Marolt: The eye-closing, heart-opening experience of a Stevie Wonder show
Stevie Wonder doesn’t have to watch himself get old. I was thinking that during his concert this past weekend. I wasn’t trying to convince myself that being blind is an advantage. It was just something that crossed my mind.
I don’t feel much different inside from when I was 25. I work more, some interests have changed, and I raise kids instead of hell, but when thoughts run through my mind, it’s still the same me thinking them in pretty much the same voice as always. I know you know what I’m talking about even if I can’t explain it well. I think it must be an almost universal feeling.
I’m a little bit nearsighted, and that helps me keep a youthful self-image alive in my mind. My sight is good enough that I don’t need glasses to get around the house. I need them to drive and to recognize a familiar person across the street. Consequently, my glasses are kept by the door so that I can grab them on my way out of the house.
When I’m looking in the mirror to shave or brush my teeth, I’m looking through eyes that are not high-definition quality. I see my face, but I don’t see many lines or age spots. My hair looks thick and my cheeks full. It isn’t that much different from what I saw through good eyes three decades ago.
Reality strikes a hard blow when I’m in a restaurant or other public place where I actually need my glasses to find the restroom. I pass a mirror and get a glance at myself and can hardly believe who is looking back. It’s my father at about the time I graduated from college.
Wonder will never experience that. I don’t know if that’s good or bad, but it’s true. He will know age only by what he feels and perceives, and I think that might give him an advantage in donning the youthful exuberance he wears like an invisible skin over the one we see, but it doesn’t quite seem to jibe with the world view without fear that he projects. We too often expect trepidation with age based on how we see ourselves changing.
I was never a great Wonder fan. I liked his music but didn’t love it. For the first time, I listened to it carefully Sunday night as he performed. I was amazed at how much he said while judging so little. I realized that truth doesn’t need to be proved with opinion. I am now a big Wonder fan.
It goes against every instinct and ignites every fear to be on the verge of saying that blindness might be a gift, so I won’t do it, but Wonder appears to act as if it is. Even if his words never articulated that, can it be inferred from his actions?
Imagine meeting him. His first impression would be of you. He can’t see your face, your expression or how your hair is combed. He wouldn’t know what you are wearing. He wouldn’t notice your jewelry or shoes. He’d listen carefully to the first words out of your mouth and how you say them, and that might tell him all he needs to know. Is that intimidating?
How do you impress a guy who can’t see with his eyes? I doubt he cares what kind of car I drive. Would the house I live in change his impression of me? He probably wouldn’t care if I were fit or fat. Most likely the color of my skin would not matter unless I gave it away that it did to me. I am trying to imagine the value of money if what it buys is judged more by its utilitarian value than the brand name attached to it, when you can’t see the looks on others’ faces when they see it. If I lost my eyesight, would I be envious of others’ inanimate possessions?
I’m not implying that not being able to see with your eyes makes you a better person. I think bitterness and self-pity could drive a person the opposite way just as easily. All I think I’m trying to say is that Wonder is incredible and that it appears he has taken what most would consider an adversity and cherished it as a gift. I don’t know this for certain, but if it’s not true, he is an even better actor than he is a singer and songwriter, which I doubt is possible.
Roger Marolt is inspired to hum a different tune after watching Wonder perform. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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