A few days before that event in my nightlife, the conservative thinker Glenn Beck, whose specialty is crying on TV, stood up before a live audience in Salt Lake City and announced that he is going blind. Then he cried.
John Milton took his medical news a little differently. He probably wrote Samson Agonistes about his own blindness, and he certainly wrote three sonnets about it. Here's one of the sonnets, "To Mr. Cyriack Skinner Upon His Blindness."
Cyriack, this three years day these eys, though clear
To outward view, of blemish or of spot;
Bereft of light thir seeing have forgot,
Nor to thir idle orbs doth sight appear
Of Sun or Moon or Starre throughout the year,
Or man or woman. Yet I argue not
Against heavns hand or will, nor bate a jot
Of heart or hope; but still bear vp and steer
Right onward. What supports me, dost thou ask?
The conscience, Friend, to have lost them overply'd
In libertyes defence, my noble task,
Of which all Europe talks from side to side.
This thought might lead me through the world's vain mask
Content though blind, had I no better guide.
One difference between this performance and Beck's is that there's a continuity between Milton's words and his medium. Milton is writing in words, about words and for words. But the medium of the TV performer Glenn Beck isn't really TV. Before the camera, Beck takes on the pretext persona of an old-fashioned professor, lecturing with an old-fashioned blackboard. But the blackboard isn't his medium either -- or at any rate it isn't the medium of his language. No; the tearful announcement of a personal misfortune, as if that mattered per se, is a speech in the language of Facebook. That language is a tiny lingua franca consisting only of a single phrase: "ME ME ME ME ME, per se." It isn't even a sentence, because it doesn't have a verb to make it a statement of doing, being, or occurring. It's only a pronoun: ME.
As to my vanished blank spaces between paragraphs, I've been caring about them as if they were destined to outlive me. But the medium of Blog reminds me that it too is reserved for the language of ME ME ME ME -- a verbless language which after all has to be as ephemeral as Glenn or I. Undoing, unbeing, un-occurring, both Glenn and I live only in the intervals between words, and the intervals will soon enough reappear between other people's words. Ubi est Lou Dobbs?
But Milton's language is another matter. Between those words there are no tears.