On Blindness, Animal Pelts, and Revery…

Stephen Kuusisto, Letters to Borges

If on some nameless island Captain Schmidt

Sees a new animal and captures it,

And if, a little later, Captain Smith

Brings back a skin, that island is no myth.

—John Shade, Pale Fire


Facts are produced by violence and are almost never the product of contentment. Artifacts are the spoils of empire. Even laboratories are places of conquest for every experiment aims to overturn the past.

Now I stand on a street corner. There is the traffic violence. There is also the hurried violence of passersby who race the clock.

Often I think of blindness as liberating, not because it is fact-less or non-violent, but because its more imbued with reverie than is commonly supposed. There are in fact whole moments when one must pause, listen, reflect, imagine, and let go of assumptions. One may say this is a romanticized version of vision loss, that its incompatible with reality, for there are aggressive and angry blind people and surely this is so, but let’s say its more likely a man or woman can have a brief moment of intellectual acquisitiveness when relieved of the visual impulse to grab or skin what’s before them. Romantic or not, blindness is a form of emotional intelligence.

Of course I’ve been put in mind of this conceit by virtue of the most often asked question thrown at the blind by sighted people—it has variants, but it goes like this: “Will your guide dog protect you if you’re attacked?” Or: “Aren’t you afraid of the dangerous streets?”

The answer to both is “no” but really the more interesting thing is the question itself for its predicated by the assumption that functioning eyes will protect you. Moreover its further based on the idea that although the world is violent, the eyes are a fetish. They are inherently magical.

Imagine believing such a thing, you sighted people! Hahaha! How can you ever hope for revery with your eyes open? Your hungry eyes that long to capture the animals and skin them. Perhaps some reader will prove me wrong, but I know of no blind person who’s house is filled with animal pelts.


Author: skuusisto

Poet, Essayist, Blogger, Journalist, Memoirist, Disability Rights Advocate, Public Speaker, Professor, Syracuse University

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