A few years ago I realized that I no longer care about light switches. I have included a story on how I came to this conclusion and how it has affected my perspective on light-dependent people. After reflecting on the story, I suspect it has something to do with awareness. The story is a quick read, with a little food for thought. Comments and sharing are always welcome.
In this post:
Story: Light switches? What light switches?
Note: The postscript is part of the story. Please include it in your reading.
My Pa came to this country from Italy just before World War II broke out in 1939. Grandma Lococo wanted her grandchildren to grow up as Americans. This had a lot to do with the fact that Mussolini was aligned with Germany during the war. So, even though I cherish my Sicilian heritage, I grew up recognizing the importance of fitting in.
I have never had good vision. When I was 10 years old I had surgery to correct Strabismus, which presents as crossed eyes. The surgery eliminated the appearance of someone with vision problems. It also resulted in feeling a need to fit in with those with more vision than me.
I did a decent job of fitting in while growing up. My vision affected my participation in ball sports but that wasn’t a big deal. I found ways to engage with my peers that didn’t involve a high reliance on vision. I was a runner and, ironically, I was pretty hot stuff on a dirt bike.
My vision got progressively worse as I entered my 20’s. The tricks I used to cover my bad vision got more sophisticated and less effective as time went on. Pausing with my eyes closed for a minute before entering a building allowed me to dilate my pupils before going into artificial light. Saying “good morning” to the person coming toward me in a hallway worked well for a while, but was awkward when repeated multiple times to the same person.
Eventually, I realized I needed to let go of my reliance on my vision. I also recognized that many of the things I used to do to cover up my failing vision serve no real purpose. Others, are quite useful: Sending a photograph to someone prior to a first meeting in a public space simplifies connecting with people. It also avoids having to explain that I have no way of visually identifying someone in a public venue. Relying on the sound of traffic to safely cross busy streets, not so much.
When we moved to our condominium in 2019 I was surprised by the number of light switches in the 975 square foot space. Lights don’t do anything for me so knowing what each of the 24 light switches did was not information I needed to know. Illumination adds no value to the way I occupy a space. It’s just not relevant to me.
The revelation of the light switches was a freeing experience. It made me wonder how many other things I do out of habit or cultural convention. As a result, I spend less and less time focusing on doing things that are primarily performative. I simply don’t have the time, or attention span, to focus my energy on things that don’t matter to me – light the position of light switches.
Applying the lessons
I do not have anything against people who care about light switches. It doesn’t bother me if people ask me to turn a light switch on or off. I have my opinions but I keep them to myself. Who am I to pass judgement on how others spend their time and energy. Heck, some of my best friends use light switches.
I figure, you do you. But really, if it were up to me, there would be a lot less light switches in this world. Light switches are really just the start of it. The problem with light switches is that they connect to lights and lights illuminate things. Once people start illuminating things they start wanting them to appear a certain way. And that’s OK, but not on my dime. For example, the Light Field exhibition that took place in Milwaukee from January 19 to May 5 is something that consumed resources and public park space. And for what? So some light dependent people could have some enjoyment? That’s just wrong to use public space for such a niche exhibit. The Jazz in the Park series in the summer makes perfect sense, but a light exhibit from January to May, that’s just wrong-headed.
This essay was intentionally written through a satirical lens. I focus my writing on illuminating topics that affect our shared pursuit of liberty and justice for all through principles of Servant Leadership, . I thought I would try my hand at looking through a very narrow lens of someone who doesn’t see and doesn’t have much use for the things that benefit sighted people. It is true that illumination is only a very small part of my experience but I appreciate how others depend on and receive pleasure from being able to see. I firmly believe our lives are enriched through an appreciation of what lies beyond the scope of our own experiences.
- PARQUETTEm ARCHER. (2023) An Internationally Renowned Sculpture Duo Will Light Cathedral Square. Milwaukee Magazine. Retrieved from: https://www.milwaukeemag.com/an-internationally-renowned-sculpture-duo-will-light-cathedral-square/#content
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