What's it like to slowly go blind?
Or, how do we make peace with the things we can't control?
It’s Friday, which means we have a new episode for you. This one is called What's it like to slowly go blind?
Our guest, Andrew Leland, is a writer and podcaster who has been slowly losing his vision for decades. He’s written a wonderful book about it called The Country of the Blind. Andrew has a disease called Retinitis Pigmentosa where he loses vision from the outside in. Every year since he was a teenager, he’s had a little less peripheral vision and a little less night vision.
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I was interested in this conversation for a couple reasons. One is that I’m curious about blind people’s experience of the internet, but also – I wanted to talk to him because I have an enduring interest in how people survive anxiety.
I have a lot of it. In my own mind I struggle with this idiotic passenger, who is always afraid something bad is about to happen, and wants to ask about it all the time. This passenger has nothing interesting to say, and never predicts the actual calamity down the road. I don’t like him much, but I try to have compassion for him, seeing no alternative.
I know a lot of people struggle with some version of this problem, if not for their whole lives, then at least for those periods in their lives when something has happened to upset their sense of safety. So, this one’s for anxious people.
I hope you get what I got out of it.
A note about this episode
As I’m fond of saying, we’re figuring out what this show is while we make it. A lot of the episodes represent us testing out some little editorial idea for ourselves, to see what we think about it.
With this episode, we were testing a kind of editorial restraint. We were trying to honor this quality I really liked in Andrew Leland’s book. He just has a way of writing about disability that is restrained in a way I really appreciate. We wanted to make an episode that would echo that feeling, so we tried to tell the story without any writing, except at the end.
It was tricky for me to do that because I think and I process everything through writing. And it’s how, typically, I know how to control the pace of a story. But I like how this turned out. It feels different, to me, than what I’ve done before. But we’ll see what you guys think. A show is a thing you make with your listeners, not just for them.
Oh, also! We tried something else different with this episode. We asked our genius sound designer and engineer, Armen Bazarian, to compose a piece of music that would tell its own story, in the gaps of the conversation where we normally would have had writing. We asked him for a composition that would “start blurry and resolve into clarity.” What does that even mean? Armen figured it out, God bless him. We hope you like it.
If you want to hear the full composition, it lives here.
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Okay, that’s it for us this week, see you next Friday.
PS. One of my favorite email newsletters, The Small Bow, just joined Substack. It’s written by AJ Daulerio. It’s about recovery and sobriety, but a lot more than that. You don’t need to be sober or want to be sober to get a lot out of it. Anyway, please go say hi to AJ!