October 12, 2007

The Miracle Of Life

It started at the movie theater. It was a couple of months ago and Catherine and I were going to see something or other that is fairly irrelevant to my story. A couple of friends were going to meet us for this celluloid extravaganza, so while Catherine held close guard over the seats, I stood out front to wait for our friends' arrival.

As showtime approached, I watched many a person come through the doors and head into the theater. My eyes were in a daze, staring at face after face, looking for the familiarity of our friends. Suddenly, out of nowhere, I saw a woman standing in front of me, ambling slowly towards the theater door. She was about 60 years old and was carrying a white cane. I looked down and noticed the bottom of the cane was red. I looked up and realized she was wearing dark sunglasses.

Interesting, I thought to myself. I've never seen this situation.

The woman approached the door and handed over her ticket. The usher asked if she needed help and, as she nodded approval, he took her arm and guided her into the theater.

It seemed odd to me, a blind woman coming to watch a movie. Or, rather, to listen to a movie. I'm not sure why it stuck with me, but it did.

Fast forward a couple of months and I'm driving down the road headed somewhere that is, again, completely irrelevant to my story when I see a 20-something girl crossing the street. But not just a regular 20-something, a blind 20-something girl. Dark glasses, standard white cane with the red tip - you know the story.

The young blind girl alone wouldn't necessarily spark my attention. What got me gawking was the fact that she was smiling, arm-in-arm with another 20-something girl with another white/red cane and another set of dark sunglasses. It was, literally, the blind leading the blind - and having a good time in the process.

Seeing those two, smiling arm in arm, made me realize why it all struck me so intensely. I suppose it can be summed up in one word: fear.

Blindness, in my mind, would take my life away. I love movies, I love reading, I love the endless senseless beauty that envelopes the minutae of life. When I go running, I drown myself in the God-like elegance of the green leaves, the towering trees. I find spiritual solace in the comfort of the soft blue sky. What would be of life if this gift of sight were robbed of me? How would I possibly survive?

I'm terrified to live in a world of darkness. Scared shitless to float through an endless black sea of nothingness.

So to see a blind woman go to the movies, and to witness two blind girls happily strolling the streets... well, in my mind it might as well have been a surreal sketch from a Salvador Dali scene.

But as I sit here and write this, I realize how desperately and drastically wrong I am. I suddenly think of Charlie Plaskon, 62 years old, blind and racing the Hawaii Ironman in Kona this weekend. I learn about Sharlene Wills, 59 years old, completely visionless, 40 marathons under her belt and many more to go. I amaze over the C*Different foundation. My heart melts when Ray Charles plays and suddenly I sit here singing a Stevie Wonder song in my mind.

Blindness is not a disease, nor is it necessarily a detriment. The sightless are not afflicted, they are not the weak ones. It is me. Us. The disease is ignorance and judgment. The disease is callowness and an unwillingness to reverse the paradigm of life. Maybe the blind ones are the gifted - the souls who can experience life on a higher level. And maybe me.... we who can see but still don't believe in the miracle of life, the strength of humanity....maybe we are the true weakness.