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The Blind Man’s Problem
by [?]

It is so difficult for them to get away from themselves, to seek that change and novelty which, in our hours of dread and suspense, are our most urgent need. All the time, day in, day out, their perpetual darkness thrusts them back upon themselves. They cannot get away from it. Nothing–or perhaps, so very, very few things–can take them out of themselves, allow them to lose their own unhappiness in living their lives for something, someone outside themselves. Their own needs, their own loss, their own loneliness, are perpetually with them. So their emotions go round and round in a vicious circle, from which there is no possible escape. Never, never can they give. They have so little to offer but love and gratitude. But, although gratitude is so beautiful and so rare, it is not an emotion that we yearn to feel always and always. We want to give, to be thanked ourselves, to cheer, to succour, to do some little good ourselves while yet we may. There is a joy in giving generously, just as there is in receiving generously. Yet, there are many moments in each man’s life when no gift can numb the dull ache of the inevitable, when nothing, except getting away–somewhere, somehow, and immediately–can stifle the unspoken pain which comes to all of us and which in not every instance can we so easily cast off. Some men travel; some men go out into the world to lose their own trouble in administering to the trouble of other people; some find forgetfulness in work–hard, strenuous labour; most of us–especially when our trouble be not overwhelming–find solace in art, or music, and especially in books. For books take one suddenly into another world, among other men and women; and sometimes in the problem of their lives we may find a solution of our own trials, and be helped, encouraged, restarted on our way by them. I thought of these things the other day when I was asked to visit the National Library for the Blind in Tufton Street, Westminster. It is hidden away in a side street, but the good work it does is spread all over the world. And, as I wandered round this large building and examined the thousands of books–classic as well as quite recent works–I thought to myself, “How the blind must appreciate this blessing!” And from that I began to realise once more how those who cannot see depend so greatly on books–that means of “forgetting” which you and I pass by so casually. For we can seek diversion in a score of ways, but they, the blind, have so few, so very few means of escape. Wherever they go, they never find a change of scene–merely the sounds alter, that is all. But in books they can suddenly find a new world–a world which they can see.