T h e h e a rT
That Teaches The Blind To See
Ai Ling was first diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa in 1992. What began as night blindness gradually
declined into colour blindness, impaired peripheral vision, and eventually in 2014, all images were
completely obscured by a range of peculiar colours – bright green, orange and pink, enmeshed
even in fish-scaled patterns. She describes it as “being encased in thick, coloured cellophane”. Her
gradual attenuation of visual imagery, and finally its virtual extinction brought her into a state of
deep blindness where concepts of seeing like “here”, “there”, “facing” lost all meaning for her.
To become blind, especially later in life, presents one with an overwhelming challenge: to find a new
way to order one’s world, when the old way has been lost. The countless adjustments enumerated
by Ai Ling – familiarising oneself with a monotone phone voiceover took laborious months (though
thank goodness for technology), learning to use new cooking utensils, adapting through touch, failed
attempts to learn Braille, lack of awareness from others who tap her too suddenly and make loud
unannounced sounds to grab her attention – clearly annoy her. But it’s with candour that she looks
past what is visibly seen, to what it truly represents.
One can’t help but be perplexed when she joyfully quips, “The white cane, especially, is a gift of
humility.” Gift is hardly a word one would use to describe a walking aid, more commonly associated
with the generic, social identification of being disabled. And yet, by complementing it with humility, Ai
Ling counters the tyranny of a visual sphere that constantly separates the visionary from the visual,
and the truth from appearance. Ai Ling took the time to answer questions on disability, looking past
her pain to the joy of others, missions, and more; an edited version of the exchange appears below.
How does the sorrow of disability relate to the pursuit of joy in God?
The transition from sorrow to joy is a daily process that swings like a pendulum. If I think of my
condition in the natural world, I won’t be able to muster the strength to pursue joy. But joy is a gift. I
can’t pursue it. I simply ask God to fill me with it. God asks us to rejoice always, so I ask God to help
me achieve it. He says, “The joy of the Lord is my strength.” It’s about His joy, not my joy, and it’s His
joyful face that gives me strength.
In John 9:3, Jesus healed the blind man, a healing you’ve yet to receive. What’s your response to
this? How does the contextual reality of the wider biblical context sustain you, give you hope?
The whole book of John reveals the glory of God, and who He is. God is gracious, and He will return
for us when He hears our cries. God spoke to me through John 9 during my School of Biblical Studies
(SBS) in Singapore, and it comforted me to know that Jesus came back and revealed Himself to the
blind man after learning he got kicked out, unblocking not just his physical, but spiritual sight. Unlike
the Pharisees, the blind man recognised Jesus. But you know what saddens me? None of the disciples,
or the blind man’s parents rejoiced with him when he regained his sight. They were too selfish and
self-absorbed to realise that he could finally see. I’d be very happy for him! Romans 12:15 teaches us
to “rejoice with those who rejoice, mourn with those who mourn”. We don’t know how to rejoice with others.