By: Max Amitai Samuels
We sit in a circle of chairs. A red-headed boy on my left, whose glossy sunglasses protect his visionless pupils, gropes along the crevices of a rainbow-colored xylophone. On my right sways a boy so infused with energy that he rattles his little body more ferociously than the egg-shakers in his grasp. A young girl seated across from me, whose dark hair sulks over her squinting eyes, sluggishly caresses her dry hands along the shiny cymbals of her tambourine. In the corner, a lanky, curly-haired teenager saddles a piano bench and strokes the ivory keys. Everyone knows his or her assigned seat and exactly how many steps away from the doorway it is.
I am in music class with my students at Perkins School for the Blind; every Wednesday I lend my vision to those in need of sight. The class begins with a musical improv-session, during which the students perform an original song. The melodic talent displayed by some of the musicians present illuminates my imagination. Never could I have foreseen the fashioning of such beautiful harmony by artists who have never laid eyes on their instruments. I ponder over the notion that without sight, ears must perceive. But I am inspired by the prospect that with just sound, jubilation can be conceived.
The instructor agrees to share one last song with the class. Along with making their own tunes, the kids love listening to music. The recording rolls. Overpowering the catchy beat, the promising imagery of “Staring at the blank page before you / Open up the dirty window / Let the sun illuminate the words you cannot find,” floods the classroom. The Natasha Bedingfield song continues: “Today is where your book begins / The rest is still unwritten.”
I taste the pungent truth of the lyrics. I am no longer in the same room I strolled into moments before. The room’s width expands. The melodious tools come alive and dance to the track’s echoing rhythm and rhyme. Blinding rays of sunlight pummel through the thick clouds above and crash through the window panes, leaving us in the music room basking in a shower of vibrancy. The rest of the class hums and drums to the beat, but I stay stuck to my chair, avalanched by awe.
The song’s potency pierces my brain. The intense brightness impairs my mind. In desperate search of serenity I lock my eyelids shut, in deep concentration, beckoning the calm of darkness. While the song plays on, my eyes remain securely fastened, but my ears are wide open. My thoughts clear and my spirit settles. I listen with my eyes and envision with my ears.
An optimistic future, for my sightless friends and myself, unaccompanied by any confinement to the past, launches into being. No barriers can halt hope, no blockades can prevent potential.
The music fades away as I look up and glimpse the smiles staring back at me. All I see is possibility.