Not Blind but Still Can’t See

Herd About It?

by Ana Grarian

In “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek” Annie Dillard cites “Space and Sight” by Marius von Senden. When safe cataract surgery was developed groups of doctors traveled the country performing the operation and giving people the gift of sight for the first time in their lives.

These doctors often kept notes on their patients’ experience of distance and depth both before and after the surgery. These people had to learn about sight as we did as infants and have long since forgotten. Infants cannot communicate their discoveries to us so we are left to guess what they are “seeing”.

Patients had a difficult time with the perception of depth and distance. It was difficult for them to understand that the world took up space beyond their visual world. The idea that some thing could be behind another object was novel. Many described what they saw as “patches of color”. They eventually learned that those patches of color were objects that they needed to walk between so as not to hit a solid object. Often they would resort to closing their eyes and maneuvering as if they were still blind when the visual became too confusing.

I think of a baby learning about it’s hands. They often hit themselves in the face multiple times, then cry in outrage at the self-inflicted pain. I always thought that they were learning that the hand they saw was their own. It seems they also could be learning how far away that visible hand is.

The child I babysit is learning about Mom being away in stages. First he realized that when he saw me it meant Mom was going away. Then he learned that that the kitchen is where she disapeared. Now he knows that she will come back from there too. Seeing has meaning.

Is it possible that some people cannot grasp the concept that we must keep our planet healthy because they lack a type of depth perception? They cannot see ahead to where their actions lead. They cannot see that their loved ones will be in that distant world. Perhaps their depth perception is so low that they cannot feel compassion or empathy.

They are not blind but still they cannot see?