-Tom Olin

As someone who's been disabled and used a wheelchair for over 30 years, Zen's poems remind me of the pain, joy, growth and change I've experienced in times of my life when I've done a lot of soul searching, getting in touch with faith and God. Life is a journey and 'A Different Way Of Being' is an insightful diary of one man's will to reclaim self, "more found in my wheelchair than I ever was lost and walking around". Zen says two significant things must occur in life. "Truth has to be realized and love has to be lived." Zen Garcia is a rare mix, a gifted poet, passionate activist, and father at 33 years of age. Advocacy had to become a large part of Zen's lifestyle, "a part of his fate." He's had his ('Reality Check') and realized "life deserves more than idle conscious." Clearly his parents, "who bear the brunt of hurt" have played a major role in assisting him this far.

Disability happens daily and really is only as big a deal as you make it. It's a natural consequence of interacting with our environment. It teaches us and those around, not to take things for granted, and to re-evaluate what is important in life and living. It allows us to know that there is more than one way to do things. Most importantly we learn disability isn't the problem; attitudes, myths, perceptions and prejudice are, as Zen writes, 'Accept Me for Who I Am." When we fight who we are, we resist and fear change, getting used to routine which leave us in stagnation. Unfortunately, lethargy can become a way of life for many post-disability.
The more stress accumulates, the more our conscious narrows and we conform to not do anything at all about the ways we are and the life we have been 'fated' to live. Complacency can be in large part to doubts about self and lack of confidence, trust in who we think we can become. Disability can change us for better if we allow it; all we need is a map. 'A Different Way Of Being' is that map.

Few institutions know much about the disability rights movement and what's going on now. We are in process of redefining problems and issues. We are changing attitudes declaring pity as wrong. The independent living movement seeks to broaden visions of empowerment to individuals who need assistance in their daily living; forcing people to focus on relationships and less on autonomy, independence in tasks and skills. Instead of self-independence, survival depends on inter-dependence, a paradigm of we together can do it, we can cooperate; we can combine our talents and abilities and create something greater. Life is about connections. It is about how to get along, how to understand others, and how to forge successful relationships. In a broader sense, it is about community, about working with others to make a life and make a difference. 'A Different Way Of Being' through Zen's life illustrates that and if nothing else that we can as a group, as a collective, as a force create change improving the lives of us all. "The people united will never be defeated."

- Mark Johnson