Last week, I attended a lecture by Stephen Kuusisto, a writer who has been completely blind his entire life. His thoughts and ideas express a strong sense of optimism which he has towards living life and the fact that his disability does not limit him from moving forward everyday. He described a place in which he referred to as the “Plant of the Blind”. This fantasy placed no need to cure blindness because it was accepted as normal. People are given the opportunity to talk about what they do not see, rather than what they do. I believe Stephen created this alter reality as a way to accept his blindness. I was drawn to Stephen Kuusisto’s lecture because I am currently pursuing a minor in Special Education. After learning about the pressures and stresses that people with disabilities face daily and then hearing about a blind man who has overcome these factors, the combination results in inspiration. I saw courage and accomplishment in Stephen as explained that even though he is blind, blindness is not connected with fear. This belief shows just how strong Stephen is.
The idea of wanting things that are seemingly impossible to attain is a theme in Langston Hughes’ “Thank You, Ma’am” but also in Stephen Kuusisto’s lecture. In Hughes’ work, the old woman says “I were young once and I wanted things I could not get.” The woman tells this to the boy who tried to steal her purse in order to explain to him that we can not always get what we want. She is expressing the idea that through experience, we will realize what is most important and to focus on what is personally attainable.
Stephen has accepted the fact that he will never gain his sight. For example, he depicted an encounter he had with a travel agent. The travel agent asked him why he wanted to travel if he could not see. In Stephen’s perspective, traveling was “see by ear”. Although he can not experience the sights, he can experiences the sounds of traveling and being in new places. For both Stephen and the characters in “Thank You, Ma’am”, life is about making the best of what is given to you and accepting things you can not change.
Stephen’s lecture and stories connect with Mary Oliver’s poem “Mindful” in many ways. He describes the world as “haunting and beautiful”. Mary Oliver’s poem states “it is what I was born for—to look, to listen, to lose myself inside this soft world—to instruct myself over and over in joy and acclamation”. This quote connects with both Stephen’s lecture and with Langston Hughes’ short story. It is only through experience that self acceptance is reached.
These themes reflect the strong values of the Jesuit beliefs. The poem, lecture, and short story all support that idea that experience shapes personal development.