“It came to me perhaps it came to all of us at this moment, how skilled and self-sufficient he had been as a blind man, how naturally and easily he had experienced this world with his hands, and how much more we were now, so to speak, pushing him against the grain: demanding that he renounce all that came easily to him, that he sensed the world in a way incredibly difficult for him, and alien” (8, Sacks). Oliver Sacks writes the rising and falling story that entangles research, with observation, and with emotions over the life of Virgil, a blind man that gains sight after 50 years to only lose it again a year after. I found this quote most intriguing since Virgil may have received a gift deemed miraculous, it was actually quite tormenting, demotivating, and ineffective because of the change of lifestyle and lack of a visual background before his blindness. Oliver Sacks writes a plethora of perspectives of Virgil’s story and situations such as relational interactions, difference of color/shape, or even comparing Virgil to other subjects similar to him. However, it’s the unfortunate barrier of sight vs. perception, that fascinates and applies to my personal research. He writes the difference between the physical perception and even the internal perception.
Physically, Virgil could pick up details such as, an angle, an edge, a color, or a movement, but couldn’t synthesize them into a form. Sacks reasons that due to different appearances and transformations, it doesn’t become a swift or automatic programming, thus requiring “systematic exploration each day.” Essentially, since perceptions change so frequently, our brain relies on our visual sense to grasp this evolution. And of course, Virgil had the difficulty connecting, instead of contrasting, his visual perception (or there lack of), to his hand-to-object perception. For instance, the difference between seeing a gorilla and the statue of one. As an observer, we can take this strong difference between the two and play, appreciate, or manipulate with these two senses. Another adorable instance where the visual and tangible manipulated Virgil was when he enjoyed hills that he had walked up. Due to the simplicity and “uncluttered views” he could finally connect the two senses, but still had no perspective. Interestingly enough, it displays that even the most natural and simplistic can still be difficult to perceive. It’s a thought that we often neglect and appreciate.
Internally, Virgil has an internal battle between his world that may appear dark, yet is perfect, than the new world with disappointment, but with new dimensions and depth. It created difficulty for both the researcher, Oliver Sacks, and Virgil because of the overwhelming stress and strain everyday. In addition, Virgil appeared to “see” when in actuality he couldn’t and still behaved blind. His lack of confidence in himself or in the world, led him to conform to his original blind perspectives of how to live. Sacks writes that creating one’s own world, “the individual not only becomes blind but ceases to behave as a visual being, yet offers no report of any change in inner state, is completely oblivious of his own visuality of lack of it” (9, Sacks). Quite simply, this creates an ongoing contrast of lifestyles and desensitizing of their identity. By opening this new life to a once-blind individual thus forces them to reverse all they know and adapt a new lifestyle very swiftly, correlating to the opening quote by Sacks. And for Virgil, this warped his stability of his new vision. He had difficulty learning how to adapt because of his age, but also maintaining his vision for a length of time or being surrounded by intimate people. This then intimidates and frightens the person into going back to their old habits, which ultimately creates an even larger canyon of one perspective on life against another.
“A Neurologist’s Notebook” maps out that perception of visual and tangible objects can be easily manipulated, but can create new perspectives physically and internally for each individual. Despite our background with sight, education, etc. we can each assimilate our own world with our own outlooks on life and the things filled within it.