Mind Matters — Beach Reading and Otherwise

How about when you go to sea, you take two books with you on how to see? And There Was Light might be your first read. This is the extraordinary memoir of Jacques Lusseyran, who, although blinded at the age of eight, became a hero of the French Resistance during World War II.

After the accident which destroyed his eyes, Lusseyran discovered that he had new sight. He says, “I began to look more closely, 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 toward the world outside.” He describes experiencing a radiance within, and this radiant light would fade when he was afraid. As a child, he became aware that if he were jealous or unfriendly, a darkness descended in which he felt helpless. When happy and serene, Lusseyran could approach others with confidence and kindness, and he says, “I was rewarded with light. So is it surprising that I love friendship and harmony when I was very young?”

While reading Lusseyran’s account, I kept recalling Sabriye Tenberken’s story in her book, My Path Leads to Tibet. Tenberken was also blinded at a young age and also describes seeing colors and light. Like Lusseyran, Tenberken was a courageous activist: She founded a school for the blind in Tibet after she discovered how many children there were ostracized for their loss of sight. (See wwww.braillewithoutborders.org.)

Lusseyran’s courage led him to become a leader in the French underground resistance. His story unfolds with his group’s being sent to the Buchenwald Concentration Camp. It was there too that his acute sensibility of an inner light carried him through the fearful hell of the prison camp. (After World War II, Lusseyran went on to become a college professor in the United States.)

A different seeing is also the theme of Tina Wlling’s book Writing Wild: Forming A Creative Partnership with Nature. As does Lusseyran, Welling invites the reader to an awareness of our interconnections to the world around us, especially nature. She too notes how seeing comes from within and suggests ways in which we can become more aware of ourselves through our interaction with nature.

On a recent day in Cape May, and then on a ferry ride from there to Lewes, I saw dolphins leaping high. Their playfulness gave me great pleasure. Welling suggests pretending to exchange energy with an animal and make a connection. Well, when I saw the dolphins so close to the keel of the ferry, I clapped my hands in joy! Lusseyran would probably have had an inner sense of their presence and been joyful too!