As regular readers of this blog probably noticed, sensual perception and consciousness are topics that concern me a lot. However, recently I had an experience boosting my fascination.
Some time ago, my girlfriend and I decided to do something we haven't done before: we went to a dinner in the "Vier Sinne" restaurant in Vienna ("Vier Sinne" [ger.] four senses) .
Located near the subway station Ottakring, Vier Sinne is a restaurant where your waiters are blind. This alone is interesting enough, what makes this such a fascinating experience though is the fact that the dining room is absolutely dark (like in the photo below [which was not taken during the dinner, because cameras, phones, etc. are not allowed in the room]).
(I won't tell a lot about how it works or what you can await so I don't spoil anything, but rather how I remember this experience...)
Walking into the dark towards your table is quite odd.
I felt insecure because I didn't know where to step and because I couldn't really be sure what was in front of me. At that time I also had crutches and it was difficult sense the ground and the wall with them. Of course, we didn't walk alone into this room, just picking any table that we bump into. We were guided by one of the waiters. That, actually, made walking with the crutches a little easier, because he could tell me what was going to come. After stumbling along a (at least now) undefinable path through the darkness, we reached our table. Sitting down was the next challenge because it is quite easy to trip over the chair leg or something else.
Finally seated, curiosity took over and everybody started to explore the space around them, looking for the obvious stuff that should be on a table like cutlery and glasses. As you can't see anything, you are quite cautious of what you are doing so you don't damage anything.
Another fun thing is not seeing your partner. My girlfriend was a little more insecure than me and always tried to catch my hand in the darkness (which apparently wasn't that easy...).
After some time it started to get really interesting, because the rest of my insecurity from the beginning faded away. I got oddly comfortable in the setting, was curious about how to accomplish easy tasks like cutting the food on my plate or remembering the position of the glass.
Now I won't tell more, because that'd just make your visit there less interesting :)
There is a lot more to this dinner than eating, philosophically speaking. Realizing this back then, I thought there is more to any dinner, but we are so accustomed to the fact of vision that the beautiful complexity (of simple tasks) goes unnoticed. We never think about how our world would look if we couldn't taste or hear anything, despite it is a most interesting experience.
The dinner is a fascinating insight into the world of blind people, the challenges they face but also the beauty they notice, that otherwise passes 'unseen'.
It is probably the closest you get to loosing and regaining a sense, including all the thoughts and new (or rather previously unnoticed) sensations that come along with it.
It also made me think of all the sensations I miss as humans are not equipped with every possible sensor(y input). What if you could see X-rays or taste neutrinos?
The feeling of getting a new sense is like going into the light again after the dinner:
A beautiful moment that makes you value your vision again.
You will never forget how you felt, what you thought and experienced at this very special dinner. And you will definitely start to think about topics like "sensory enhancement" and diseases that take away a sense from you. You start to respect with what ease trained people with different sensory settings tend to do "every day stuff". It also makes you wonder if you are really complete or if your are missing something you haven't had until now.
Apart from the philosophical point of view, the dinner was superb. The waiters were extremely nice; you can have a good chat with them while eating.
And just for raising curiosity: the dinner comes with some very pleasant surprises ;)
Enhance your minds...