I remember hearing a fascinating story – a true story – of a blind man who had his vision restored later in life after being sightless since early childhood. He led a very independent lifestyle. Like many blind people, he could move about in familiar surroundings with great ease. He knew exactly how many steps from his living room to his kitchen, where to find things in the cupboard, and so on. His daily routines looked very much like anyone else's.
When he had the operation that allowed him to see once more, he was, of course, delighted and awestruck to see the colorful world around him and the faces of the people he knew. It wasn't until he went home again that he began to have difficulties.
Suddenly, the home he knew so well seemed strangely unfamiliar and even a little frightening. He found the new sensory input overwhelming. Now, when he got up to go to the kitchen, it seemed like everything was moving. Walls were coming at him, furniture was gliding by in his peripheral vision. Trying to go up a flight of stairs would make him dizzy and disoriented. His doctors advised him to stick with it, that it would get better. But he admitted that sometimes, when he just wanted to get to another part of the house quickly, he cheated: he closed his eyes.
I've often said that you will know, as a dentist, when you have a transformative education experience, because it will change the way you see – it's like being given fresh eyes. I know how exhilarating that can feel. But I also know that when you get back to your usual environment it can be a challenge to maintain that new perspective. It can seem like you're seeing too much. Sometimes, when you're just trying to get from one end of a busy schedule to the other, there can be a temptation to cheat – to “close your eyes” to the new sensory input and fall back into the comfortable, more narrow way of seeing that you know by heart.
The blind man in that story did stick with it, and he did eventually become accustomed to moving around with his eyes open – and his life was immeasurably richer for it. I think we can all see the lesson here.