Tuesday, April 26, 2005

At a Loss

I would like to preface this post by saying that I am, in no way, trying to offend anyone who is from the deaf community. This is just a personal feeling.
Earlier today I feel down some steps and hit my head. Somehow I managed to cup or clap my ear on the floor when I finished, and my ear started ringing. I could not hear out of it for over an hour. Just a ringing. This is not the first time I have heard this ringing. In the middle of the night, when it's completely silent, I hear that ringing. Thanks to a class on speech and language development, I know that the ringing is a symptom of Tinnitus. Basically, I have listened to too many loud noises (power tools, music, etc.) and killed some of the hairs in my inner ear. Because they are gone, the nerves are constantly stimulated which is what the ringing is. On with my point, however.
As I sat there thinking about how I could have ruined my hearing, I remembered a conversation I had when I was younger. If you had to lose either your sight or your hearing, which one would you lose? I chose sight. I can explain it by re-telling the story.
When I was sophomore in college, I went home on a break. My mother had to go to a dinner party that a friend of hers (a fantastic artist named Vincent) was throwing. Unfortunately, my father could not go, so I was to attend in his place. The party consisted of myself, my mother, Vincent, his lover, and a couple from the Hamptons. This couple was, unfortunately, the stereotypical rich couple that frequents the Hamptons. We're rich, so we're right. (I could go off on a rant about just that, but that's for another day.)
Anyway, we were sitting at the dinner table when Diana (Mrs. Hampton) said, "Oh I simply must ask you all something. If you had to lose either your sight or your hearing, which would it be?"
Everyone around me said hearing. I, however, said, "I would rather be blind than deaf." This shocked Diana. "Why?! Then you couldn't drive, or look at art, or know what your girlfriend looked like." I was quiet for a minute as I pondered my response. Soon the table grew quiet, and they all stared at me while waiting for a response.
This is what I said: "All right. Sure. If you were blind, you would not be able to see the world. But really, isn't the world really more than just what we see? We stop to smell the roses. If we couldn't smell them, we wouldn't really have the best part of them. But here is why I would want to hear: every amazing thing about life, for me, has come from hearing than seeing. I have a girlfriend. She's wonderful. I hear her voice, and my heart races. If I couldn't hear her, how would know when she was kidding, or being sarcastic, or being coy? I could deal with not seeing her eyes, but I couldn't deal with not hearing her. What about music? Music is the very essence of our lives. Try this sometime. Go outside with a walkman. Play a happy song and just walk. Look at the landscape, how alive it feels. Now, play a sad song and walk that same path. The whole world looks different. Our emotions are truly played through hearing, not sight. But if you really want to see how important hearing is, try this right now. (Here is where I made them do the following.) Take your husband's hand. Feel the warmth of it. (To Mr. Hampton) Look into her eyes and tell her you love her without saying a word. Just mouth the words. How does it feel? Now, close your eyes and take his hand again. Don't peek. (To Mr. Hampton) Tell her you love her again. The words mean more than the sight with nothing, right?"
Well, she disagreed, and the night went on. I later found out that the Hampton couple was there to purchase one of Vincent's paintings and ended up passing, partially due to how they felt about me. Still, when that memory came, I realized that I still felt the same years later. All of the great things in my life are associated with sound. I can take or leave a sunset, but if I couldn't hear my wife's laugh, I would be devestated. When I get stressed out, I lie down in a dark room, and I listen to music via headphones. This helps me to relax.
I don't want to sound like I feel sorry for anyone who is deaf, because they cannot get the same experience I can. That's not my intention. Just from a personal standpoint, I am not and would not deal well with losing my hearing.
So, if you see me working with a saw or at a concert, don't laugh when you see I have ear plugs in. That way I can hear but not have to worry about losing my hearing. It's silly, I know, but it is important to me. The irony of it all is that I love silence. I love when you cannot hear a thing, because the mind totally clears itself of all thought. I just don't like the ringing.

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