But most remarkable of all was Lusseyran's claim that, despite his total blindness, he learned to see.
Not at once, I admit. Not in the days immediately after the operation. For at that time I still wanted to use my eyes. I followed their usual path. I looked in the direction where I was in the habit of seeing before the accident, and there was anguish, a lack, something like a void which filled me with what grown-ups call despair.
Finally, one day, and it was not long in coming, I realized that I was looking in the wrong way. It was as simple as that. I was making something very like the mistake people make who change their glasses without adjusting themselves. I was looking too far off, and too much on the surface of things.
And so he changed course, looking "not at things but at a world closer to myself, looking from an inner place to one further within, instead of clinging to the movement of sight towards the world outside."
Immediately, the substance of the universe drew together, redefined and peopled itself anew. I was aware of a radiance emanating from a place I knew nothing about, a place which might as well have been outside me as within. But radiance was there, or, to put it more precisely, light. It was a fact, for light was there.
Not only light, but also color.
My father and mother, the people I met or ran into in the street, all had their characteristic color which I had never seen before I went blind. Yet now this special attribute impressed itself on me as part of them as definitely as any impression created by a face. Still, the colors were only a game, while light was my whole reason for being. I let it rise in me like water in a well, and I rejoiced.
But this inner light sometimes departed. Fear, anger, and impatience were enough to make Jacques blind again. When he lost his confidence and began to fear the obstacles in his way, he could no longer move easily among them. Everything hurt him. "What the loss of my eyes had not accomplished was brought about by fear."
Perhaps an even greater danger than his own fear lay in the reactions of others. In his book Lusseyran gives great credit to his parents for not imagining that their own way of knowing the world was the only one. He advises parents of a blind child never to say, "You can't know that because you can't see" and to say as little as possible, "Don't do that; it's dangerous." The adult's pity, fear, and embarrassment are the worst disaster for someone who has been blinded, as one of Lusseyran's encounters makes clear:
When I was fifteen I spent long afternoons with a blind boy my own age, one who went blind, I should add, in circumstances very like my own. Today I have few memories as painful. This boy terrified me. He was the living image of everything that might have happened to me if I had not been fortunate, more fortunate than he. For he was really blind. He had seen nothing since his accident. His faculties were normal, he could have seen as well as I. But they had kept him from doing so. To protect him, as they put it, they had cut him off from everything, and made fun of all his attempts to explain what he felt. In grief and revenge, he had thrown himself into a brutal solitude. Even his body lay prostrate in the depths of an armchair. To my horror I saw that he did not like me.
When we devise technical aids for the disabled, we need to ask ourselves to what degree our thinking aligns itself with Lusseyran's upbringing or with that of his unhappy acquaintance. Our attitude in this respect, after all, is probably much more significant for the person we would help than is the technical wizardry we put at his disposal.