Monday, December 22, 2014

Michael J. Fox. Always Looking Up (2009)

     Michael J. Fox. Always Looking Up (2009) I heard Fox speak at an Ontario Hospital Association Health Achieve convention in 2011. He was impressive, clearly affected by his Parkinson’s disease, yet coping well. I don’t know what his current condition is, but since we haven’t heard much about him in the last year or so, I surmise that the Parkinson’s has progressed beyond the effectiveness of the drugs and other measures Fox has used to keep it in check.
     Fox came across as a man who has come to terms with his life, and is using his talents and his treasure to live that life as well as he can. His courage, his good humour, his awareness of the effects of his twitching and blank-outs and other symptoms of Parkinson’s, combined to make us believe that no matter how bad things seem, there are ways to live a full and satisfying life. He calls himself an incurable optimist. He knows that the odds of finding a cure in time to prevent the last ravages of the disease are remote, but he supports research anyhow. He’s set up a foundation to support Parkinson’s research and related activities. This has become his work.
     Parkinson’s is one of those degenerative diseases that we don’t like to think about. It makes us avert our eyes, it whispers “This is all you are: a bundle of flesh and bone and skin and a few curious organs, any one of which can break down and rob you not only of your well-being but of your self. You won’t ever be the same again.”
Fox has tried to remain the same. His optimism, as he calls it, has sustained him. He knows the value of family, of friends, of hope. He knows that he must work hard to maintain something like a normal life, but his very existence reminds us that “normal” is a comforting illusion. Objectively, it’s merely the collection of average traits. Psychologically, it’s the notion that we are what we are supposed to be. But who of us is?
     I started reading this book to remind me of the impression that Fox made in his presentation. It does that very well. I didn’t read it all, I don’t need to know all the details of Fox’s life as told here. I like his work in TV, and I like the person he was in 2011 and in this book even more. His style is personal, you think you’re listening to him talk to you. He says many wise things incidentally, such as “...investing time in the political process is an expression of hope”. The cynic might say it’s a forlorn hope, but not Fox. He’s not ideological, he’s pragmatic, an attitude that sustains one’s political hopes despite the crazies who appropriate political dialogue.
    There’s a lot of information online about him and the Foundation. ***

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