I read an article in Toronto Life magazine recently that gave me a bit of a fright. “What I Can’t See” by Russell Smith was a story about a writer who had lost his vision first in one eye, then the other, due to a retina detachment. Smith wrote about the ensuing surgeries and recoveries.
About 15 years ago, I was sitting in my optometrist’s office for a routine exam. And you know when they pause, re-check, pause and re-check, that there is something concerning to them. She called a colleague in to look as well. After about five interminably long minutes of probing, she explained to me that she thought she saw a thinning of the retina in a very hard-to-see part of my eye. This was cause for concern because it indicated that there might be a tear in the retina, and that I might be at risk for a retina detachment. This is apparently symptomatic of people with myopia (I am blind as a bat without my glasses). She referred me to an opthamologist, and everything checked out to confirm that my retina did not have a tear. The opthamologist left me with an information sheet that I felt was alarmist: if you see any sudden flashes of light, get to the nearest emergency department!
After reading Smith’s article and understanding the aftermath of a retina detachment, I became much more aware of the impact this could have on one’s life. And I couldn’t help but wonder: if you were going to lose one sense, which one would you be most prepared to part with? If you really think about it, and I mean, really try to imagine life without sight, hearing, taste, smell or touch, you’d realize the answer is not so simple.
Life is magical and complete because we can experience it in these five dimensions. Take any one of them away and we lose twenty per cent of our ability to experience. Think of the simple act of taking a summer walk: you see the beautiful blue sky and colourful flowers, you hear the sounds of nature or urban traffic (both are signs of life!), you smell the fresh (ok – maybe smoggy) air, you touch the soft green grass at your feet, and you can taste the sweet, cold ice cream you’re enjoying along the way. To miss any one of these would absolutely take away from that experience.
So while I may be at some long-term risk of losing my sight, and I occasionally worry about not being able to see DQ as she changes, I certainly don’t wish to lose any other sense over my sense of sight. When my father was undergoing chemotherapy, he said everything he ate tasted “tinny”, and I remember feeling so sad when he said this. For someone to whom the enjoyment of a good meal was paramount (he was in the restaurant business), this had to feel like a part of his life was taken away from him.
I can only imagine how Helen Keller accomplished as much as she did without the benefit of sight or sound. And while anyone who writes about her would say her story was a testament to the fact that you can live a successful and impactful life without all five senses, I would say, “But why would you want to? Can you imagine what more she could have been had she had all five senses?” That is what we are meant to have, so if you are living life five-dimensionally, show some gratitude and savour it!