Experiencing Dialogue in the Dark
“I have never seen colors,” This phrase left me in awe about the whole experience of being in total darkness. Someone who is blind was serving us all drinks in a “a bar in the dark”. Without my eye glasses I cannot see clearly but a one hour experience of complete darkness made me think and reflect about what SEEING really means. Could I understand what loss of sight means to a blind man who has never been able to see either night or day, colors or all the views of natural life on our planet? A man whose lack of sight means he must rely on his imagination and resourcefulness in a world of darkness. With this, my respect and appreciation for them even grew so much more.
Dialog imDunkeln or Dialogue in the Dark makes you experience darkness and the life of someone who is blind. Dialogue in the Dark takes you out of your comfort zone and places you in a world without pictures. The Blind persons are masters of this environment and, accordingly provide all visitors with a sense of security. For more than 27 years there have been exhibitions in 41 countries throughout Europe, the Americas, Africa and Asia. Millions of visitors have been led through the exhibition by thousands of blind individuals, and learned to see in the darkness. (Source: Dialogue in the Dark)
My experience was gained in Austria. At first I did not know what to expect – one hour in total darkness. How would I feel, how would we be guided throughout the process. The basic idea is quite simple. Blind people lead small groups of visitors through the completely dark rooms of an exhibition. Smells, wind, temperature, sounds and textures shape different scenes like a park, a city or a bar. Blind people ensure our orientation and mobility and become our ambassadors of a culture without pictures.
At the beginning of the exhibition, we were welcomed by Mr. McCullen who would be our tour guide for the duration of the hour. In complete darkness he told us he was born blind and that we could trust him throughout the whole experience. Our first journey was in a nature park; we heard but could not see the waterfalls, birds chirping and the river flowing. We were able to feel the sides of the rocks, ropes and walls as we were guided through.
The second journey brought us into the city with sounds of traffic including buses and cars. Using our guide sticks we walked across the pedestrian crossing when the light signal kept ticking loudly to let us know when we could safely pass. This experience made us all realise that blind people live with this reality everyday of their lives when they go out and about.
In the city we listened attentively to McCullen who was very calm throughout our journey. He guided us to a house and we felt and climbed a stair case which led to a room with a table. We had to guess the items on the table, half of them we couldn’t figure out – there were laptops, telephones, kitchen equipment, chopping boards and so much more. Afterwards, we went into a boat house where we felt paddle boats, oars and fishing rods etc. We helped each other into the boats for a simulated boat trip. The boat experience took about fifteen minutes and we experienced the waves, movement and, of course, water without seeing anything at all.
The final destination in the exhibition for “discovering the unseen” was a bar in the dark. Upon arrival, our blind bar man, Savi, welcomed us into his ‘bar’ and offered us different drinks in complete darkness.
He offered us wine, champagne, beer, softdrinks and juices. It was amazing how he could serve these drinks to us in total darkness in different kinds of fancy glasses. He gave us the right change to our payments. He was very outgoing and hospitable and made us all feel warm and welcome instantly. My friend asked a personal question, “Who dresses you in the morning? How do you know if you are wearing red pants and an orange shirt?” Savi replied, “my family choose all my clothes, but about colors, I wouldn’t know because I have never seen any colors.”
This left a really strong impression on all of us. Our day to day challenges and problems seem so little compared with the concerns of people who cannot see at all. Yet, blind people are so positive and optimistic and still choose to see all the good in the world as they go about their seemingly ordinary but truly extra ordinary lives.
The group of 8 colleagues I was with throughout the whole experience — we were all in darkness and guiding each other helped us through.
Dialogue in the Dark is an experience for everyone to be grateful for their eyesight, for their capability to hear, to see, to speak, to walk. It also gives us a new perspective to care more for the handicapped, giving them first priority and assisting them in their needs. If we go back to basics, we realize if we are healthy and able to walk miles, we can choose to always be grateful, even with just the little things; for the colors that we see every day, the night and day, light and dark of every day and everything else in between. This experience makes you realize what it is like without seeing the beauty and color of this world.
After reading this, I hope you take some time to appreciate the rainbows and its many colors, seeing peoples’ faces, and their frowns and smiles, the chance you get to watch the sunsets and everything else you might have taken for granted.