Continuation: A Very Personal Turning Point

To continue with the previous post, the Beethoven Concert also marked another kind of turning point for me.

It has to do with Beethoven’s story himself.  A lot of people know he is considered the father of symphony music, but I believe more credit must be given to him due to his disability: he was listening impaired (or literally deaf) starting at around 25.  And he lived on to his fifties and created his master pieces.

I remember reading a short biographic article about how he reacted and dealt with his illness.  There was anger, there was anxiety, there was fear, but he did not let these emotions impede his musical talent.  One night, and by the time his listening has become a lot worse, after conducting a very successful music piece, he turned around to see a cheering crowd with very enthusiastic applauds and smiles.

He wept. Not because he was moved by the enthusiasm. But rather…

He could not hear any of it.

This led me wonder, how the &$%§ did he compose all these symphonic masterpieces with so many instruments and sounds, and trying to harmonize and find a balance among them.  My goodness!

While sitting in the audience listening to one of his symphonies, I wondered, how would he feel if he could hear the piece, just once?  Would he be pleased with his composition?  If he did not have listening disability, would he have composed even more inspiring pieces, or rather, did his listening disability to an extent impeded his talent?

Beethoven’s story then connected to a very personal story of mine.

I have an uncle (not by blood, but it’s a very unique relationship between my mother and my “fictive kin” grandmother, something we have in Taiwanese culture) who at a very young age lost his hearing, and thus he is deaf and mute.  I personally do not know a lot of his own story, but I can imagine he must have face a lot of discrimination and prejudice growing up.  But thankfully, he has a very very kind hearted mother and strong bonding siblings and relatives for support.

He is currently the president of the Taiwanese Association of the Listening Impaired (however you translate it from Chinese…), which helps people with listening disabilities on employment, job training, human rights, education, counseling, support group systems and many more.

I would visit my grandma occasionally as a little child, and I’ve always known that I have a special uncle who “talked” through hands.  I was really fascinated.  I didn’t know what he said, but the idea that these signs transcend verbal speech was pure fascination for a child who was more visual than verbal in communication.  One time in high school he invited my family to his BBQ with his association members.  And that was the quietest BBQ I have ever (and probably ever will) in my life.  Though verbal communication could not be established, the people were so welcoming and kind-hearted and very patient.

And he has two beautiful daughters, who are not deaf or mute!  One of them is married with a handsome baby boy too!  So, I’d like to use this chance that clarify and confirm that: NO ONE IS BORN DEAF OR BLIND OR MUTE, aka IT’S NOT GENETICS.

Even the famous figure, Hellen Keller, lost her vision and hearing not by birth, but due to a fever.  Have you watched the movie about Hellen Keller in the scene when she started screaming “Water, water, water!”  No, it was not a “miracle” that she linked the liquid to the word “water.”  In her autobiography she stated that prior to her fever at age 3 or 4, she remembered hearing the word “water,” thus the contact with water prompted her speech memory.

I’ve always wanted to learn Sign Language, but I never had the chance to do so, be it limited opportunities or time.  As I am required to come back to York for at least one semester, I am going to use this opportunity to learn American Sign Language.  Now I’m finding that there is more purpose to my participation in YIIP and an extra year of university, specifically in Bonn, Germany. I guess now I’ve found another reason.  I’ve always been amazed how one hand I communicate with my cousin verbally, and then immediately she switches to sign language to her father.  I think that’s really classy.

So, in conclusion, coming to Bonn, the birthplace of Beethoven, has reaffirmed the promise I have always set for myself.  I currently can communicate in 6 languages (Mandarin, Taiwanese, English, Spanish, French, and now.. German! LOL), but I believe I can take my communicative skills to the next level.  I feel that for the longest time, these people with disabilities have been patient with us.  I think it’s time for us to return the favour.

Sign language it is! 😀


About Oliver

This is for my summer in Germany while working with Deutscher Akademischer Austauch Dienst (DAAD), or German Academic Exchange Service!
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