INVISIBILITY

What you say, no one hears. You ask something, no one responds. Being ignored is the worst form of invisibility. It is not easy to develop an ‘I don’t care’ attitude. An authentic communication between two people is essential to remove the cloak of invisibility. A man wanted to share his grievances. Unfortunately, there were none. He goes to a therapist, tells her his stories about his life and work. She gives the man a patient hearing. At the end of the session, the man bursts into tears and says, “For the first time, I have felt like a human being.” He was so relieved that he could tell someone his stories. José Saramago describes a fictional city in his novel Blindness. In this city, suddenly all go blind. The blindness spreads, like an infectious disease. People are kept in a mental hospital. There is despair. The only person who is not affected by the blindness is the ophthalmologist’s wife. The lack of vision ends as abruptly as it had begun. Saramago says that the main threat our society faces is collective blindness — we lose the ability to see when the visible disappears in front of our eyes when society itself becomes blind. Saramago ends his novel: “I don’t think we go blind, I think we are blind, blind, but seeing, blind people who can see, but do not see.” HG Wells in The Invisible Man writes about a scientist who becomes mentally unstable as a result of his theory. The scientist theorizes that if a person’s refractive index changes to exactly that of air and his body do not absorb or reflect light, then he will be invisible. He successfully carries out this theory on himself and becomes invisible. But he doesn’t know how to become visible again. Physics says if the light gets bent around the object rather than reflecting off of it or the light reflects off the object in such a way that it does not get into a detector, then we cannot see it. If the reflected light from the object enters our eyes but cannot be distinguished from the surrounding objects, then also we cannot see it. If we know how to steer away the communications emanating from people or things, we don’t want to see or perceive, they become invisible. Ralph Ellison, the author of Invisible Man, thus describes invisibility: “I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquid, and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible; understand, because people refuse to see me.”