Natasha Mitchell: And welcome to All in the Mind on ABC Radio National.
In 1951 Zoltan Torey was just 21. He’d escaped the Soviet occupation in Hungary, arrived in Australia alone, and was studying dentistry at university.
But a shocking industrial accident robbed him of his eyes, an exploding vat of acid blinding him permanently and fused his vocal chords.
A question for you; if your sight was taken from you, what would you most miss seeing?
Zoltan Torey: Of course sunsets, sunrises, the mountains, the sea, so much beauty, so much beauty, Natasha, honestly, and most people are completely blasé. You know, they really walk past miracles daily. I think I would truly, truly appreciate the wonderful world that surrounds me and us, and just life and the world and the universe is a totally wondrous thing.
Natasha Mitchell: …The experience of what it’s like it to lose your sight. Nearly 60 years on, psychologist Zoltan Torey, author of The Crucible of Consciousness, remembers it well.
Zoltan Torey: You feel like you’re being buried alive, it’s ghastly stuff.
Natasha Mitchell: Deeply claustrophobic.
Zoltan Torey: Deeply claustrophobic, yes, and you instinctively try to fight it. When you have sight, the visual world pours into your retina, into your eyes and into your brain, whether you want it or not, you just keep your eyelids open, the world gets in to you.
Natasha Mitchell: Interestingly you’ve called that…the sight most of us possess as a ‘passive immersion in light’, it’s almost a laziness, a lazy seeing.
Zoltan Torey: Yes, because what I have then acquired is active vision, the creative vision where you imagine the world around you and then move it around, do things with it. Artists do that, film-makers, writers, work out visual patterns, models, pictures in their own head, and then of course they put it out on canvas or whatever.
Full transcript at: http://www.abc.net.au/rn/allinthemind/stories/2007/1876530.htm