‘More Real Than Reality’

December 22, 2007 at 7:58 pm | Posted in Musing + Mulling | Leave a comment
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I of course haven’t experienced blindness; but it has always intrigued me.
How does a normal-turned blind person differ from a person who’s born blind? How does the latter perceive the notion of colour? Well, more importantly, what IS blindness? Not as a physical disability, but as a state of mind? The absence of vision, colour, light -what? Or simply the inability to see what’s going on in the world round you? But then, is it not possible for a blind person to imagine these things?

In some cases blindness, instead of proving a frustrating handicap, has actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise for the human imagination. There have been such reports in the past, where visually challenged people have experienced ‘seeing’ things – and the experience is staggering. Somehow, things seem ‘more real than reality’. One bloke relates how, after he turned blind because of an accident, suddenly found himself composing poems, when he hadn’t had any flair for poetry before. People have reported about how blindness suddenly opened up whole new worlds for the imagination.
But the question is, do they ‘see’ things or ‘imagine’ them? Or are they, in this case, one and the same?

Does the absence of vision – a physical phenomenon of the body – affect the mental constitution? In what ways? Does your imagination evolve? Ironic, isn’t it, that we generally consider it true that whatever we see in our daily lives triggers off the imagination; and then there’s this truth about blindness being a sort of ‘internal’ inspiration as opposed to vision being an ‘external’ imagination?

What does colour mean to a to a blind person? Colour is something so intimately associated with sight, but we know that we are able to visualise those colours in our minds. We can easily imagine what red looks like, or blue or black…but then does a blind person imagine them too? In our daily lives we can easily talk about the whole concept of colours because we have two very important tools at our disposal: sight and language. Anyone who’s capable of sight and understands your language will have no difficulty in understanding you if you made reference to a particular colour.

But what about a person who’s born blind? Here, language fails us. I think such people do experience colour; but we can’t understand their ideas about colour – and nor can they ours, because language, something that bridges the gap between perceiving and conveying – cannot be taken as a common ground for both the parties. They might know what red is, but not that it’s called red.

I think the most obvious and most frustrating gap between the blind and the normals is language. But if such people are exposed to the right tools, it can be a whole lot of easier to deal with problems. I have read about blind people being successful doctors, teachers and what not. It’s amazing really. With the love and support of family and friends, they’re brought up to believe that blindness is no great tragedy – just an exasperating bother; and that they can do whatever normal people can.

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