Seeing Things Differently

by Steve Gladstone, Insight Blogger

To see, or not to see--that is not the question. With my apologies to Mr. Shakespeare, if given the option to see or not to see, I would certainly choose the former. It surely isn’t nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous blindness if you don’t have to.

Notwithstanding this obvious truth, “seeing” has many meanings. In ancient times, a seer could see into the future. (Ironically, Tiresias, the famed clairvoyant from Greek mythology, was also blind.) To try and see things “my way” is to ask somebody to take your point of view, or Saying “I see your point” let’s somebody know that you understand what they are saying (even if you disagree).

“Seeing things differently” is to have differing opinions or perceptions of the same thing.
Ask five sightlings to describe the same Picasso painting and you will get five different versions of that painting. We all know that if you ask eight people their opinion on a political issue, you will get eight differing viewpoints, some even detached from reality.

So, in a grander and nuanced sort of way, “seeing” is much more than physical sight.

Arguably, sight is the primary pathway of our senses. We take in our world first by what we see and then by what we hear, touch, taste and smell. But when you are blind, you do “see” things differently.

Several years ago, my friend Kimberly, a singer of Broadway and opera, worked a summer season at Wolf Trap, the performing arts venue in Virginia. Her hosts' 11 year-old daughter was blind. On a trip to the zoo one day, they came to an area where children could hold and feel some of the animals. Kimberly never forgot the young lady’s description of a beaver's tummy: "Have you ever seen a beaver," she asked. "Only in pictures," Kimberly replied. “Well," the young lady continued, "their tummy is soft like velvet. The softest fur you'll ever touch. They are really beautiful." Kimberly recalled how the little girl’s “…description was perfect. Lots of different ways to see things.”

How we comprehend our world is dynamic, and those lacking one or more of their five senses, reroute things toward their other abilities that are in play, employing their wit and ingenuity to interpret the world accordingly.

Tiresias obtain his info in various ways in order to serve up his “second sight.” Sometimes, like the oracles, he would receive visions; other times the songs of birds would inform him; sometimes he would ask for a description of pictures appearing within the smoke of burnt offerings.

Tiresias was considered “a complexly liminal figure, mediating between humankind and the gods, male and female, blind and seeing, present and future, this world and the Underworld.” In other words, he was one exceptional blind fellow.

Disability isn’t a tragedy – it’s just another way of living. And for some, having a disability gives them leverage — seeing things others don’t see.

To see--perchance to dream!

I echo Kimberly’s words: “Happy New Year, friend. Let's hope 2017 will be a wonderful year for all of us, the planet … and the beavers.”

Steve Gladstone
The Blind Dude