Wednesday, January 16, 2013


“The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.”
-Helen Keller


When I was a child, I would often wonder if I saw things the same way other people saw them; when I looked at grass and thought “green” was it the same color everyone else saw as “green”? Or were we just taught that “grass is green” even though we all saw it in different colors?

My mind was often a tiring place to be! However, it’s a profound and interesting concept I stumbled upon. Do any two people ever really see the same thing in the same way? No. We each have a special lens over our eyes, invisible to all, unknown to most; this lens is called “experience.” The sum total of my days thus far stays with me, carried forward with each breath I take, coloring how I perceive my world. And the truth is, my perception is my reality.

This has been studied in the realm of criminal investigation, as one eye witness will see certain details another may have missed, and vice versa. Although if you want to get technical about it, they both saw the exact same things, but that which their mind held on to is different, sent first through the filter of their pasts.

Of course, there are literally hundreds of millions of commonalities within those perceptions and “sights” that allow us to communicate and thrive. As human beings, the vast majority have immediate, subconscious access to five senses, as well as basic knowledge and skills to interpret, translate, and reproduce what those senses find as we explore our world. Therefore I can talk about grass being green with almost complete certainty that you will understand exactly.

For those who can’t access their sense of sight, the world they know and experience, their reality, is quite a bit different from mine. And finding the words to express and compare those differences can be a frustrating task. While I don’t know for sure, as I’m not blind myself, I think perhaps I can relate on a deeper level than someone else who has sight, but no autism. My “blindness” has no affect on my eyes (although I am near-sighted with astigmatism), but rather its impact is on my brain, and my ability to communicate in certain social situations. Even now, as I’m realizing this similarity (literally as I write this), I find it hard to explain.

I love my position at this new school, and I have met some wonderful people this year, students and staff. And yet, something isn’t right. I honestly don’t know if it’s even related to my job, but I know for sure that my ability to do that job is being affected. The problem is, I can’t even find the words to explain the problem to myself, let alone try to find an answer from someone else. When I have tried, I feel like I’m describing the beauty of a sunset to a person who was born blind and has no concept of “color”. Being stubborn, I continue to try. How do I know I’m not being understood? By the responses and suggestions I get back.

It’s no one’s fault but my own. I just don’t know what I can do to fix a problem I can’t even identify. Perhaps my project for this week will help open a window into that unique vision that is mine, colored by my life and times and all the experiences I’ve collected in thirty-two years.

Meanwhile, I want to add that many things in life are taken for granted, including life itself. While I agree that it’s a noble, sometimes important, endeavor to attempt to rectify that fact, it can easily consume us. So rather than dwell on the idea that I take for granted my ability to see, I’m instead going to celebrate it.

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