(This article has six pages.)
by M. L. Liu, California, U.S.A., January 2011
I drive along the California coast almost every day, and the sight of a spectacular scenery of blue ocean in sparkling sunshine is something that I seldom gave a second thought to -- until Nobuyuki Tsujii came into my life. These days, I drive with his Chopin Concerto No. 1 purring on the radio, and as I come upon that view, I am sometimes overwhelmed with a profound sadness, knowing that Nobuyuki has never ever seen and likely would never ever get to see such a magnificent scenery, something that I had so taken for granted. At times, I could not help but rage against the unfairness of it all, for him. To be young, gifted, and sightless: how must it feel?
In my life, I have not come into contact with many sightless people. I once worked with a blind computer programmer. I was deeply impressed with his intelligence and the beauty of the fishing rods that he made as a hobby, yet I never even bothered to ask if he was born sightless. Currently, one of my neighbors is blind from a war injury, but I don't see him often enough to make any meaningful observation.
It is easy to see that life must be profoundly different for Nobu than for the sighted, and, as an extension of my love for this extraordinary artist, I have grown to appreciate the plight of the sightless. I want to understand just how different their world is from mine.
-- continued on the next column
One of the best books written about being blind is "Touching the Rock" by John M. Hull, who lost his eyesight as an adult. Unlike other books that tend to be of the self-help nature, this 1990 book contains a stream of thoughts on being blind. The fact that Mr. Hull had sight in his earlier life allowed him to articulate the impacts of blindness on his being and his life, and he did so with candidness and objectivity. The book is a slim volume that I raced through in less than a week, but it provides tremendous insight into the world of the blind - I will be referring to this book throughout this article.
Nobuyuki is considerably younger than either of the two sightless gentlemen that I knew, which makes his blindness from birth even more poignant. In Japan, Nobu's life is an open book. Since he was a child, his amazing talent and inspiring story have been the subject of numerous documentaries shown on Japan's television. His exposure on TV in that country has further increased since his Cliburn Competition win. It is clear to me that he (and his mother) intends to make his own life's story an inspiration for others who are handicapped. This alone is something to be admired, for, in general, blind people tend to be reticent about their plight. John Hull wrote: "I am struck by the stoicism in many of the autobiographies of blind people which I have read." "In my opinion, it would not be a Christian act to accept blindness, or try to go on as if it has not happened, or to defy it through mere courage, although I cannot but have the deepest respect for those noble blind people who have responded in those ways. " Hull decided to write his book to explore a "coherent meaning" of blindness in life instead of looking for "any specific meaning peculiar to blindness itself." In his book, there is no self pity, only candidness out of a desire to explore how blindness affects his life.