A bit late to the party, but I just finished reading Ross Gay’s 2019 essay collection, The Book of Delights. I’m inspired. Hence pilfering the concept with a twist: blind delights! Like him, I have many things to delight in. Also like him, the opposite.
He is black. I am blind. We each have a mountain of stereotypes and oppression to muddle through, disentangle, extricate, or perhaps even find delight in. Sometimes his delight is a “black delight,” even sometimes animated by the system that seeks to deny it, crush it.
Gay describes a photograph “of a woman in what looks to be some kind of textile factory, with an angel embroidered to the left breast of her shirt, where her heart resides“ taken by Carrie Mae Weems. “The woman, like the angel, has her arms splayed wide almost in ecstasy, as though to embrace everything, so in the midst of her glee is she. Every time I see that photo, after I smile and have a genuine bodily opening on account of witnessing this delight, which is a moment of black delight, I look behind her for the boss. Uh-oh, I think. You’re in a moment of nonproductive delight. Heads up!”
Although sometimes they seem lumped together in our white/ableist/patriarchal cultural cluster-fuck of an imagination, I’m not equating blindness with blackness. In fact, black people and blind people seem to be stereotyped and reviled in diametrically opposed ways—threatening on the one hand, impotent on the other. Yet I relate to the gallows humor of being the kind of person many powers that be would prefer to not see, not deal with, not admit to their company.
I often feel oppressed and depressed by the assumptions this society places on my people. Also frustrated by just how many of those assumptions my people assume, consume, and bind themselves to/with. Internalized ableism: check. Internalized ocularcentrism: check.
That’s kind of why I wrote my solo storytelling show, SIGHTED PEOPLE SUCK! Because of all the assuming about what and who I am. In the spirit of Gay, I digress: there’s a moment in the show when I confess, admit, that not all sighted people suck…
I like a lot of you, a lot. But can we all agree that ocularcentrism definitely sucks. Ocularcentrism insists that sighted people are better than blind people, that sighted ways of doing things are the only ways of doing things.
Ocularcentrism makes being blind so much harder than it has to be.
Perhaps some of you are out there thinking: “No way lady. Blindness definitely sucks. I don’t suck.”
Well, all I can say is that when you have two or more blind people in a room, in real life or virtual, the number one thing we complain about. Hands down. The number one thing blind people complain about is sighted people.
- How sighted people infantilize us,
- disrespect us,
- refuse to hire us.
- Are afraid of us.
- Are unwilling to get to know us.
- Can’t imagine loving us.
- Are incapable of treating us like humans.
- Or at least like adult humans.
Don’t get me wrong; complaining is not a delight. But, being one of a small minority and so often alone, finding others to relate to said complaints most certainly is. One of the greatest delights I’ve known was the revival-style-response I got from the above litany performed in the East Village on November 8, 2023. Lots of “mm-hmms,” “say it sisters.”
And then after: “So many belly laughs!” they told me. “That was cathartic,” they said. Amen.
Returning to the present: This is about inspiration—in its basic, bodily sense. I inhale a delightful bouquet of essays, and exhale some aspirational essays of my own. After all, the essay is itself a trying, a testing, pertaining to effort and purity—essay/assay. Let’s prefer truth, or a will to truth.
No, not truth. Honesty. Whatever these will be—and however frequent (or not) they will aspire to be honest—an honest attempt to collect, recollect, and pile up blind delights.
The cover of The Book of Delights by Ross Gay appears on my iPhone screen. The cover background is a deep blue with a pattern that resembles wood grain scattered with bright pink leaves—except for two that are not like the others: one turquoise and the other orange. The title and author’s name are in white and yellow respectively. At the top, there is a quote that says “Exquisite.” – Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Tracy K. Smith. Below the author’s name, the text reads “essays” in a smaller font. At the bottom, there are two badges indicating that Ross Gay is a National Book Award Finalist and Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award. My iPhone is wirelessly connected to my Braille display on which my fingers with matching turquoise nails rest. Behind all is a close-up photo of a fig bud, multi-colored with browns and reds and white threads and the foliage blurred out behind it. The photo is from Wiki Commons: By Etienne – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0.
PS – Many of Gay’s delights revolve around gardening, and sometimes, specifically, fig cuttings!