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Disability: States of Ability

Disability: States of Ability - Featuring David D'Arcangelo
Disability: States of Ability - Featuring David D'Arcangelo
“You have the choice; you control your thoughts and your mind.  Never let love or positivity stray too far away scale.  Whenever you find yourself slipping towards the lower end of that scale, whether it is a mild or severe experience, intentionally focus on positive thoughts, good things, and love … Never stray too far from those sources of happiness, always keeping them just a couple of steps away.” David D'Arcangelo

We discuss the importance of positivity and constructive discourse in addressing societal challenges with David D'Arcangelo, President of Arc Angel Communications and Disability Policy Expert, who provides innovative leadership to lead positive change.  David, legally blind, is an enthusiastic leader and a powerful advocate for people with disabilities and underserved populations.  David emphasizes the power of positivity, love, and constructive discourse in addressing societal challenges and building bridges between differing perspectives.

Stephen Matini: What do you think people resent the most about change?

David D’Arcangelo: I think people tend to create archetypal metaphors in their heads about what something is or isn't, or what it is going to be or could be. And when these expectations are not met exactly as envisioned, it creates conflict, which then unsettles everything and leads to resentment. I try not to have those prejudices and try to live in the moment because who knows what the next moment will bring.

SM: How do you strike a balance between finding contentment in the present moment and striving for your goals or desires?

DD: Sometimes that is easier to do than other times. You do get caught up in trying to think about the future or reflecting on the past. Future performance is usually a sign of past performance, but we're here in the now, so it is taking some measure of where we've been and being able to reflect on it. 

Particularly if you've made mistakes. I think it is trying to learn from those so that when you do them again, you're better. Having that experience, trying to apply it towards future behaviors in the now, and having that balance, that's the key. 

SM: How has your mission to improve the human condition become a central part of your life? Has it always been present, or was there a specific event that ignited this purpose within you?

DD: It has always been there. I am not very religious, but I am very faithful. So, any of the good things that happen, I really can't take credit for them. Any of the dreadful things that happen, that's on me. Start with myself – what can I do to be better? What can I do to be more positive? What mistakes did I make that I want to change for the future, so I don't repeat them? 

When it comes to improving the human condition, there is the choice to do it one person at a time or to be involved with policies that impact many. Did both and strive to continue doing both. Whether it is helping one person or many, I always aim to stay positive and constructive and move things forward. 

These challenges come in various forms and on the spectrum. We all have different abilities, and they manifest in countless ways. For some, there is significant suffering on one end of that spectrum. And on the other end, there's no suffering at all. It stands for complete enlightenment, but most individuals fall somewhere along that spectrum. It is important to note that our position on the spectrum can change over time, as it is a sliding scale. Each of us exists at different points on the scale, reflecting our own various states of ability.

SM: Has disability ever defined who you are? 

DD: Who would I be without this disability that I face? It is particularly interesting when it comes to people with less apparent disabilities. 

I believe a considerable number of individuals with disabilities have non-apparent disabilities. That means when you interact with them, you may not necessarily realize that they have a disability. And I am most likely one of those people. 

Most people are surprised when I tell them that I am legally blind because they can see that I can see. Most individuals who are blind have some usable vision.

Now, that is towards one end of the spectrum. I am probably barely legally blind, if you want to put it that way. With my glasses on, my visual acuity is 2200, which is still considered legally blind.

The good side is people are impressed by how high-functioning I am. The bad side is the confusion when I say I am blind. Have to take the good with the bad. It is about education and helping people understand that we all have different abilities. Whether it is our hearing, sight, cognition, or mobility, we are all in various states of ability. 

SM: Did your main challenges with disability originate from within yourself or from external factors?

DD: The great stoic philosopher Epictetus said that one of the keys to life is to break things down into one of two categories. Internal things that you can control and external things that you cannot control. 

I try not to spend resources, effort, and time on things that are outside of my control. Try to focus on things that are within my control. I was born as a person with a disability and that is out of my control. You must play the hand you're dealt.

Faced various challenges. For me, the important thing is how to confront and embrace adversity. Begin by reflecting on myself. What could I have done better?  What should I have done differently? It is about taking personal responsibility and choosing to be positive. 

SM: What strategies or activities do you find helpful to realign yourself and regain faith and perseverance on rough days?

DD: It is not a matter of if…it is a matter of when you encounter challenges. How will you choose to manage them? What is your guidepost? What is your north star? For me, it is God, and it starts with that positivity, that love.

I believe in love, not just the kind you see on a Hallmark card or in some romance movie. Yes, it is that, but it is much more.  I honestly believe it is something so prevalent that if you were to put it on the periodic table, it would be more abundant than hydrogen. Love is the force that binds everything in the universe together.

Science, I believe, is discovering this. With concepts like superposition and quantum entanglement, it seems to prove God. They even call the Higgs boson the God particle. To me, this shows that love is more powerful than anything else.

And that's where it all begins. You can choose to embrace that, be positive, and strive to embody all the things that stem from love in the hierarchy – beauty, truth, and everything subordinate to love.

SM: How can we bridge the gap between extreme polarities and foster more love and unity in our society? Where do you start?

DD: You have the choice; you control your thoughts and your mind. Never let love or positivity stray too far away. Whenever you find yourself slipping towards the lower end of the scale, whether it is a mild or severe experience, intentionally focus on positive thoughts, good things, and love.

Whatever brings you joy and positivity, whether it is being on a beach, hearing your mother's voice or your child's laughter, or spending time with your pets, that's where you should aim to be. Never stray too far from those sources of happiness, always keeping them just a couple of steps away.

SM: How do you apply your positive attitude and energy during negotiations, especially in highly divisive settings like policy making? How do you keep the conversations going?

DD: Sometimes when we face negativity or challenges, it can inspire us to become even more resilient and positive. Taking responsibility for those situations can be a valuable lesson as well. At the same time, it is important to recognize the efforts and contributions of others who have played a role in bringing about positive outcomes. It is all about keeping a mindset that focuses on growth, teamwork, and gratitude.

Have a podcast of my own, “Save as ABILITY.” And on that, we've been talking about things like these programs and the disability laws that have been put in place over time. Those are all well-intentioned. That is your government trying to put programs together, to help people, to help improve the human condition, to reduce suffering.

However, policy implementation can be hindered by bureaucratic processes and can become outdated over time. As circumstances change, the need for policy adaptations arises. However, altering existing policies can often lead to resistance from those who have relied on them, as they may fear the consequences of such changes. This highlights the complexity of managing public policies. 

SM: Is it more challenging, less challenging, or about the same to be involved in policymaking today compared to the past?

DD: I first became involved in policymaking about 20 to 25 years ago, as an aide in the state senate and working in the governor's office. Looking back, I noticed that there was a greater sense of agreement and respect for differences in those days. 

In my opinion, we currently face three significant problems in society. Firstly, the media is the most significant issue we confront. Secondly, there is a decline in self-reliance and a decentralization of responsibility, which I believe is a major problem. And finally, there's the problematic attitude of considering certain entities "too big to fail."

Government and other related matters are relatively low on the list. However, how we access information is the primary global and personal challenge of our time. The information being propagated by the mainstream media, to put it, frankly, is not entirely honest. 

The system has evolved to provide what I refer to as infotainment - a blend of information presented as legitimate news when it truly isn’t. It is essentially transformed into entertainment. This information has become a form of entertainment. And in my view, that is a distinct departure from what it used to be and what it should be. I strongly believe that all individuals who are considered "journalists" should have to pass a test and adhere to much higher standards, especially regarding objectivity and lack of bias.

Furthermore, there should be a means for government  to incentivize these changes so that the information is not solely driven by bias. Currently, news and information are influenced by big corporations who shape the narrative based on their interests and agendas. It hinders the complete disclosure of truth and prevents individuals from developing their own unbiased opinions. 

It is the responsibility of individuals to make their own decisions. I strongly believe in self-responsibility and self-reliance. Therefore, I think it is up to each person to determine their own beliefs.

SM: What could be the most accountable thing that all of us could do on a personal level to contribute to moving towards peace? 

DD: Today is a day of reflection for me, December 7th - Pearl Harbor Day. Take a moment to reflect on the lives that were lost and consider the underlying reasons for our participation in that war. Why did America and the Allies choose to fight?  It was to seek peace, and freedom, and to prevent oppression. 

Peace, as a single word and concept, encompasses numerous other ideals such as truth, honesty, and justice. Peace is a dynamic state that brings together these essential elements. To achieve peace, truth, honesty, and justice are crucial. Therefore, if one wishes peace, one must prioritize honesty, actively seek the truth, and pursue justice. 

Although there are ongoing conflicts, such as those in Israel and parts of Africa, which I do not wish to disregard, in the context of the world's existence, we have never experienced greater prosperity. The global population has reached unprecedented levels, ensuring greater access to clean water, quality food, housing, and shelter. The standard of living has considerably improved, and poverty levels have decreased over the past 50, or even 100, years.

"If it bleeds, it leads" is a well-known axiom in news reporting.  However, it is important to recognize that, on planet Earth, numerous positive things are happening that far exceed the negative occurrences. Choosing positivity is within your control. 

SM: David, I am so grateful for the love you shared with me in this conversation. Thank you so much. 

🎧  Listen on your favorite platform: Listen to the episode on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, Podbean, or your favorite podcast platform. Subscribe to the Pity Party Over podcast.


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