As a society, we are obsessed with the visual. People say things like ‘Seeing is believing’ and ‘Beauty is in the eye of the beholder’. We are pressured to look a certain way. Sadly, in the music industry (the one place that should be all about the ears and hearing), we are told that we must have a popular image, that we need to have a certain appearance in order to get heard. WTF!?
We focus on sight, we focus on looking hot, women are told that men are visually turned on and, so, they need to look a particular way in order to be desirable to them. To our detriment, we have been taught that sight is the most powerful and important of the senses, and all our effort is put into how we appear to others.
Recently, I have become close to a man who has been completely blind since birth. And, I have learned so much. He often tells me that I am beautiful. But, you say, if beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and he has never seen you nor has he seen anyone to compare you to, how is he qualified to make such a statement? And, he’s actually had people say this to him. I daresay these people are fucking ignorant. I’ll tell you why.
There are four other senses, and they are just as powerful and visceral, if not more so, than sight. I’ve always thought this; my friend has only confirmed it for me. Beauty is in the hand of the beholder. Beauty is in the ear of the beholder. Beauty is in the nostrils of the beholder. Beauty is in the mouth of the beholder. Beyond the limited, superficial, sense of sight, there is a way of perceiving and knowing and experiencing beauty in a way that is so intense as to be overwhelming.
My visually impaired friend is a radio presenter; that’s how he and I met. He is very passionate about music and about supporting indie artists (like me). His first experience of me was when my singing voice hit his ears; and, in his words, he fell in love. Since then, we’ve spent many hours on the phone, and he tells me he also likes my speaking voice. It’s more than how my voice sounds (although, that’s a part of it), it’s how my voice feels.
How can a blind man tell me that I am beautiful when he’s never seen me, when he has no concept of black (the colour of my hair) or brown (the colour of my eyes), when he has never seen the shape of my body or the composition of my facial features. How can he say it with conviction and how can I believe him? It’s simple, really. He feels beauty. He feels it. And, I don’t just mean by touching something with his hands. No, I mean on a deep, visceral level. Anyone who has ever challenged him when he called them beautiful, by asking how he is qualified to say such a thing because he can’t see them, has terribly missed out on the AMAZING compliment he has given them; they have missed the incredible wonder of his exclamation all because of their obtuseness. Their ignorance wouldn’t allow them to believe what he was telling them. They are the ones who are truly blind, the ones who cannot comprehend that what he said to them is SO MUCH MORE OF A COMPLIMENT than they have ever been given before.
Emotionally, intensely and all-consuming, he recognises beauty when he encounters it. And, in a place beyond the superficiality of seeing with the eyes, he sees it with his soul.
And, you know what? I think that’s beautiful.