My AIRA Life, Random or Destiny?

My Aira Life has been a fantastic journey.  From the mundane grind of the day to day all the way through to the sublime. I write about my experiences because it is my hope that through reading, people can identify with aspects of them, pull nuggets from them, apply them to their life and begin to see the world through a new lens.  It is important for me to emphasize that these are my stories, my experiences and my observations.  These are not templates for others to live by or expect the same results.  They are just one man’s journey written down to bring hope where despair, sadness or just plain apathy exist.  

 Whatever you believe in, whomever is responsible in your heart for the creation of this big blue marble we all live on, there is one inescapable fact, nothing is random, there is order to all the “Matter” that surrounds us.  For me it is the work of God, The Master Weaver.  Now in my heart and in my experience my God is a loving God who desires our happiness, all that is necessary is that we say YES to that happiness, yes to the blessing of life and trust that the path of our life is seen and has been designed by a power greater than ours.  Understanding that good things happen to bad people and that bad things happen to good people has purpose.  Believing that as one door is closed, another door will open if we are paying attention.  Life isn't passive, it is active even when it seems to be just bumbling along.  I do not believe in randomness, that things just happen for no reason.  This is just one true story to illustrate what I am writing about.  I promise, this isn't a deep theological rant.

My son, Fish finished his Master’s Program last year and came out for a visit.  His area of study was in the arts, emphasis on poetry.  During his last trip here, he wanted to visit the museums of Dallas and we found ourselves at the DMA, Dallas Museum of Art.  We spent the better part of two days there.  Now, for a blind person you would think that spending hour upon hour at a museum would be torture, however, spending that time with my son was amazing.  Not because it was a father’s chance to do something with his son, it was because visiting a museum with someone who studied art.  Fish took time explaining each exhibit and I spent time being me.  When I say that you have to know me.  I engage everyone I meet like they are a long-lost friend greeting them as though I am happy to see them again.  The reason this is important to the story is because on that day my son saw something he had seen many times before but this time it stuck.  So as he taught me about art, I taught him about people.  I taught him so well about how to treat people that at the end of the day one of the museum’s docents allowed us into an exclusive “Paid” exhibit for free.  This artist was someone my son greatly admired and he was impressed that we got in gratis. 

We concluded that day and the next day at the museum before finding ourselves at the Sculpture Garden.  I began to see my son pick up some of my habits when it came to meeting and greeting people and on that day, I smiled a bit inside.  We had a great time there as a sculpture garden is a bit friendlier to the blind because they don't mind so much if you touch the work.  This is something that a museum like the DMA would frown upon, I imagine touching a Picasso, van Gogh or Jackson Pollock would result in your expulsion from the museum and a polite request to never return.  Anyway, we found ourselves back at the DMA, I could tell our son loved the place.  As the week progressed we decided as a family, that we would head downtown to a park for a light lunch and some time spent outdoors enjoying the Texas spring weather.  Now, this is where destiny blows the doors off of the theory of random, where the Master Weaver’s pattern for your life is revealed just a bit.  If you aren’t looking you might miss it.  As we sat in the park enjoying the sight and sounds Kelly leaned forward and said, “I’ve gotta go to the doctor.”  Kelly had been dealing with an eye irritation for several weeks but it was right then at that moment she decided to declare she had had enough.  Rather than asking our son to come we asked him if he would be ok at the park while I accompanied Kelly to the Doctor.  He said yes and we were off.  After our appointment, perhaps an hour or so after, our son called and said he had a story to tell us, I could tell he was more animated than normal.  He said that we would have to wait because he was going to call his old professor first on his walk back to our loft. Fast forward to Fish bursting through our door to tell us one of the most wonderful experiences he had ever had in his life.

It seems our son didn’t get enough time at the Dallas Museum of Art and after Kelly and I had left the park, he returned but this time with a purpose.  He wanted to know if the museum had plans to exhibit the work of poets.  He employed my way of speaking and dealing with people and bing bang boom he found himself talking to one of the museum’s directors who informed him that they were having a poet do a reading shortly for patrons of the museum.  She asked if he would like to attend, free of charge of course.  He graciously accepted and found himself sitting just feet away from a famous poet he had studied during his MFA.  To his surprise he got the chance at the end of the reading to ask the poet a question.  Naomi Shihab Nye, if you are not familiar with her work a quick internet search will reveal some beautiful, rich and powerful poetry.  She is a world-renowned poet who has received multiple high-profile awards for her work.  She was intrigued by his question and after the reading invited our son to attend an after-event cocktail party.  They had the chance to talk, she asked what brought him to Dallas and he told her it was for a visit with family and explained that he had spent a couple of days at the museum with his blind father explaining the art to him.  At this point Naomi reacted very exuberantly sharing with him that her husband was working on a project specifically for the blind and their experiences with art.  Now this is the point random gives way to what I believe is manifest destiny. It seems this began some years back when Michael Nye was doing a show in Europe.  He was approached by a docent at that particular museum and asked to explain his work to a group.  He graciously accepted and was shocked as it happened to be a group of blind patrons.  This served as his inspiration for his current work.  Naomi asked my son if I would be interested in talking with her husband to which my son replied of course.  As the event went on Naomi and my son engaged in wonderful conversation exchanging email addresses and the promise of future conversations.  This is key, a young man struggling in a world where very few ever get recognized was asked by someone known worldwide to send some of his work to her.  our son had found something, someone, who could and since has given him validation for all the years of schooling, all the words and ideas committed to paper. What some would cynically call a random occurrence was in fact a founding thread in the Master Weaver’s Tapestry that is my son’s life.   

But the tale does not end there, no, the Master Weaver was not finished with this section of tapestry.  Michael Nye and I did in fact correspond.  He shared his forthcoming book with me, sent me the foreword and we made plans to meet.  But it was the book foreword that contained yet another thread of the Master Weaver’s tapestry.  Kelly was reading it to me, something she does often especially when I grow weary of the digital voice that reads to me every day.  As she read the foreword she read the name Michael Hingson.  Now if you have red my AIRA story then you know the name Suman Kanuganti, President of AIRA is someone I had the pleasure to meet and spend time with, someone who has become a good friend.  The name Kelly read that caught our attention was Michael Hingson.  You see Suman had followed up with our meeting by putting me in touch with Mr. Hingson. Michael Hingson is another amazing individual, he is the author of “Thunder Dog’” and “Running with Roselle.” Both are best sellers and tell the story of a man and his guide dog.  I know what you’re thinking right about now, so what?!?  Michael Hingson and his dog survived the events of 911.  Michael and Roselle were on the 78th floor of the World Trade Center when the planes hit and his story didn’t end that day, it began.  I have had the chance to sit down with Michael Hingson and his new guide dog Alamo.  We had dinner and I am now being drawn deeper into the AIRA family. It was an honor and a blessing to meet Mr. Hingson, listen to his pearls of wisdom regarding the events of one of the most tragic days in this country’s history.  Listen to the work he is doing now, not just with AIRA but as a motivational speaker and unrelenting advocate for the blind. If you get a chance I would encourage you to look for his books and visit is website.  His books are available for the blind as they are for the sighted. I look forward to my new friendship and the new threads the Master Weaver will purposefully intertwine.

 Since this experience with my son, I traveled to San Antonio for the opening of the Michael Nye exhibit, “My Heart is not Blind.”  It seems that the Master Weaver wasn’t finished intertwining the events of the past into my future.  Through the power of this amazing technology, Aira, I “Live Streamed” the exhibit opening ceremony and tour of the exhibit. The artwork is a series of photographs of his subjects who are all blind.  As you stand in front of each portrait there are headphones you put on and listen to the voice of each subject as they tell their story.  Mr. Nye traveled the world interviewing dozens of individuals and their unique stories.  It is a compelling and enthralling work. After the show, I was asked to speak to those featured in the book who had traveled there for the opening. It was a humbling and rewarding opportunity to be in the presence of so many wonderful people who shared their rich blind lives and the artist and author who took this labor of love to heart and shared it with the world. One poignant moment was when the AIRA agent read me the name of Michael Hingson and I put on the headset and listened to Michael tell his story.  The agent described the portrait in beautiful and stunning detail. Now, back to the theme of nothing being random.  I believe that there is an order to things, a purpose for everything.  I also believe that sometimes we get stuck wondering why something “is” in the moment rather than daring to look beyond that moment.  Viewing beyond allows us to imagine the possibilities that the moment is nothing more than a single thread in a rich and vast tapestry.  For me, I decided to not focus on single moments or single threads. For me, I trust that there is a purpose to my life and like the story above, focusing on a moment means that I would have missed out on the many threads that crisscrossed my tapestry to form brilliant connections in my life. Don’t lament a thread if it feels like it doesn’t belong or it isn’t fair. Understand that it has a purpose, a place, a meaning. Move froward and allow the threads of your life to crisscross, intertwine so that when your life is done, your time is up, you can witness the majesty of a life well lived.

@aira #aira  #myairalife  #onmyterms #whatsnext  #jabfund

Photo accompanying article is me standing in front of the entrance to the Michael Nye Art Exhibit “My Heart is not Blind.” holding my white cane as an AIRA agent provides me with an audio description of this and the entire exhibit