Knowing the World through Limitations

By Kristy-Joy Matovich

Being blind, every single item you encounter is unexpected, a new experience. What a wonderful way to encounter the world, where you never expect to hear the fiddler on the deserted corner until he begins to play, never foresee the flowers just come out for spring until you smell them, and never know the complete extent of a thing until you have felt it all 'round.

Of course, that is fearful, too, for what if you do not hear the murderer on the deserted corner until he shoots, never foresee the skunk just awakened for spring until you smell it, and never know the complete extent of a thing until you've accidentally found its end?

Is this a worthwhile trade? Of course, we who see would say "never!" But who is to say that the advantages of sight outweigh the wonders of its alternative? Is seeing the flower worth not being so sensitive to its scent, feel, and discovery? Such a thing cannot be determined by human minds. It is no doubt easier to live with sight - that is not even debatable - but again, is ease worth the wonders? And again, we cannot say.

What then? Consider your life, your constraints. There are many limits placed upon humanity, some we rue more than others. Flight or invisibility we may do without, as much as we like to imagine ourselves with them. But rightness in decisions, perfection in relationships, or, especially, foreknowledge of our purpose? These do not seem so easily allowed to remain beyond our grasp. After all, do we not desire purpose beyond all else? For even love, hate, or friendship provides purpose, and, without it, we would not likely act. Yet our earthly purpose is beyond our knowledge.

So, in a sense, we are blind. We neither expect the skunk lurking and ready to spray, nor see the flowers about to brighten the end of winter. We are caught off guard by the gunshot that ends our lives, and enchanted by the unexpected music in the night air.

Many things surprise us with disappointment. If we knew they were coming would we be better encouraged before the battle?

Many things surprise us with pleasure. If we knew they were coming, would we be any happier in the battle beforehand?

Perhaps God even gives us literal, physical limitations - not all so difficult as blindness - so that we can understand the grand and universal limitations that rule our lives.

Being human, every single experience you have is unexpected. Is it such a bad way to encounter the world?

Note: I am not visually impaired, but have drawn on my imagination and general knowledge about visual impairment to craft what I find to be a fascinating metaphor. If you are visually impaired or the caregiver to a person who is, I would be love to hear your thoughts about this piece.

Illustration: Helen Keller; Public Domain

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Published on 8-12-13