When hearing of a tragic event in someone’s life, where in they’ve lost a part of themselves, be it a limb, a sense, or an ability, I often turn in on myself and ask that impossible question – if given a choice, and told I had to choose one or lose my life – which would I choose to loose?
Smell is linked to taste, so losing that would in effect lose both for me. There are those born with the ability to taste and not smell, but I am not sure after my 40+ years of experience if the two could be separated. As they’re a two for one, they’re both ruled out.
Touch is a tricky one. How one could lose all feeling in the skin is beyond me, so the question here may well lie in losing a limb. As I’ve had to live my life with a less than normal body, compensating physically literally every step of the way, I wouldn’t have the heart to lose any more of my body. Pieces of bone here and there are enough, thank you very much. And absolutely not, when asked about my hands and arms. They have made up for my legs and feet my whole life. No, touch will have to stay.
In my younger years, I’d have quickly said my hearing. Of all the senses, that is the one I’m most prepared to substitute with heightened sight and awareness, as the deaf can read lips, speak a sign language and even feel sound.
Yet, as I get older, I wonder if in fact I wouldn’t be a better person by losing the sense I hold most dear.
As an avid reader and writer, not to mention helicopter pilot, I rely on my sight. My eyes started to go thanks to a astigmatism in my 20s and it took until my early 30s to build up the courage for Lasik, which did marvels for my sight and I’d never regret.
Yet, it’s sight that limits our growth as human beings. Think of it. One look at someone and we make all manners of assessments on who that person is and whether he or she is worth our time. We make judgments based on clothes, skin color, hair style, height, weight, beauty and even how someone measures up to physical “normalcy.”
With my own birth defects leading others to make conclusions about me when I was younger (kids can be so cruel), I developed a terrible aversion to anyone the slightest bit different physically. By avoiding them, I wasn’t allowing myself to be pigeonholed as “one of them.” When this ingrained trait followed me into adulthood, I became increasingly uncomfortable with those folks when I should have had nothing by love and compassion. It sickened me that I reacted this way. If I’d not seen them, only talked with them, heard their voices, experienced their talent, oh what a different life I’d have lead.
I wish I could say if we were all blind the world would be a better place, but human nature is sadly not that simple. We’re quite frankly brought together by defining what is different from us. Nothing rallies a country/people/political party/fanatical religious sect/kids on the playground like a common enemy.
So when lying in a coma, talking with my guardian angel offering me a choice, I will still battle with myself on whether losing my ability to see a beautiful sunset, the canyons of Utah, the glorious fall foliage, and my children’s faces will be worth learning to love unconditionally without my blasted visual judgment.
Of course, this philosophical meditation only helps me see what I can work on in myself today. I’m getting there, as I get older and learn to see myself and others as we really are. But, clearly, there is always room for improvement. I wonder what Freud would say, that I don’t accept myself and thus my mother? Hummm.