The Kogi people of the Colombian Sierra Nevada subject their shamanic priests or ‘Mamas’ to a remarkable training. From birth and for the first nine years of their lives selected candidates are raised in the dim, monochrome, muted environment of an underground cave. During this extended second gestation they’re educated, taught about the world outside and their place in it without directly experiencing it. On their ninth birthday they’re led out into daylight for the first time. We can only speculate on the lasting effects of this flooding of the sensorium, but one consequence might be an enduring understanding that a conceptual re-presentation of reality is a pale substitute for the givenness and immediacy of embodied being in the world.
Emerging from the bleary, crepuscular gloom of cataract into a clean-rinsed world of perspective, light, colour and distinctiveness has something revelatory about it. Trading lenses clotted and smeary as half chewed Werther’s Originals – lost down the back of the sofa and matted with lint and dust – for lenses blue-bright as fresh unwrapped Fox’s Glacier mints is to concur with Louis MacNeice that “World is suddener than we fancy it. World is crazier and more of it than we think, Incorrigibly plural”, is to be reminded of “the drunkenness of things being various”, is to re-learn a deep delight in simply seeing and a love for the courageous trembling suchness of things seen.
The procedure? Unnerving but not painful. Granted, no-one will ever be able to market phacoemulsification as a fairground attraction, but at no point was so much as a single paracetamol needed.
One note of caution. It may benefit those possessed of a nuanced and evolved sense of humour to request a little extra anaesthetic to desensitise them to the banter in theatre. (Were you in any doubt, that’s a joke Mr S: my very best wishes to you and your team. Poem is ‘Snow’ by Louis MacNeice)
‘I am thinking of starting a Testimonial of the month competition after this one. AS’