cyclops king

Desiderius Erasmus is widely credited with coining the adage, “In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.” Whenever I hear or read this proverb I have to ask myself: Are there areas in my life in which I choose to live in the land of the blind just so that I can be king? Where I dull the question, “do I have what it takes or do I simply have a little more than everyone around me?” with the comfort of never really having to answer it.

HG Wells’ short story, The Country of the Blind presented me with a different perspective on this saying. It chronicles the experience of a mountaineer, Nunez, who finds himself in a country where all of the inhabitants have, over generations, lost their sight. His initial reaction: “The fools must be blind.” From Nunez’s perspective they are all handicapped and in need of direction. However, the people he encounters are equally puzzled by him and his insistence on the unknown sense: sight. To them he is almost pitiful with his underdeveloped senses and unmeaning words.

Reading this again I could not help but see myself in Nunez: How often do I storm into situations, stumbling over my own unquestioned perspectives and trampling the beautiful things that my ways of looking have blinded me to? I am challenged to listen lest my tongue keep me deaf and to see lest my eyes keep me blind.

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