The Frau and I decided to kick off our spring break today by attending the exhibit, "Dialog in the Dark." We spent an hour in complete darkness with seven other people and our guide - who was blind. I was excited and anxious going in, insecure and off balance during, and filled with all kinds of conflicting feelings coming out. It was an interesting exercise in trust - of our guide, our instincts, our other senses.
We were guided through a series of "familiar" settings (a park, a boat, a market, a city street), but nothing could break the darkness. Interestingly, though, as I reflect on the experience, I have some visual memory of these places as I experienced them through touch and smell and sound. At the time, however, everything just seemed so dark, and I kept reaching for something to hold on to to get my bearings. We all were given a cane, and this grounded me in some respect, but I felt quite out of control and totally reliant upon the guide. I have a blind student in one of my choirs, and I have a newfound understanding of what he must go through. I thought I was being sensitive to his needs, but I think I've quite missed the boat. One of the most frustrating things about the experience was the response of our "group." We were always moved from one "setting" to another via a transition area that usually had us lined up against a wall - regular markers of certainty for me. Then the guide would say, "Ok, now move single file toward the sound of my voice." It seemed logical to me that we would continue to walk in the line we were in against the wall, but invariably, almost everyone would start moving toward the guide at the same time, running into each other and each other's canes. And we didn't seem to learn from this as we went along. I kept thinking, why don't these people just wait - and move together as one body? - we could then retain our bearings by our juxtaposition to one another. It didn't happen, but everyone at least tried to help each other. In spite of that, I felt myself drawing more and more inward, and feeling more and more alone. As a group, we did seem to get braver as we went along, perhaps a bit more comfortable in the darkness. We ended in a cafe setting where we had a short debriefing session - everything was still completely black, however. Then we were instructed to walk toward the guide one last time, turn to our right, and "walk toward the light." I felt a brief moment of Stockholm Syndrome - having been held hostage by my blindness, I was just beginning to give in to my captor, and suddenly the very dim light up ahead seemed almost an intrusion.