Culture At Large

Experiencing God’s creation with whatever He’s given us

Tracy Kiel

I remember one day in my high-school psychology class, during a unit on sensory perception, my teacher asked the class a question: “If you had to make a choice between being blind or being deaf, what would you choose?”

The question held little interest for me, but I was intrigued by the responses. Along with two others, I chose blindness. The rest of the class said they would prefer to be deaf. The three of us who chose blindness were all active musicians and participated in band and choir.

I suppose now, if someone asked me what sense is most important to me, I would initially be tempted to choose hearing. Not only do I enjoy music as entertainment, but I am also a music therapist. I utilize music to help people reach non-musical goals and objectives. I help people with dementia reminisce and socialize with each other using music. I have created musical mnemonics for high-school students with cognitive impairments to help them learn to tell time by using lyric rewrites of ‘N Sync and Britney Spears songs. I have helped people with Parkinson’s disease maintain their level of independence by improving their gait patterns utilizing strategically placed sounds and beats. Music is not just a diversion for me; I have witnessed the differences it can make in people’s lives.

Not being able to hear would be devastating to me. I would not only miss the tones in music, but I would miss the tone in a friend’s voice, a tone that conveys an emotion that one can sometimes hide on a face. I would miss the sound of a baby’s laugh, the rush of the wind in the Colorado Rockies, the blast of a horn when the Vikings score a touchdown, the sound of shifting sheets of ice on a Minnesota lake in the winter or the call of the loon on the same lake in the summer. I can’t imagine what it would be like not to hear.

However, upon further reflection, I cannot imagine being without any of the senses I have. I wouldn’t want to lack the sense of smell: the smell of Dutch apple pie in the oven, burgers on the grill, fresh cut grass, the air before it rains or the scent of an old book. I cannot imagine being without the sense of taste: the taste of juicy steak, a sip of single-barrel Jack Daniels Tennessee Whiskey or the first sip of morning coffee. I cannot imagine lacking my sense of touch: a back rub, a passionate kiss, an empathetic hug from a friend, the softness of a puppy or the sifting sand on a beach. Indeed, I would have a difficult time if I lost any of my senses. I truly cannot choose one of greater importance over the others.

I can, however, choose one I could live without. My choice remains the same as my answer in high school. I can easily live without sight, as I have been totally blind my entire life. People often ask me things like, “Don’t you wish you could see?” or, “Wasn’t it hard growing up and being blind?” My answer is, “No.” I often have a difficult time conveying the fact that I honestly, genuinely, really don’t care that I can’t see, and it doesn’t bother me as I know no other way. An astronaut could just as well ask me, “What’s it like for you never to have walked on the moon? Was it hard for you as a child, knowing others had walked on the moon and you couldn’t? If you could pay a million dollars some day, would you consider a space voyage if there was a 50-percent chance you could walk on the moon … or a 90-percent chance?”

The reality is that it’s hard to miss things when we haven’t experienced them in the first place. Perhaps other blind people feel differently. Perhaps I would feel differently if I had my sight, then lost it. I can only speak from my own personal perspective. I write as I know and from what I perceive, and I perceive through the senses I possess — not just the four I mentioned, but others as well, like balance, pain, temperature and pressure.

I believe God gave us the senses we need to perceive the world he created, to increase our knowledge of Him and to glorify Him. That is the beauty of the senses: we get to use them to experience God and His creation, and God equips us individually with what He knows we need.

(Photo courtesy of iStockphoto.)

Topics: Culture At Large, Theology & The Church, Faith