My Heart is Not Blind: On Blindness and Perception,

Natalie, photo by Michael Nye of one of the interviewees (black and white photo.)
Michael Nye, color photo

Profiles of 46 people who live with blindness or low vision.  

An Interview with Michael Nye, the Author

Michael: “There is more misunderstanding about the nature of blindness than of any other group I have studied. It’s almost criminal!”

Michael Nye took nearly seven years to record long interviews with visually impaired and blind people. Each interview – really an extended conversation – took place over two or three days. His conclusions are radical! The interviewees, aged from 11 to 90 are often not much interested in sight. Many of them discover deeper ways to experience life. Their conversations are philosophical and positive. His introduction dwells on what our sight dominated society misses; the depth of attention and perception that blind people often develop. He is no Pollyanna! There are haunting descriptions of abuse, but each of his subjects has carved out a valuable life.

In the introduction Michael quotes from one of his subjects, “I’ve learned to perceive things in a way that other people don’t. If I had the ability to restore my sight I wouldn’t take the chance of gaining physical sight but losing the abilities I have. I like what Holmes once said to Watson, ‘You see but you do not observe.’ Vision is limited. I don’t care so much what people look like. I hear their voices, their manner, their energy, their sense of compassion…and what happened is that the world opens up.”

Hannah: A long time ago you met a group of international blind students who attended an exhibition of your photographs. Can you talk about the qualities you observed in those students?

Michael: What stayed in my mind from 30 years ago was their resolute attention; intense listening, “with them a whisper carried far.” There was a change in the atmosphere, and the mood. It was a pivotal experience for me. I began to wonder what awareness is, what intuition is.

When you understand something it changes your point of view. You can start discovering …

Hannah: You describe a deep well of perception and attention. I know that blind people are usually more attentive and much better listeners than the general population, but how did deeper perception show itself?

Michael: It was a rare priviledge to have these deep and personal conversations. my ears Saw much more than my eyes. The reliance on physical sight – even if unconscious – is to the detriment and under development of our other senses. If one pays attention to sound rather than sight then artists like me and everyone else will hear much more than they did before!

Hannah: Yet I and others know that so much is conveyed by non verbal Communication. What did you understand about listening to people than was different from seeing facial expression, gesture, body language, etc?

Michael: Lack of vision removed barriers. Philosophical questions come up. The questions illuminate things that we didn’t think about before. Voices have so much wisdom. There is a grave misunderstanding of the nature of blindness.

Hannah: This is a very important sentence. Can you say more?

Michael: I spent three years studying teens who had babies; more years studying the shifting space between mental illness and mental health. I also studied the effects of long term hunger. I found more misunderstanding about the nature of blindness than any of these. People who see don’t understand adaptations how the brain adapts.

There is no limit to human adaptation to favor other ways. Like a language – living with a different language

Hannah: In your introduction you highlight the ugly use of the word blind to mean unaware, stupid etc.

Michael: Those people cannot imagine blindness, not interested enough to find out, too scared. It’s lack of imagination… It’s almost criminal.

 My Heart is Not Blind: On Blindness and Perception by Michael Nye, NLS db 92924, available on Bookshare and in braille. Published in 2019 by Trinity University Press. The print edition contains photographs of each person profiled.

One thought on “My Heart is Not Blind: On Blindness and Perception,

  1. Excellent interview. I recommend Michael’s book to everyone whether your are blind or sighted. It underscores the truth that we know so little about the human spirit.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *