Adjust Text Size:change font sizechange font sizechange font sizechange font sizechange font sizechange font size

Participant Information

Gary W. Hilburger


To arise and still walk, to write and still speak, to reflect and decide with wisdom, we must adapt to an increasingly impaired ability to perform such once-ordinary tasks.

To accept such affliction and thus to endure, we must, regardless of spiritual identity, come to terms with the nature of life itself. For many, this acceptance is found through work with a dedicated international community, tireless researchers of all cultures and perspectives and our faithful and beloved caregivers.

For still others, the path extends to the introspective and reaches its destination in the spiritual, seeking a deeper understanding of the will of the Almighty.

Regardless of one's path to enlightenment, it is only when acceptance is attained that we might fully and courageously dedicate ourselves to undertake the lifelong battle with Parkinson's disease.

Adaptation thus requires us to acknowledge, accept and work within increasingly significant long-term physical change. More profoundly, it asks us to submit to a mental and often, spiritual, transformation whose success depends largely on the wisdom one derives from being forged by the circumstances of life and consequences of our mortal nature.

Compounded by lethargy induced by agonists and progressive deterioration of health, one must, ultimately, find within a voice so resolute and enduring as to oppose and surmount the anguish of all that disease and its consequences portend.

In the final line of "Ulysses", Tennyson exhorts us, in a statement of monumental transcendence, to arise and command our destiny, to seek and hearken to the voice of the soul. For it is in impaired pursuit of our noble but frail aspirations that his verse dignifies and sustains us, and those who follow, under circumstances of relentless trial.

The form which Tennyson bids us all seek, a voice singular, resolute and enduring, emerges from the literal embodiment of the human spirit in the creation of poetry.

One might argue that "Ulysses" stands as a testament to Tennyson and the universal importance of poetry as art; more profound, however, is what it represents for the afflicted. Is is for those disabled by Parkinson's and our brothers and sisters, stricken with other crippling disorders, that his words provide an enduring expression of will - one that opposes physical weakness with emotional strength and endures with unyielding courage our lifelong hardship.

Having now reconciled myself to the emotional effects of an incurable disease, I realize that it was in evolving through months of escalating self-discipline dedicated to a single poem that I began to understand a deeper purpose to my work, to be strengthened by addressing adversity face-to-face, that I might better know its limits and, in so doing, find words and voice to both accept and rise above its fury.

Whether poetry is the force by which we recast the image of our destiny, or it is our affliction that drives those who would be poets, I submit instead to the Almighty's gift of life itself and the sanctity it bestows upon art. For its purpose is but to portray and thus, to illuminate, our noble existence.

It is not the nature of our reaction to the disease, but the sacred value that we derive from life that ordains poetry and the process by which it is created. It is thus no less than that which serves, in our greatest of trials, to sustain our values, awaken our courage and ennoble our brief lives.

G.W. Hilburger
Member, Rochester Poets
Rochester, NY