06. July 2012 · Comments Off on Does God Make the Artist Blind, or Do the Blind Gain the Gift of Art? · Categories: Background, Brain · Tags:

I always thought I should have been an artist. I have such vivid visions and a clear idea of what I want to make, but without the fine coordination to make it happen. What I didn’t understand was it takes a lot of practice for even the most gifted artists to learn and hone their skills to the level necessary. Perhaps if I had put the time in, with an open mind, that one would have put in since early childhood, I could come to the point where I could make what I want to happen, happen. That’s a lot of hours. I suspect it’ll take me way longer than it would take for me to become a decent shot.

I imagined that if only I had the eyes, I could do all these things with ease. Perhaps it is so, that when I was 4 or 5, these activities were more rewarding and over the course of my childhood I would have developed my skills to the point where I could make the visions I have come to life.

But there is another twist to this personal mythology.

I was listening to this recent episode of Radiolab about a scientist that became a professional artist. They suspect that she had gained very vivid visuals when some part of her brain broke down.

This story reminded me of my understanding of the brain, and my personal theory that all those synapses are adaptable and that you can form new habits, and re-appropriate portions of your brain for different things. I know that people who are blind use that visual area of the brain for different things. I know that I use mine differently, at least a tad, from the way other people use it.

If I had perfect eyes, there is no way for me to tell how I would have used that portion of my brain. There is no way for me to know how I would have approached art!

This is a crazy thought, but perhaps instead of storing information about hand-eye coordination, I USED that area for something else, like my visual aesthetic, my understanding of juxtaposition and composition, my very understanding of visual communication…

In another life, I could have been an athlete. I love the gym. I have no finesse. Why use a chisel when a hammer will do?

It could be even more dramatic.

In another life, this portion of my brain, and the many hours spent dreaming up visual landscapes, might have been spent on something even more different than the hand-eye coordination I lack, more extreme than martial arts or rock climbing. Maybe I would have been an architect. Maybe I would have been a violinist. MAYBE I would have just thrown that all out the window and devoted my life to science, chemistry, or math. Business?

As I brainstorm here, I am reminded of all the visual cues in normal communication that I miss, that I never learned. That I am trying to learn now. All those subtle gestures that I never picked up and I am deliberately trying to cue in on now, would have taken up space in the brain of a functional person, and I’m missing all of that. Instead of keeping track of such subtle cues learned from birth, I have to learn it all over again, using the left-brained logic hammer (I told you I wasn’t subtle).

So many fine-tuned adjustments were made to take advantage of my mental processing power, so many obstacles to overcome… there’s no way to know how my brain would have been mapped out if things turned out differently.

When I was growing up, I thought that art was what I was always meant to do, and my ideal profession was taken from me. But now I understand that I could never know what I would have done in another life. I could never know if I would have been drawn to art, enjoyed it, or even had the spectacular imagery, visual landscapes, or visual creativity, as I have developed in this real life.

It’s time for me to stop asking myself what I could have done, and appreciate what I can, and could, do now.

I love art. I am grateful that I can enjoy such a thing, both conceptually, with my imperfect eyes, and through my uncertain hands. It’s time to fully embrace and appreciate what I have.

28. March 2012 · Comments Off on I’m not fully blind–just legally · Categories: Background · Tags:

There are few accommodations I request or require to get by, but when you can’t drive, a chunk of the American world is closed to you. The remainder of my limitations are far more subtle.

You probably want to know what I have.

I had cataracts removed when I was young, before they were putting in artificial replacements for children. My points of focus are the ones dictated by my glasses. I can’t drive. I can barely read a street sign when standing under it. For reading, my glasses are necessary but not sufficient. And then there are more complications which I may elaborate upon as they come up.

Psychology tells us that the slightest suggestion will cause us to react differently, taking a cue to judge the preceding events and color our decisions. I prefer it to go unsaid. I’ve always preferred to have people know me before they presumed to, by knowing something about me. Those who don’t know will eventually notice, and those who do, eventually forget. I hope that they will overlook or perhaps not notice the subtle cues I miss, the reactions I don’t exhibit. I know that there is a great, and exceedingly subtle loss. I know that when I communicate with people face-to-face, my handicap is not insignificant. Neither I nor they will be able to recognize the full impact.

Things are a little easier at the range. There are a lot of target acquisition options for both pistols and rifles. We’re playing around with the spotting scope or webcam. I can see the paper targets, but not the holes made in them. Once we solve that problem, a trivial matter of equipment, I’ll have the feedback to allow me to dial it in.

28. March 2012 · Comments Off on Early Experience · Categories: Background · Tags:

It’s a bit of a wonder that I own any guns at all. My first experiences weren’t that great.

My husband had long owned a rifle. One of those .10/22 plinkers that are easygoing and cheap to shoot. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t ideal. I had some issue with the scope and my arms would tire as I tried to figure it out. And disconcertingly to a new user, the shells ejected to the right while I was using my left eye. I could understand people enjoying it, but I found it overall pretty uncomfortable.

Eventually my husband wanted to buy a pistol for practice. I went along to the gun show but didn’t have a whole lot of interest. I didn’t anticipate being involved. They looked mostly the same to me, and I wouldn’t have a clue what mattered. He picked up something at a great price.

Unfortunately, I absolutely hated it.

The grip was way too long so I could barely reach the trigger. My stubby little thumb couldn’t reach any of the controls. I thought I hated the “1911 style” (turned out I was totally wrong!). It was so completely unusable to me that I despaired. Really… I didn’t think I was THAT small.

Not a great start to a hobby.

Finally admitting defeat on this particular weapon, I was assured that there actually were options. We just had to find something that worked.

At that point, I wasn’t convinced that I wanted to bother, but we ended up going to a couple parties with guns and the appeal grew. I felt a bit left out and intimidated, and that was just not going to do.

We visited gun shops and gun shows. We tried out different models at the local range. I found that some modes were of appropriate size. I’m a serious shopper and I hate to be disappointed by my purchases. It took me months to figure out what I was looking for and make a decision. Years later, I enjoy the feel of them and how well they operate. I enjoy looking upon them and admiring them. Like a tailored suit, it’s nice to have something that fits and just feels right.

25. March 2012 · Comments Off on I’m One of a Kind · Categories: Background

You don’t see many female shooters out there. And you wouldn’t associate “low vision” with a sport that requires precision accuracy at a distance. There’s a lot of things I do that you wouldn’t expect me to bother with, and I don’t pretend to be good at anything physical. But  I can be good enough to enjoy what I do and good enough to be proud of myself.

So why would a petite Asian chick who just happens to be legally blind get into guns??? Well, get ready for a pretty goofy story.

This may sound really lame, but things changed when I started watching Top Shot a couple weeks ago. I realized that most of the targets they were using were things that I had the potential to hit. These were things that I could do. But of course, I could never be competitive, no matter how many hours I put into it, right? As I continued watching this show, I realized something. It didn’t matter how good you were in competitions. It didn’t matter how hard or easy the challenges were. The thing that made people fail wasn’t their skills, the “fundamentals”. No, they failed because they choked under pressure.


This was a really amazing discovery for me. For most of the things they did, I’m confident I could get to within 90% of a professional’s skill if I spent a lot of time on it. But that gap in ability between an amateur and a professional is ENTIRELY wiped out by the difference in how people operate under pressure. I’m never going to have the eyes of a pro, but the response to pressure… that is something I can control.

If you put somebody in an environment that they have been training in for years without any variations or surprises, the person who’s trained that exact way is going to have an advantage, undeniably. You could be really good at that one thing or the things within your comfort zone, but does that really make you that good a marksman? Does that make you a good shooter?

I don’t need to be a world champion in a specific situation under specific rules. I just want to prove to myself that I can be a decent shot despite my weaknesses. All I have to do is overcome my self-doubt, and get in a lot of practice.

There are so many things that I thought “I can never get this right, it’s impossible.” And of course that’s exactly what happened. I learned physical actions much more slowly than everyone else. That only fed the misconception about myself, and I would spiral straight into my self-fulfilling prophecy. I can’t do it. I won’t bother to try. I’m not trying so of course I don’t see results, which confirms what I had already believed.

It was only in my 20’s when I realized that I was making assumptions about what I can and cannot do, without any evidence to back it up. Ever since I got into jujitsu, I’ve changed my attitude. Now, I need to prove to myself that I can’t do something. I don’t take my weaknesses for granted anymore.

My imperfections are unique to me. I will compensate for them through hard work and the judicious use of modern technology. No one else is going to be in quite the same situation as me, but perhaps my journey will help someone else overcome their own unique limitations.