occur to him and prove compelling, which means he writes in any number of genres. His published fiction is mostly fantasy and science fiction at this point, but he’s written a couple of thrillers he hopes to find homes for soon. At least one bestselling fiction writer has seen the outline of one of Peter’s unpublished novels—a more mainstream story—and thinks it’s bound to be his bestselling work. That book is on hold for now, though, as Peter ramps up a new fantasy series, THE VAULT OF HEAVEN.

Then as a musician, Peter’s tastes likewise run the gamut. There are few musical genres he doesn’t enjoy. So, while many might find easy stereotypes when they see Peter, those stereotypes are too narrow to accommodate the variety of his musical tastes. Which isn’t to say he doesn’t love rock music—he absolutely does!

Beyond these consuming interests, he currently works at Microsoft in the Interactive Entertainment Business (Xbox), loves the outdoors (with a fondness for the Rocky Mountains that he’ll never lose) and taking his Jeep deep into the back-country, but more than anything enjoys spending time with his family.

You can find out more about Peter, and the various ways to follow and contact him, on his website.

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Seeing with Different Eyes

You hear it sometimes. Writers thanking this person or that for the opportunity to write something. But I have to tell you, when Sarah hit me up with this topic, synapses fired immediately on what I’d say both to her and to anyone who’d read my contribution. To Sarah, I said yes, of course. And here’s what I want to write about: seeing others with different eyes.

I’m going to try not to get up on a soapbox here. That’s not my intention at all. But I understand the risk I run in tackling a topic like this. It’s a risk I’m willing to take.

Let me start by saying it’s quite likely that you, dear reader, already do this—see others with different eyes, that is. What I mean by it is this: You don’t make value judgments based on what you see. Rather, your feelings and opinions about others are probably engendered by something more substantive than appearance. Still, bear with me.

We’ve all bandied about trite phrases like, “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” “Looks can be deceiving,” and “There’s more to it than meets the eye.” I don’t want to cover that ground. You know it well enough already. Instead, I want to talk about one way I think we can get past the snap judgments, past whatever discomfort seeing someone with special needs might cause us.

And it’s simply this: See them as a father or mother would.

There are flaws with my assertion. First, you may be neither a father nor mother, and so don’t have a frame of reference for my suggestion. But everyone’s got parents, one might argue. Well, even there, it’s possible your own parents weren’t great models of loving-kindness. It’s sad, but true, that some parents don’t feel particularly close to their own children. So, fair enough. I won’t argue these points.

But I’ll go out on a limb and say that parents generally love their kids. Really love them. With a deep connection it’s hard to articulate with mere words. Strictly speaking, it shouldn’t be necessary to apply the lens of parenthood when looking at someone else. The idealist in me shouts that we should treat everyone fairly, show compassion, lend a hand. But, we’re human. That’s not an excuse for bad behavior, just a fact. And humans are flawed. Sometimes deeply so.

It’s why I think it can be helpful to esteem others as a parent would. In broad strokes, every person—whether disabled; or down on their luck; or, hell, even just sad—is the child of someone who loves them. And I think that can inform how we treat one another.

When I hear about a woman being raped, I sometimes wonder to myself, “Would that guy do it if he had a daughter of his own?” It’s not a rational thought. Many rapists have daughters. And I understand that I’m projecting the love I have for my own little girl onto a man committing an act of violence. Still, in my sometimes warped sense of justice, I’ll imagine the bastard having a daughter later in life and becoming tormented by the thought of his crime once he realizes what he’s done to some father’s child.

Again, I realize, it shouldn’t be necessary to shift one’s frame of reference in order to show someone some common decency. But clearly the world has room for improvement in the area of how we treat one another. And I submit that this simple way of seeing others could help.

“Blood is thicker than water,” some will say. Right, but all that means is that you don’t have to work as hard at seeing your own family in the way I’ve described. It comes more naturally. The suggestion I’m making is—if needed—we consider that those who are encumbered with any number of challenges are someone else’s family. They’re loved. And there’s enough that’s common between us to let it soften our hearts to a healthy degree. And by soften, I mean cause our willingness to render aid, compassion, or defense. Yeah, that’s right. Stand up against a goddamn bully when you see him or her taunting another person’s child. Because you’d damn sure want someone to do that for your own kid if you weren’t around.

The world’s not a fair place. Trite statement, that. But we all walk in our own spheres, where we can make it more equitable if we choose to.

“Orullian,” you may be saying, “I didn’t tune in to Sarah’s awesome blog for a philosophical rant.”

No, you didn’t. But I’m not apologizing. Maybe Sarah won’t even run this. I may wind up having to post it on my own blog. Because I’ve been thinking about it for a long time.

You see, I thought I was a fairly even-handed guy until my first child was born. And despite what you might say about it, the very second I saw her head (I was in the delivery room), something in me changed. For the better, I might add. It was one of the most metaphysical moments of my life. I can’t explain it. It’s like a switched was turned on. My capacity for patience and compassion and love . . . well, it kind of multiplied. All that, and a fierce and immediate willingness to defend and protect my child.

I don’t pretend this happens for all dads. Though, many men tell me they’ve had the same experience.

Where does all this leave us? Maybe nowhere. I’ve no delusions that this blog post is more than a drop in an ocean. Still, I’d invite you to try it once. Next time you see someone with special needs, or really anyone who could use some help, think about them as someone’s kid. They could be feeling alone or confused. And consider that if their father or mother could be there, they’d be answering that need. In their absence, pay the needful the kindness someone who loves them would.

And now that I think about it, it wouldn’t hurt my feelings to see more of this in fiction, too. Good writing will show character flaws and failures, but I love reading stories where a character is willing to sacrifice on behalf of someone else. And that sacrifice doesn’t need to be mortal to be meaningful.

To close this out, I’ll reference a couple of songs. If you didn’t know, besides writing fiction, my other abiding passion is music. There are a lot of examples I could use, but a few whose sentiments seem to express what I’m trying to say come from Trans Siberian Orchestra and Dream Theater.

Trans Siberian Orchestra wrote a song entitled, “Old City Bar.” If you don’t know TSO, they’re most famous for their Christmas music. Rock style. Regardless whether you celebrate Christmas or not, I hope we’d align behind seminal Christmas ideas like charity and generosity. If so, then consider these lyrics:

Then the door opened wide
And a child came inside
That no one in the bar
Had seen there before

And he asked did we know
That outside in the snow
That someone was lost
Standing outside our door

Then the bartender gazed
Through the smoke and the haze
Through the window and ice
To a corner streetlight

Where standing alone
By a broken pay phone
Was a girl the child said
Could no longer get home

And the snow it was falling
The neon was calling
The bartender turned
And said, not that I care
But how do you know this?
The child said, I’ve noticed
If one could be home
They’d be already there

Then the bartender came out from behind the bar
And in all of his life he was never that far
Then he did something else that he thought no one saw
When he took all the cash from the register drawer

Then he followed the child to the girl cross the street
And we watched from the bar as they started to speak
Then he called for a cab and he said J.F.K.
Put the girl in the cab and the cab drove away
And we saw in his hand
That the cash was all gone

And from the Dream Theater song “Don’t Look Past Me,” this simple, powerful phrase:

And so love is broken
They’re asking me, “How can you help
When you don’t even know how it feels?”
I don’t need one thousand reasons
When someone starts to cry
When someone says my heart needs lifting
Don’t ask how come, ask how high

I suppose sharing these could make me look a bit maudlin. But I don’t care. I think there’s power in them. Real power. The kind that matters anyway.

 

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