On The Cheerfulness of the Blind by A.G. Gardiner
In the essay On The Cheerfulness of the Blind by A.G. Gardiner we have the theme of happiness, acceptance, isolation and gratitude. Taken from his Pebbles on the Shore collection the reader realises from the beginning of the essay that Gardiner may be exploring the theme of happiness. Gardiner argues that he has yet to see a blind man or woman who is unhappy. For Gardiner his experiences have been that when he encounters a blind person they are usually cheerful despite their disability. This may be significant as not only is Gardiner suggesting that blind people are happy that they can hear and speak but that they have acceptance for their disability. It is not something that drags them down in any manner and they live comfortably with the fact that they are blind. Their loss of sight is materially important but spiritually they are glad that they are not deaf or dumb. Two impairments which Gardiner himself considers to be worse than the loss of sight. It may also be important that Gardiner uses examples in the essay of men overcoming their blindness. Not by way of seeing but by engaging with other people in conversation or by listening to music. Something that people who are deaf or dumb would not be able to do.
If anything those who are deaf or dumb are isolated from the world. At least in Gardiner’s eyes they are. A blind person can enjoy a conversation with others while those who are deaf or dumb cannot. They sit unable to engage with others. Hence the sense of isolation they must feel. It may also be a case that Gardiner is suggesting that those who are blind. Should they have had a choice in their disability would have still chosen blindness as their impairment. Knowing that to be deaf or dumb would isolate them from the world. This is not to suggest that there are no difficulties for those who are blind. The difficulties are obvious particularly when it comes to reliance on another person. As the man at the being of the essay does. If it was not for Gardiner’s help the man would not have been able to continue with his journey. So there remains obvious downfalls to being blind or having any type of disability. However Gardiner is full of praise for those who are blind and who accept it.
Though it may seem strange Gardiner may also be suggesting that those who are blind are grateful that they are not deaf or dumb. At least they are still able to connect with society in a meaningful way. Though this is not to suggest that those who are deaf or dumb do not lead productive lives. However the forms or communication are different. A blind person as mentioned can still enjoy a conversation with people who may not have learnt the necessary skills required to communicate with someone who may be deaf or dumb. If anything Gardiner is full of praise for those who are blind as he seems to understand that though a blind person may be limited in some ways. They are not as limited as someone who is deaf or dumb. Again Gardiner provides examples. Particularly worth noting is Mozart and the battles he encountered while composing music when deafness became a problem for him. It may also be important that Gardiner appears to treat a blind person as his equal. He does not judge them by their impairment rather he admires their cheerfulness and their ability to be happy despite being disabled.
It is also noticeable that Gardiner is suggesting that blindness can increase or deepen ‘the spiritual intimacies of life.’ A blind person may enjoy much more their conversation with others as they are not isolated from the world. Yet should they wish to see the sunset. This is simply not possible. However a blind person can still hear the birds singing while a deaf person cannot. A blind person can, with the help of others, live a productive life. Whereas it is more difficult for a deaf or dumb person to as they may not necessarily have the required tools to engage with society. Hence the sense of isolation that Gardiner associates with those who may be deaf or dumb. It might also be worth considering that any impairment can have its difficulties though Gardiner is amazed at the resilience of those who are blind. By being able to speak and talk a blind person’s disability is not as noticeable as it might first appear to be. True a blind person may need the assistance of the public every now and then but once engaged with the public their disability is unnoticeable. It is for this reason that the man at the end of the essay is grateful that he is blind rather than deaf.