Lately my definition of the word “culture” has been expanding. Even a person is a culture, I say, a little world of experiences, likes, dislikes and quirks. Over Christmas vacation I decided to seek out some new experiences, new cultures, as part of my campaign to pay attention to my life more closely. As year 37 approaches for me I find that feeling getting stronger, like I want to record everything. I still feel young, but more appreciative of life than ever.
Last year my husband Jay and I gave each other a surprise date for a holiday gift. One of our ideas was to go to Dialogue in the Dark (www.dialogueinthedark.com), an experience where “in completely darkened rooms blind people lead small groups of guests through an exhibition in which everyday situations are experienced altogether differently, without eyesight.” Very cool.
So we headed downtown for the exhibit, and it was nothing like I expected. As they dimmed the lights into eventual total darkness I thought I would panic, but a soothing voice come over the loudspeaker reminding us that the darkness is peaceful, and calms your mind. I relaxed into the experience and stuck close to Jay for comfort.
For the next hour we stumbled around in the dark with our guide, Richard. He taught us to listen to sounds more acutely, feel things in a new way, use a cane and most of all trust ourselves. When I first started to move around without my sight I walked as slow as a snail. I feared banging into something and hurting myself or the people in front of me; I feared the violence of a surprise clanging into a metal door. That force never came, and eventually I trusted my other senses. The darkness felt alive and my eyes widened even though I couldn’t “use” them. We went through a park, a boat ride, ordering drinks from a cafe and a trip to the grocery store. We asked our guide honest questions and pondered our own situation.
I think the scariest moment for me was when we had to cross a mock street. Of course we were in no physical danger, but hearing the sound of cars whizzing by close enough to touch you was unnerving.
I won’t go into any moral realizations that I had about blindness; after all I only got a tiny glimpse into that world so I do not feel qualified to make any grand statement. But I visited another culture that day and saw my fellow human beings differently. There is nothing I love more than having my world shaken and stirred.