spectating participant

April 25, 2004

reading something into it…

Filed under: books — suzanne henderson @ 9:24 pm

I’m currently reading [An Anthropologist on Mars] by [Oliver Sacks]. It is a collection of seven case studies / case descriptions of neurological diseases that are quite fascinating to explore. I’ve read about 4 of the studies so far and they have left me with all sorts of thoughts. Before getting into the one that is currently stirring up a wealth of contemplations of existence, I’ll mention my favorite to this point.

“To See and Not See” focuses on a case of a man near-lifetime blindness who has an operation to remove the cataracts on his eyes and restore sight. However, he can’t really see because he cannot make any mental-visual connection to what he ’sees’. His world has been completely tactile and non-visual.

Parents rarely consider that one of the major learning and development processes that takes places as an infant grows is the visual and mental connection of sight. As an adult we’ve had our whole lives to know that the large yellow object in the sky is the sun. Now take someone who has been blind, they cannot even comprehend what yellow is or round is (visually speaking). .

This is something we don’t even have a vocabulary for, because we cannot possible image what it would be like to exist without any representation of objects as we know it. We may mistakenly believe that a blind person simply builds a colorless world around them, but one that still takes solid form. However, the man in the story had no concept of distance, because he processed things in how long (in minutes, seconds, steps) till something else happened or was present. This isn’t someone walking around in world painted black, this is someone walking through time.

Even now, I’m lacking the words or the mental organization to convey how dynamically this essay affected me. Trying to imagine or picture living in a world so different from the one I know and then being thrust into one where suddenly everything loses all context, nothing is anything like what I thought it was, and suddenly I have no world that is mine to exist in.

“Prodigies” is the essay I’m currently reading. However, since I went into far more detail on the concept of seeing, I’ll wait till tomorrow and till I have completed this chapter to go into the discussion of multiple intelligences and also the mysterious ways of the brain.

His book makes me want to study neurology. Thankfully, I know I have not to mental capacity to pursue of that type of education. But damn this is fascinating.