“Your wife looks beautiful tonight.”
In fact, I think I was looking particularly attractive that night…. But sadly that was not what this overhear was about.
We were at the live show of Radiolab Live: In the Dark, and a blind man was talking about the moment he realized his vision of his wife would never again be true to what she actually looked like (he had lost his sight as an adult). His view of her would always be what she looked like when they met.
In response to this he decided to force himself to let go of all visual memory sense; not just of her… but of everything. He would never again try to picture what things looked like and instead he would rely only on his
other senses to relate to things.
As I listened to his story and decision I began to consider whether what we see is ever truly “real”. I know this borders on philosophical so stick with me here while I work it out. But what I mean by this is that, don’t we each bring our own preconceived notions to everything we see around us? We put judgments on what we see based on what we’ve learned and experienced.
So, because I know that Tigers can be dangerous, if I were to see one loose I would look on it as a threat. I would see its teeth and claws and probably whether its hair was raised or flat. If I didn’t have that background, though, would I see it differently? Would I maybe see its stripes as art rather than ammunition?
Another example… my husband. When I look at him I see what he means to me. Not in the ‘you mean so much to me’ sense, but more in the ‘will he be willing to take our daughter to the dentist so I can write’ sense. I might see the clothes he is wearing, the expression on his face, his body language and this will tell me what I need to know. Ah… he is dressed in shorts, looks relaxed, and is smiling. Great…. More writing time. Others, though, might
see his nice looking calves, unhidden by longer pants. They might note the depth of his brown eyes or the length of his arms.
I remember in a college psychology class I learned that it only takes seven dates for us to no longer care about the appearance of the person we are going out with. Seven! That’s it. Familiarity might breed contempt, but apparently it also can breed love. Once we stop focusing on what someone looks like we begin to prioritize their other attributes.
So, maybe the question of there being a true or real visual is mute. The beauty of love is that, blind or not, part of how I see my spouse will always include what he looked like when we met.
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