Tuesday, November 07, 2006

380: cleaning house

Cleaning is useful for many purposes. For a start, it keeps the hands busy, so I can't talk, and I have nothing to do but think for a while: think, while looking over the stains of the last week, remembering the little frustrations, the big goodbyes. And Deaf goodbyes can take forever. We're a holding-on sort of people, I think.

My eye is cleaned, for example. My cornea was abraded by a contact lens the other week, contributing to the blogging hiatus. It's healed now, but I could barely see across the street for a week. It's the second time this has happened to me: the first was years ago in college, when some stage makeup mixed with sweat to create a potent sticky mixture binding my contact lens to my eye. I stayed in a dark room for three days afterwards, but what I remember most is the ride to the hospital, looking desperately out of the window, muttering to myself, "that's the last color blue I will see; that's the last pink."

This scotomaphobia has always been within me. It extends to everything I do: not only am I afraid of not, physically, seeing, but I'm also afraid of being deluded, or deluding myself. I'm afraid others will be deluded, and not be able to make clear decisions for themselves, and I feel sorrow for those who hide behind a world of fantasy. Blindness became a metaphor for me, for ignorance, for the darkness of a world denied. I think it may become such a metaphor for many Deaf people, as they struggle with various issues - Usher's Syndrome, for example, or various vertigo- and blindness-inducing conditions. There's also the psychological and psychiatric disorders which induce hallucinations. At a whisk any of us could lose our sight, and by extension the language which we so love.

So when my cornea had its dignity so injured, and I was suspended in a hazy bubble of vision, I spent each day and night with rapidly growing fear. I lay awake all of the following night thinking about the 9 buddhist levels of consciousness, trying to will myself into a state of alaya, because theoretically in such a state all communication is possible: you recognize yourself, at the cellular level, as having no difference from any other being, and accept the dichotomy without struggle that, simultaneously, you can be entirely unique. It's a powerful philosophical state which gives the mind an incredible clarity of vision.

A clarity completely out of reach, at least for most of this week. I substituted Pepperidge Farms for enlightenment, then compensated with a day of herbal green teas out of guilt for the processed crap in the chocolate. (You have to apologize to your body for the stuff your drama makes you do.)

Fuller-fed, I managed to find enlightenment another way: working on a play. Just a random one I started for fun. It's funny, but I can see ASL (and yes, BSL) signs in my head now: I don't think I was always able to. I experiment constantly in my head now with alterations, variations in structure between ASL number and grammar... I'm still a baby at it, but I went through this process with English, and I recognize it for what it is: it's the process of learning to construct writing, only with ASL. I'm playing with the guitar and making occasional riffs to see how it sounds.

Cleaning is useful for many purposes. You clean out your mind, when you sift through your memories and pay attention to your life. (This is one reason I hate television: how much meaning can you get from sifting through many hours of watching television? And people do watch such a lot of it.) I struggled to build a picture in my mind, looking for analogues to what I'm doing now, because I really want to improve my script-writing ability, and I want the ASL to be just as good as the English can be - simultaneously. I tried to make my memory into the film reel some writers say it can be.

I discovered, to my amazement, that I could. It took a little while of drifting, yes, but there was the classroom in the English department, and there was Joseph Rainmound, twelve years younger, experimenting with a computer program to randomly make poetry, not aware that, twelve years later, his older self would wince at the naivete that poetry was simply words put into clever places and that there were people with poorer knowledge of the construction of English than his who could write poems which far outstripped any new structural concept he could come up with. Yep, a little playing with BASIC, and a couple of books I found in the library, and all I needed to do was put in a list of random words and I would be Shakespeare. The words just came out funnily-placed, really. And they didn't always make sense. I found myself having to actually write. (I was a lazy bum, and followed Heinlein's theory that the laziest man had to be the most efficient, since he would find the quickest, best way of doing things so they would be done right the first time, and so that first time would be the shortest possible time it could take.)

In some ways it's sad to look back and see myself making fake poems through random word placement generators. In another way there's positive vibes from seeing myself at such a silly project. Remembering the illusions of my early childhood made me feel better about my sight today. I can see, in one way, much more now than I used to, in another. I'm certainly no longer blinded by certain types of naivete, although I suspect I'll have to battle many more. ASL gave me the context and content which a lifetime of study of English alone could not.

The memory also made me regretful... because in many ways naivete, the self-delusion which is innocence and so prized by certain people in this country, is a very comfortable place. But truly: would I rather have the more perfect physical sight of my youth, or the more focused mental sight of today? I know my own answer (although it would be nice not to have to use bloody contacts again.) Awareness of the universe comes from mental attention, not simply the physical strength of the gaze. This is why people close their eyes when they meditate. Awareness, the sixth sense every discipline calls for (yes, even the Buddhist traditions, and the Wiccan), is a sense which transcends all others. It helps to access it when the noise from those other senses is muted. It helped me separate my metaphor from the reality.

The reality: blindness is simply a state, a quantum position, and nothing of which to be afraid. The awareness grew in me, and I began to see how this awareness could be useful for so many other things, how I could master my fear of medium heights, and possibly, one day, confront a cockroach without turning into an insane bloody-hatchet bearing madman...

Awareness is also very helpful, when you're cleaning. I must now go be aware of the floor. Time for scrubbing.

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