I Was Blind, But Now I See…

Absolutely fascinating programme on BBC Radio 4, looking at the cases of Sidney Bradford and Mike May, both of whom lost their sight very early in life, and were then lucky enough to be able to have it restored years later.

What is it like to grow up blind, and then be able to see again? One might think it would be happy and miraculous. But in the case of Sidney Bradford, it was far more complex. ‘He was a very successful blind person, who became a rather disabled seeing person.’ Having fantasised about seeing for so long, the visual world, when it finally opened up to him, was a huge disappointment. He became clinically depressed, and died only two years after his sight was restored.

Sight, it would seem, is not the ability to see, but the ability to understand and comprehend the visual information that is presented to us. “Without accumulating visual experience from which the brain can make sense of what the eyes see, vision is of little use.”

Like all good radio, I’ve been left with lots of interesting thoughts which need some time to process. If Jesus did restore Bartimaeus’ sight, did he do anything to help him cope with this trauma of seeing? Indeed, after all of these miraculous changes that we read in the gospels – people being brought back to life, cured of life-long illnesses – there’s little sense of the huge pastoral task that Bradford’s case suggests should be in place to bring people to genuine wholeness.

May has been more successful at coping with his new sighted life. But has also had to deal with disappointment. Seeing was the be-all-and-end-all that he hoped for. When it came, he realised it was only one sense among many, and he was far better using the special skills he had learned as a blind person to help him to continue to negotiate this strange world that ‘crammed so close to my eyeballs.’


3 responses to “I Was Blind, But Now I See…”

  1. Acetate Monkey

    Strangely I was discussing this just the other day. Spooky. She told me about a general trend she remembered in psychology where many people who are blind and become sighted feel overwhelmed by the ugliness of everything. In an imagined world there isn’t decay just idealised graffiti free new buildings and beautiful faces. The reality forces some people to act as if blind, putting on dark glasses to return to what they can cope with. (No evidence for these thoughts just my rmembering of her remembering). It’s a really good question you ask about the short term/long term and perceived/invisible impact of philanthropic actions. Reminds me also of monty python’s ex-beggar who now can’t earn a living.

  2. A Fordham

    When Lazarus was raised from the dead Jesus asked others to unbind the wrappings and let him go free. That implies a community involvement in healing over time. Don’t think as Church we do a good job there, but we are asked to by God.

  3. Jesus healed the blind man who was a beggar. Their lives were burdensome and pathetic. People didn’t want to be near them. They were outcasts and had no real skills that can be developed today’s society.