Whenever I see something growing through a crack in the pavement, I remark on life’s incredible ability to flourish in places you might not expect. That thought occurred to me again, the morning after a lunch experience in a pitch-black restaurant and a talk by a man who had gradually lost his sight. In the absolute darkness, after enjoying an unseen meal with a roomful of voice-only strangers, Joost’s own voice rose up above the general chatter.
‘Let me welcome you into my world’, was his reassuring introduction to the story of how his blindness had affected him. He spoke of acceptance, vulnerability, courage and positivity, offering perspective on our own lives and, I’m sure, inspiring everyone in the room. Some found the darkness unnerving. They missed the visual reference of the restaurant’s layout and the feedback from invisible faces. For others, it made interactions easier because there was nothing to derail their attention. For a brief time at least, listening skills were sharpened.
My experience was immediate trust. Table by table, we were guided into the darkness by our blind waiter; our hands on the shoulder of the person in front. I gave myself up to the blackness, trusting that we would be looked after. It felt liberating to be out of sight but nevertheless present, connecting in the dark, stripped of superficial judgements and unwanted distractions. We talked freely and personally, with an unfamiliar but enhanced focus, united in the shared experience. There was something childlike about it as we ate with our fingers, beyond any critical gaze and free to be ourselves. Safe somehow.
That was certainly one main difference between our experience of blindness and Joost’s. His account of his descent into visual impairment and eventual blindness was fraught with insecurity, concern for his future, and self-judgement. But his was an uplifting story. You could hear it in his voice. Soft and strong from the start; confident and reassuring. It underpinned my sense of safety because, regardless of the content, the sound alone seemed to convey a feeling that everything will be okay.
Indeed, the final comments I heard from him included an appreciation for his blindness because it has forced him to look more closely at himself. He has grown in ways he is not sure would have happened otherwise. He even questioned whether he would change anything if he could.
No matter what happens to us, there is no need to think too much, draw any conclusions, worry or panic. Instead, be empty and spacious. Surrender, because life will undoubtedly flourish, regardless. Even during the times when we think our situation is hopeless, life is searching ceaselessly for a way to blossom. And there will always be a crack through which it will appear, emerging in all its glory in a declaration to the heavens that, far from all being lost, all is about to begin.