Re: See

I’d like to buy a seeing-eye dog for my mother-in-law. She is legally blind, and at 93 cannot see her way to the effort involved in engaging a support animal. Her inability to see details bothers me a lot. We used to play Scrabble together and she’s sharp at cards. We’ve tried braille versions but again, there is a learning curve that requires time; a lot of which she no longer has. Being with a less-sighted person requires patience and elements of translation. I guided her fingers to help me put together a table recently. I held out a bolt, showed her the hole, handed her an Allen key, then marvelled at how she used her fingers to ‘see’ the way to complete the job. She giggled.

Of all the senses, sight is the one I fear losing the most. I rely on my vision to warn me of danger and to remind me of beauty. If seeing is believing, I wonder what you can trust when you no longer have the confirmation of sight. In my mind’s eye I have enough experience to generate a memory of sight; a whiff of watermelon will produce a juicy picture of thought, the smell of salt in the air will point me towards the seashore, the taste of salty tears will vividly call me to the sight and sound of ocean waves.

As a young boy I was mesmerized by tales of vision being taken, hampered or restored. I loved the way Rapunzel cures her lover’s blindness with her tears. Odysseus could enjoy watching the Sirens by being tied to his ship’s mast, later he bested the Cyclops by driving a stake into that beast’s solitary eye. Perseus was able to take the head of Medusa by averting his gaze from the Gorgon, using his shield as a mirror.

Visualization can transport. I use this technique often when I am stressed or feeling alone. It’s a way of seeing that is equally underrated by the general population and overused by self-help gurus. When I hear a siren I visualize that someone will soon receive help. I find it useful to see into the future; projecting my thoughts along a potential pathway so that I can test the ground before I commit to a step. I taught my sons to climb a tree using this forward thinking method. Now they tease me by suggesting that I imagine myself already achieving the task. It makes sense to look before you leap.

People still go to fortune tellers to see if someone else can picture their road ahead. These seers, using a crystal ball, tea leaves, palm veins or tarot cards may access another form of seeing. We, mere mortals, must rely on the electro/chemical signals produced when light passes in front of our eyes. When I dream of having super powers I wish for omniscience, or at least X-ray vision like Superman.

I’m not a superhero though. If I were I would restore my special mom’s sight.

Re: Sense

With the luck of my second marriage, I acquired a ‘Special Mom’. She has a quiet, accepting presence that I appreciate whenever I get the chance to be with her. I watch her and discover nuggets of wisdom. She has lived long enough to share many treasures, among them, common sense.

Many might agree with the notion regarding ‘common sense’ as being anything but common. It’s a sense that seems to grow as the traditional senses diminish. Caution is part of this sense as well as patience. I feel for those who have lost one or more of the tradition five: Taste, Sight, Sound, Touch, Smell. Losing one of these gems will necessitate adjustments I don’t know if I’m brave enough to face. But age does create new challenges to overcome.

I remember a childhood talking game that proffered which sense you could manage without. In order to help us decide, we might playact with a blindfold, stuff Kleenex up our noses, plug up our ears, or wear thick gloves. We were young scientists and needed props to facilitate our silly investigation. I felt that being blind would create the greatest amount of trauma. I’m mildly claustrophobic and being without vision added to that closed in feeling. In fact I remember feeling fear the first time I saw someone walking on the street with a cane.

In that way I think Emotion is a sense. It comes from the heart. When we speak of feeling something, it is beyond our physical senses. I feel that Emotion is the sixth sense that is so often stated in fiction. If it is suggested you are using your sixth sense you are likely tapped into something you can’t quite explain yet you know there is truth to what you are experiencing. You are engaging with intuition, such a misunderstood sense. Like an ‘Empath’ in some space SciFi story you are sensing something ‘out beyond’ even though others can’t detect it with their lesser senses. Spiderman would know what I’m talking about.

We link our senses to our emotions with our language choices. We might have a ‘Bad taste in our mouth’ after an uncomfortable event. We could be ‘blinded’ by love. Perhaps we feel that we are ‘out of touch’ with a current reality. Someone’s idea may illicit, “That smells fishy to me.” At the end of a tiring experience we can feel we have ‘carried the weight of the world’ on our shoulders. Western medicine is slowly becoming aware of what Eastern practitioners have know all along: our sensual experience can focus attention where it is needed.

We know we are alive when our senses are engaged. Depression is often characterized as a state where senses were numbed. Depression is the closest we get to death while still breathing. I think the experience of the senses is the whole reason for living.

My mother-in-law has poor vision and weak hearing yet I haven’t sensed that her reality has got her down. That’s a comforting thing for me to witness.