As I believe that disabilities offer ways of knowing and as I see no distinction between able-bodied-ness and bodies that are customarily thought “broken”–(for the “temporarily abled” think about disability always–fear it, pay billions in insurance, hence are socially disabled) just so, by virtue of the power given unto me I declare today “Seeing Without Looking Day”. Here are some lines from the Tao Te Ching:
Without opening your door,
You can open your heart to the world.
Without looking out your window,
You can see the essence of the Tao.
The more you know,
The less you understand.
The Master arrives without leaving,
sees the light without looking,
achieves without doing a thing.
–translation by Stephen MItchell
The first thing you’ll discover after you’ve tied on your blind fold is that nothing in the world prevents you from opening your heart. Sure, you will find lots of hard furniture. And cooking without looking will, at first seem impossible (though it gets better). And of course as you navigate your way down the street with your white cane you’ll meet people who want to pray for you or try to help you by grabbing your arm–hence you will have to learn an almost supernatural grace in the company of pedestrians. Ah, but you will say to yourself: “The Master arrives without leaving, sees the light without looking…”
I’m not a big fan of those campus events where able-bodied students get to try out a wheelchair for a day or don a blind fold or what have you. The point about disability is that its permanent and for such an exercise to have any meaning it would have to last for at least a year, thereby guaranteeing the participant the opportunity to experience disability in all seasons. Stand in the pouring rain waiting for the bus with your guide dog. Try to make your way in a wheelchair in winter in a place where there’s snow. The Tao again: “See the world as yourself. Have faith in the way things are…”
Have faith in the way things are.
Another way to say this is: “Have faith in the way things “are not”–this is the disability way. Perhaps you think I’m kidding, but I’m not kidding. The wheel chair user must navigate the injustices of architectures and the sloppy habits of store managers. If the wheel chair user allows her day to be ruined she will lose the wealth of her mind. Just so: if she does not protest she will lose the righteousness of her cause. What to do? Well, just as it says in the Tao: “the best General enters the mind of his enemy”. Yes. You must become the sloppy store manager. Become the lackluster university disability services administrator. Yes, the very thought is like thinking of swallowing iodine. But remember, the aim here is to not let obstacles ruin your mind. And so you say to the miscreant store manager (for thus we shall call him): “Say, good sirrah, my way is blocked in your aisles, can we work together on this problem?” Yes, sometimes you will have to call the police.
Yes. “Seeing Without Looking Day” will test your Tao. It well test your Tao the way a string gets caught in the vacuum cleaner and you must spend a solid hour on your knees and fumbling with your fingers imagining that failure is an opportunity. Yes. Not going mad is an opportunity. Not living your life envying others is an opportunity. If you think I am crazy then that’s also an opportunity. The world is not “blind friendly”–if you blame someone else there is no end to the blame. Therefore the Master fulfils her own obligations and corrects her own mistakes. She does what she needs to do and demands nothing of others. (Tao 79)
Do you think I’m giving up on civil rights? Not on your life. But “Seeing Without Looking Day” teaches you how to choose your fights. The lamp post is not your enemy. The lamp post is just a fact. The waiter who won’t let you into the restaurant with your guide dog seems like an enemy. But he is just a fact. To keep sane, argue hardly at all but call the police. Let them explain the matter. Do not give away your soul-power by arguing with a lamp post. The lamp post is not a comment on your life.
Do you think I’m crazy? The Tao again: Whoever can see through all fear will always be safe.”