Who Am I? A talk about my life and blindness in the Bible and in culture - Highgate United Reform Church 3 Feb 2019

Feb 04, 09:06 PM

I was invited to speak at this warm, friendly #Church while taking part in a Sunday morning service with #London Gallery Quire. I talk about biblical references to blindness and a little about my life. #Christian #Bible #blind #acceptance #inclusion #poem

The readings were:

Psalm 139.1-18
John 9.1-21

Here's the transcript

Good morning. I am Fiona Dunn and I live in West London. I am a Christian and a musician. I am also blind.

I chose most of those things: where to live, my religion and to be a musician. I didn't choose my name but, if I wanted to, I could change that. The thing I didn't choose, and cannot change, is blindness, but it's the first thing most people see when they look at me.

It's not easy being a Christian when you're blind. There is so much in the Bible, and in many hymns, and indeed, in our culture in general, equating blindness or darkness with sin, unbelief and ignorance and sight and enlightenment with knowledge and righteousness. Jesus talked about the blind leading the blind, saying, if this happened, wouldn't they both fall into a pit? Yes, it's a metaphor but, actually, whenever I've guided other blind people, and I've done it quite a lot, we've never fallen into pits or down a manhole. That kind of thing happens when sighted people guide me and they're not paying attention! Well, maybe not a manhole but I've been guided into furniture many times and, on one memorable occasion, a display of Italian Christmas goodies that fell all over the floor with a clatter … ten points!

Jesus was speaking in a sighted World with the cultural norms of the time but that doesn't make such passages easy to read as a blind person, containing all that prejudice, especially when many people still think we often fall.

I think the last time I fell, apart from after a good night out, was on a slope in some ice about fifteen years ago. Actually, there have been a couple of more recent occasionns but those were caused by objects being left in unexpected places, like the time my friend forgot to tell me he'd put a suitcase on my livingroom floor. My face must have looked a picture as I fell backwards into it, first of all wondering what on Earth had happened and how I got there, then laughing … a lot!
It was very funny.
I mention falling because, during my research for this talk, I realised just how much there was in the Bible about people "groping like the blind" or stumbling or both falling into a pit. I don't grope when I use my cane. I have to touch obstacles to know where they are. When I walk I'm not often lost but many sighted people automatically assume I am because I'm not navigating in the way they do.

So to the readings I chose for this morning's service. As a musician, songwriter and poet the Psalms are probably my favourite part of the Bible. I chose Psalm 139 because it says that God is with the psalmist, wherever he goes. God is always there. God will still see him in the darkness because "(verse 12) even the darkness is not dark to thee,
the night is bright as the day;
for darkness is as light with thee."

That is the experience of many of those who are totally blind. Whatever the ambient conditions, they can still function because they don't need light to see what they're doing. None of this "we can't work at night" nonsense. They are used to not seeing. That's normal for them, and for me too, although I can see light. It doesn't help me to read or see other things but I can see light itself. Still, I have sung solos at Good Friday services in the past where a candle is extinguished after each reading till there are none left alight and I was the only one who could still read any hymn words. I said I thought we should have more services in the dark. For some reason, no-one else seemed keen. I even said I'd teach them Braille.

On to my second reading. This one is more difficult for me and I spent some time deciding what to choose. I didn't really want to pick a h...