ON THE VIRTUE OF LETTING GO • by Ryan Knighton
going blind has its lessons. Some I’ve ignored, others
have hit hard. For example, I know it’s smarter
to listen for traffic at a crosswalk than to listen for the tweety-bird
signal. I’d be a flatter blind man if I didn’t.
lessons came to me slowly, like a strip tease. That was okay,
though. I lost my sight bit by bit over fifteen years. I know
slow. Slow is my nature. It’s the rhythm of my retinas
and their genetically programmed self-destruction. Sometimes
my disease, retinitis pigmentosa, demands more patience than
anything else. That, and an ability to let go.
had to let go of a lot: driving, the image of my own face,
physical grace, a good aim, foreign films, windows, red, maroon,
beige (no loss), and, most difficult of all, my former self.
A sighted guy I knew as Ryan. Barely seen him in years.
I have one percent of my sight left in one eye. When it goes,
and that could be any moment, my slender portal to the visual
world will go, too. How do you say goodbye to that? It’s
so much, and so little. See you later, I guess. I hope.
I’m not alone. Patience has been my guide in this
slow change. I wait, and in doing so, things happen, and I’m
comforted to know that something else always comes along. That’s
what it means to let go. To let your story happen.
my Sundance misadventure. I was invited to the Sundance Screenwriter’s lab in Utah to develop the script based
on my memoir, Cockeyed. Yes, a blind guy writing a picture. The
medium’s end must be near. The workshop was held at the
Sundance ski resort. Twenty writers were housed in cabins there,
tucked away in the snowy woods, to meet daily at a lodge down
a path and some stairs, and then some more stairs.
stepped out of my cabin the first morning and headed for the
lodge, having assured my hosts that I could find my own way.
I may be blind, but I’m 35. Dammit, I can find my way to
breakfast, can’t I?
slowly pinballed – always slowly – down stairs
and turns and followed the burbling sound of distant water. I
knew the lodge was near a small creek. The snow muted any helpful
sounds from my white cane –was I on a path of rocks, grass?
-- and my trusty stick communicated no texture but snow. Eventually
it made a sploosh as it touched the creek. I must be close, I
But as I turned and surveyed, I could hear only water. It surrounded
me. I tried a few paces in several directions, each attempt leading
to a sploosh of water. A moat. A Utah mountain moat. Disorientation
bloomed in me. Could this be an island? Was this a flash flood?
Panic flowered. Was I still in Utah? I considered my options.
I had only one.
I stood there.
would wait. I let go of any ambition to find my way to breakfast,
or Utah, and gambled that one of my screenwriter friends would
notice that the blinkered Canadian was missing. They’d
come looking. Maybe they’d option the film rights to my
A half an hour later a SUV blasting mariachi tunes pulled up
next to my chilly person. A tiny eastern European woman descended
the cab and asked if I needed help. I knew she was short because
her accent came from a spot just above my frozen elbow.
looking for the lodge.”
you like me to take you there?”
“I hope it’s
not out of your way.’
started towards the blurry headlights of her SUV, palming for
the door handle. Before I could find it, she spun me around,
ushered me ten paces hard left, and opened the lodge door.
was the case then, and as it has always been in my life, letting
go is to understand myself as part of a story. One thing gives
away to another. Don’t panic. Change is the nature
of drama, of comedy, of a world of matter in motion. That’s
transformation -- benevolent, absurd, and always pushing its
hand on the door to the next room. You never arrive, though.
You just work on another story once you’re there.
it from a man about to leave this well-lit place. If anything,
I’m into change, not loss.
back to hackery
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