As an artist I grew up fearing going blind. Not that there was any risk of it mind, just too much idle time during which I would contemplate what it would be like if I were to lose a limb or sense. My reasoning, as it was as a teenager, was that losing an arm or leg wouldn’t bother me much… I could live with loss of hearing… I wouldn’t be aware of insanity… but loss of vision would have been the end of the world!
I’m not sure if any other artists out there had similar fears in their childhood, but to me the fear was a constant companion. So how do I feel now about it, given my current disability?
Back in 2006 I was at the top of my game teaching in a local comprehensive. I had everything going for me, when out of the blue I lost my sight.
Now you would probably imagine that I would have freaked out, given my childhood phobia, but no… I was unfazed and managed to continue teaching the lesson without pause. Only 2 people in the room noticed that something had happened: my TA, and a pupil because her mother is bipolar (although I didn’t see the connection). For any of you wondering, my vision returned before the end of the lesson after about 50 minutes.
So why wasn’t I panicking during those 50 minutes? All I can say is that curiosity got the better of me. That is to say, that when I lost my sight, it was not because everything went black… rather, everything went white. Now all through my childhood I had associated blindness with darkness and void. But what happened to me during the lesson, was quite the opposite: yes I had lost all vision, but instead all I could see was whiteness.
For some reason, this whiteness was not fearful. It had the same net effect of blindness-with-darkness in that I could no longer see, but I was not scared. This leads me to believe that loss of sight was not what I was really afraid of for all those years, rather it was a fear of void. Loneliness… loss of control… abandonment… who knows? All I can ask is that having briefly experienced sudden blindness, but not expecting vision to return, and it not being the end of the world… does this mean that I no longer fear this state?
The answer is: No.
While the threat of white-blindness still doesn’t scare me, the threat of dark-blindness still sends a shiver through me. Is this just because of the legacy of my childhood fear… or is it something else altogether?
[image : King Crimson album cover art – ‘In the Court of the Crimson King‘ by Barry Godber 1969]