Rendered Fat Content


Jacques Callot:
The Uneven One with a Cane, from
Varie Figure Gobbi (1616)

"I am also the sum total of what remains Unseen …"

The following day, my vision returned with a vengeance, in HDTV-quality as if to remind me of all that I had not been seeing, of all that I had not noticed, of all that had recently gone Unseen. I found it humbling to discover what I never really suspected, a prominent blindness. I gratefully never caught myself incapable of seeing. I never quite suspected the depth of my blindness, and presumed that I was experiencing just a slight reduction, a general fuzziness, but I had for months, perhaps a year or more, lost whole dimensions. The vision I experienced that next morning, following the cataract replacement lens clearing laser procedure, were nothing less than extraordinary. A fresh world presented itself to me, distracting in its detail. Colors brilliant, even the muted ones; the textures, profound.

I suspect that blindness must be one of those states that does not exist in any moment. It exists in reflection, by comparison.
Only in retrospect could one appreciate the differences between the Unseen and the experienced, for there seems to be no language of the deficit. How does one describe something not experienced? I noticed that next morning how I could actually read traffic signs as I passed by them. I knew before what those No Parking Any Time signs said, not because I could translate them as I passed, but because I'd successfully translated them in the past and so knew what to expect them to say, a very different experience from actually reading them on the fly.

The James Webb Space Telescope brings us galaxies we never could see before, opening up vast areas for observation. I never noticed the depth of my former blindness until I experienced a glimpse into what I'd never seen before up there. And with the glimpse comes the unsettling notion that as much as we can now access, that, too, amounts to another layer of a blindness so vast that none of us will ever manage to really get past it. We will understand that we are blind by birthright, but never really understand the ramifications of that state. We'll fill blank spaces with projections and intuit what those traffic signs say without really being capable of reading them. Our blindness will fill every dimension of our experience and we will each be called to appreciate what we cannot directly experience, what we will never come to know.

I feel grateful now for the ordeal to which that doctor, if he was a doctor, subjected me. I could not see what I could not see and I chose to believe whatever I believed in that moment. The inconvenience nearly overwhelmed me and I had no real understanding of the depth of my decision. I firmly believed that I was whole when I was not, that I understood when I could not have possibly understood from my own experience. My blindnesses had me. I was as always a prisoner to the great Unseen, the alluring in-between, that underlying almost everything. I live, I see (or believe I see), on the thinnest thread of a reality so tenuous as to beggar belief. In any moment, what I cannot and do not know so vastly outreaches what I can experience and understand so as to render me little more than a hollow man, an almost empty vessel. I am also the sum total of what remains Unseen along with everything I see, however modest.

These first few days with my vision restored will be days of visual wonder. I won't have to wonder if this wonder will fade, for it most certainly will diminish as familiarity breeds complacency. I will probably not be wowed by every forthcoming sunrise, not like that first one after the surgery. My blindnesses will all return, blunting the profound just as if I was not supposed to be able to integrate it undiminished. Even in the dark now, a colorful palette of greens and greys remind me that what I'd grown to accept as reality before, was substandard. There's always more. The sin of certainty seems capable of convincing us that we have somehow escaped inevitable blindness, and certainly, glimpses of richer worlds might well influence us to believe that we can finally see in some semblance of totality. I suspect that such conviction might serve as at least a stand in for original sin. I'm humbled by what I can finally see again and also reminded that I remain suspended in a context largely Unseen.

©2022 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

blog comments powered by Disqus

Made in RapidWeaver