Today is the 74th birthday of my friend, spiritual mentor and companion, Rev. Dr. David Kenneth Wheaton, Ph.D. But, no bother. He's not big on numbers because he's "not a number." Ken, rather, is 74-years-young.
As we spend time together in public I am amazed, to put it nicely, the parallels of his public perception with that of Grace's. As Grace grows older, she seems to attract more attention. Children with autism can be easy to ignore after a bit. They are children sometimes acting weirdly. But an adult young woman acting rather strangely? Well, that's a curiosity. Being a member of the second oldest profession in the world (some argue that it's the first)--no, I'm not talking prostitution but promotion--I readily promote my daughter's art (or any cause or thing about which I'm passionate. Noticed? Ha!) So, I've been intrigued to watch people's jaws drop when they try to correlate the visual experience of my hyper-active, mostly non-verbal, often wacky-acting daughter with autism with the art she creates and is exhibiting in six shows this year. (I'm adding in the Hillsboro High School and the Mayor’s Advisory Committee for People with Disabilities exhibit at Vanderbilt Kennedy Center.)
Likewise, when people view Ken as a chronological number, I like to shock them out of their inside-the-box, categorical, stereotype-thinking and inform them that he awakens at four a.m. each morning to mediate for two hours, runs two miles thereafter and practice advanced yoga. (Like, full lotus over his head kind of advanced.) He also runs 5-K's for charity and is a former body builder and is still building body mass. (Age is just a number.)
If you wish to read more about the most fascinating man I've ever met in my life, you can visit his site, Journey with a Modern Mystic where you'll find a free PDF download of his epononmously named book and You Tube videos of each chapter. In addition to being a former prison chaplain, social justice activist, and university professor, Ken is a former yoga teacher, has lived as a Tao hermit and is shamanically trained.
Remember: Age is Just A Number. And Autism? It's not always what you think! And in the end? There is a special spirit in a human body within the each of us that is called One. When we see the beauty and amazing in one of us, we have the opportunity to really know it and embrace it within ourselves.
Join me in breaking outside the box. It's liberating.
photo: Kristen M. Chipman (Kristen literally came running up to Ken and I during a walk at Radnor Lake. Intimidating professional honker-of-a-camera in hand, she pleaded "Can, I please take your picture?" She wasn't talking to me. She had a photographer's eagle-eye for interesting subject matter.)