The sound of children playing and the splashing of rain are just as powerful as sight when experiencing the pleasures of the world. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but what we tend to forget is that it is also in the ear, the mouth, the nose and the fingers, and that we can be equally good judges of what goes to make up the complex decision about what is beautiful.
When you are totally blind, people tend to spend a lot of their time telling you what you're missing. "It's such a shame you can't appreciate this lovely countryside!” In purely physical terms, they are right. Obviously you can't appreciate the countryside in exactly the same way they do. But that doesn't mean you can't take an enormous sense of pleasure, and beauty from a walk in the country.
People tend to forget that appreciating beauty is a two-way street: it doesn't just depend on the sensations coming in, it also depends on your capacity to enjoy and appreciate what's going on around you. It's quite possible to have someone who can see perfectly with very little sense of the finer sensations of life, and a blind person who can make absolutely the most of every sensation that touches them. Optimism is an important component in appreciating the beautiful things of life.
The problem with any object much larger than an orange is that it can't be encompassed in the human hand, and as soon as that begins to happen, you start to run into problems of visualization. You can only touch one part of an object at a time, which means that you can't get a sense of its totality: you are imagining it, rather than seeing it.
I am a bit of a literalist: if I can't "see" it accurately, then I don't really want to be bothered with it. Which is why I derive my sense of beauty from other sources; from people, and from dramatic events, and dramatic natural phenomena.
So, how do I know if someone is beautiful? Well, beauty is so subjective anyway, that no one's idea of it stands up to rational scrutiny, so I think my methods are as reliable as anyone else's. Sighted people desperately want us, for some reason, to have a sense of physical beauty which in some way matches up to theirs. You'd probably be surprised how often I've been asked "Would you like to feel my face?”.
People say to me: "It must be terrible not to know what your children look like, I have to put them straight; because up to the age of about three or four, I genuinely feel I did know what they looked like. They were small enough then as I sat them on my knee or played with them in the backyard, to have a real sense of the whole of them, from top to toe. Of course this is the one relationship where the embargo on feeling faces can be broken.
Beauty in a loved person is for me an amalgam: of voice, of temperament, of warmth and, when you know that person really well, total knowledge, emotional and physical. Voices are particularly poignant: they echo through my life, as strong a stimulus to memory as any photograph album could be.
Perhaps, the greatest pleasure and source of beauty for me, outside of family and friends is sport. I think that action is essential for blind people to experience beauty. When you stop and think about it, if things are static and silent, for us they might just as well not exist.
Give me thunder, lightning, hail and snow - anything to remind me that I am part of an exciting universe.
Rain is a particular delight, because it brings alive normally static surfaces, painting a landscape for me of which is usually invisible. I enjoy listening to the different noises rain makes, depending on where it's falling: pattering on the roof, tumbling out of gutters, rushing down drainpipes, drumming on tarmac, whispering on to grass. Never complain the next time you hear rain forecast: just bear in mind that when it falls, it will be painting beautiful pictures for blind people.
Gerrard Gosens is a Business Development Manager with MAX Solutions and has been blind since birth. As an accomplished athlete, motivational speaker, and ambassador for people with disability, Gerrard lives by the philosophy, ‘success is a journey, not a destination’.