I started this one business that applied to the eyes of our clients the opposite of blinders, what we called Seeingers.
See everything! Every detail before you in intense exactitude! This was our pitch. Our scientists stumbled upon these Seeingers during an experiment on the bone structures of kaleidoscopes. It was a failed venture, until two of the scientists, depressed at their impending unemployment, got gin-drunk in the lab & ended up half-naked with the bones of kaleidoscopes strapped around their faces. What they saw in that moment they could not describe. Later, during his debriefing, the senior scientist said it was the visual equivalent of when you bite through your tongue & suddenly feel how your teeth are both weapons & exposed bones.
The Seeingers made every detail as important as if you were looking into the face of your child for the first time. No patch of spackle or inflamed pore was ignorable. Each dent in the hood of the car after the hailstorm was unique & therefore astounding. The creases on the pants of the person on the other end of the subway were as vivid as the exclamatory breasts of the woman in the window, removing her shirt in a Greek statuary flourish at the exact moment you happened to look up toward the sky.
Our first customers, fabulously wealthy adventurers, men who’d flown hot air balloons through hurricanes & swallowed live scorpions by the dozen simply to impress their cabdrivers, began to experience the side-effects after about a week. The effects presented as a kind of visual throb. The brain attempted to compensate for this onslaught of attention by making some element in the field of vision more important, but since there was no distinction of focus, the brain assigned this importance randomly. One man reported that he was suddenly struck dumb by the metaphysical beauty of a single spoke on a bike’s wheel & the world arced & rattled around him like an enormous hummingbird heart. Another said that every piece of tape he saw felt like a lost family member.
We tried removing the Seeingers, but by then our clients’ brains had adapted, rewired to only see with complete, unsullied attention. The effects progressed, resulting in a new sort of blindness. A blindness of glut. Unable to distinguish the important from the trivial, they were no longer able to use what their eyes transmitted. It was no longer data, but pure, all encompassing perception. & while the urban myth is that those struck blind gain an exceeding ability to employ the other senses, our poor clients instead could only gape at the vast field of extremity before them. Each once-arrogant man now in a vegetative & unresponsive state.
There are many lessons to be learned here, as the judicial system & the civil cases have taught us. There are lessons in the brain’s adaptability to prolonged sensory stress, lessons of epistemology. One young grad student at Harvard Divinity is even writing his dissertation on the transfixing power of the immanence of the Holy Spirit.
But what I can’t stop thinking about is how the more you need something the more you are unable to see it. I used to love my son so much. & now that he is dead I am not sure what it is that I love when I love him.
This poem comes from Mathias Svalina’s latest book, I am a Very Productive Entrepreneur (Mud Luscious Press, 2011). Mathias lives in Denver.