INVISIBILITY

In literature we come across various kinds of blindness and invisibility. In H. G. Wells’ The Country of Blind, we find a man with normal sight in a country where all the inhabitants are blind. These people are self-sufficient, have other senses, but are close-minded and insular. In this allegorical tale of stagnation, since the inhabitants are blind, they want to deprive the traveller of his eyes. H.G. Wells’ ‘The Invisible Man’ is about a research scientist who discovers a formula capable of making a human invisible. His theory: if a person's refractive index is changed to exactly that of air, and his body does not absorb or reflect light, then he will be invisible. He performs the experiment on himself, but is unable to reverse the formula. This drives him to insanity, crime and murder. José Saramago describes in Blindness a fictional, and contemporary city where all the people go blind. No one knows the reason of collective blindness. The first victim is a man who loses his vision, while in his car waiting for a traffic light to change. The blindness then spreads out very quickly as an infectious disease. All the blind people are put in a hospital. The hospital quickly becomes overpopulated; there is collective despair. The only person, who apparently is not affected by the blindness, is the ophthalmologist’s wife. She can make the blindness ‘visible’. Suddenly, when all hope seems to have vanished, everybody is able to see again. The lack of vision ends as abruptly as it had begun. At the end of the novel, Saramago writes, “Do you want me to tell you what I think, Yes, do, I don’t think we go blind, I think we are blind, Blind but seeing, Blind people who can see, but do not see.” Saramago points to the vulnerability of our society. When we lose the ability to see, when the visible disappears in front of our eyes, when society itself becomes blind, how we can communicate our thoughts and emotions when we are blind to each other is the question Saramago asks.

Fritjof Capra in The Hidden Connections writes about a therapy session. A man tells the therapist about problems related to his job and his family situation. The therapist asks him a few questions. At the end, the man bursts into tears and says, “For the first time, I have felt like a human being.” The meeting established the necessary resonance between the patient and the therapist; “an authentic meeting between human beings”. The patient placed before the therapist all his inner feelings, and the therapist simply gave the patient an honest hearing. The therapist helped him to remove the cloak of invisibility.

We are more invisible than visible. Microbes, ghosts, magic, and god - all are invisible to the naked eye. Our ambitions, fears, doubts, secrets, aversions, attractions are all invisible. We are like an iceberg, seven-eighth of which is hidden. We can ‘see’ only a part of the person, and on the basis of that, we judge that person. We ignore the ‘invisible’ person. We overlook a person’s thoughts, emotions, imaginations, and fantasies, when we judge him. We love accolades, but hate brickbats.. Maintaining a balance between visibility and invisibility is like maintaining a balance between information and attention. Information is necessary, and so is attention. If there is “serious poverty of attention”, information is of no use. Too much information doesn’t remain a wealth. Too much visibility creates a poverty of attention. What does invisibility mean? Does it simply mean to be overlooked? “As such, the story of invisibility is not really about how to vanish at all. Curiously enough, it is a story about how we see ourselves,” writes Kathryn Schulz. Camouflage is a popular form of invisibility. The best camouflage technologies are available with nature. The technology to make something invisible is infinitely complex. On the other hand, nothing is easier than getting a human mind to ignore something it doesn’t want to see. Alan Watts says that one finds the highest pleasure when one is unconscious of one’s own existence. Conversely, one of the greatest pains is to be self-conscious, to feel unabsorbed and cut off from the community and the surrounding world. Philip Ball puts it concisely: “No one becomes invisible without a motive.” The motive to become invisible could be “to get away from something or to get away with something.” The invisible can’t be seen, but can be felt. No one wants to be permanently invisible. Permanently invisible are lost and dead. “We yearn to turn invisible when we are humiliated or persecuted . But when we are our best selves, experiencing our finest moments; or when we are lonely and careworn and suffering—at such times, what we want is to be seen,” writes Schulz.

You say something and you are not heard. You ask for something and there is no response. In short, you just get ignored. This is the most humiliating experience one can have. Ralph Ellison thus describes the invisible man - “I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fibre and liquid, and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible; understand because people refuse to see me.” We don’t want to be visible to everyone, and all the time. We like to keep our sundials sometimes into the shade. Hiding sundials into the shade permanently also has many problems. It is good if we know when to keep our sundial into the shade, and when to keep it in the open. We should know when to remain a spore, and when to germinate.