I had an email exchange about blind men
with someone this morning. My friend wrote:
"On my way to the subway in the evening, I often see a blind man walking from work. He has an electronic cane, and he is very adept on the sidewalks, but of course the cane doesn't tell him about traffic. So when he gets to the corner of William Street--where I always see him--he stops and waits.
"You can see he knows he has reached a barrier where he will need help, and I always find myself deeply touched by the expression on his face. It is one of complete trust that someone will soon help him. And someone always does. I have never seen him wait for more than a moment or two. As soon as his hesitation is obvious, someone always offers to help him cross.
"I wonder if it was difficult for him to acquire this confidence in the generosity of strangers? And I am also challenged in my own beliefs, because there among the sharks and wolves of Wall Street, that one vulnerable person is always taken care of, if only for the time it takes to cross the street."
I wrote in reply:
"That's a good description. I liked it very much.
"I have a "blind man" story too. It's a bit complicated to tell, but I'll try to keep it simple.
"I was about 22 at the time, and Marrie, my first-born daughter was about 10 months old. I'd gone for a long walk, pushing her in a fold-up stroller, a knapsack on my back, foraging for fresh vegetables in an open-air market. I filled the knapsack to capacity with food and it was very heavy. By the time I was done, I was about five miles from home and quite tired, so I decided to take the bus back.
That was a bad idea
"It was rush hour and there were no seats available. I stood with the enormous knapsack on my back, the stroller folded in one hand, and a baby in the other arm, trying to hold on to a pole as the bus swayed and jerked.
"I was angry because I was tired; angry that no one gave up a seat; angry that it was rush hour; angry that it was so difficult to keep my balance; angry that the baby was squirming. I propagated all of this, of course, and by the time I reached my stop, I had shored up a venomous, seething state of anger. I was, shall we say, royally pissed off.
"I rang the bell and fought my way to the door at the front of the bus. The door opened and I realized that the driver had positioned the bus with a telephone pole across from and right in the middle of the doorway - which meant I would have to try to squeeze between the doorframe and the pole carrying Marrie and all of this stuff. To make matters worse, there were other people waiting to get on the bus as I was trying to get off and they wouldn't make room. A man stood on the pavement waiting to get on, and he was directly in my path. I pushed past him and remember thinking, "Goddam it! I never say anything when people are being pricks. This time, I'm going to say something!" So I shouted,
"You could have moved, you know!"
"He just stood there, looking confused, and it was only then that I opened my glaring eye gaze and noticed the white cane.
"I cried as I walked home. Not so much because I'd been nasty to a blind man, though that was part of it. And not just because, Goddam it, I’d spoken up and missed the mark completely.
"It was because it was so clear to me that regardless of what is going on, one cannot respond accurately or appropriately to any situation if there is a state present; that there is never justification for a state because it blinds - me and everyone else.
"That made an indelible impression, but I didn't know how to learn what states were, how they formed, how that related to how my attention was and so forth."
That’s the end of the conversation.