“To enter a room, to meet the angel, the person who silently guides you, to eat and converse with others in complete darkness.’’
“Dinner in the Dark’’ is one of the many cultural initiatives promoted by the Istituto Cavazza and carried out with the help of a group of artists.

Irene Schiff

What do you experience not to see if only for three hours?

Without a breath, darkness kindles one's own colourless fear. I can imagine what you are experiencing, I understand. That is not true at all, it is not possible to imagine what a blind person experiences. It is not possible to understand what life is like day after day, hour after hour. Strange sensation. Darkness touching the soul, and then the interaction with what you don't see: a strong emotion. A sweet experience, incredible, and a world that cannot be explained, that of complete darkness. Thank you. When does it occur that a sighted person is not able to see? When there is a power blackout at home? But even then, a sighted person is in a familiar environment; everything is all right when it's home, a little less all right if it's an unknown place. But until that moment, the sighted person had looked at the environment, was aware of dimensions, objects, even designed a small mental map. It is different to enter a place never seen, therefore never known, never known even within one's own mind. An extraordinary experience, to be understood in both its meaning: etymologically, extra-ordinarius, which means out of the ordinary, and emotionally, and that is beautiful.

This is what experienced the fellow guests invited at Dinner in the Dark, which was organized at the Istituto Cavazza. This was a unique experience for many of the guests. To enter in a room, to meet the angel, the person who silently guides you, to eat and converse with others in complete darkness. This is where emerge the first technical difficulties: where is the plate? To place a spoon in the mouth is a simple, day-to-day experience, but now so new and difficult. To know the other, to know the angel. I touch his face or her face, I don't even know if it's a man or a woman. But, then we realize that it does not matter because the angel is Dante's Virgil who accompanies you in the journey of the Divine Comedy in the day-to-day reality. It was worth it; my angel was incredible. And even in the dark the angel was a demon. Because to know the other implies to begin with that we need to know ourselves first, and darkness helps you do this. Used to a world where image is everything, where to be noticed is so important, and all of a sudden to be immersed in a nebula, where I don't even know who is sitting at the next table. I then understand that other ways of communicating do exist. In the dark, as in the light, you can understand that the essential is invisible to the eyes, an enlightening experience. When we understand this, we understand that not only sight exists, and that there are not only five senses. It is possible that we don't see what is visible around us, just like our brain can see something without us realizing it. Only a few fractions of a second are necessary for an image to enter our mind without us even being aware of it, and even then that image can condition our thought process and consequently our actions. This is a phenomenon of subliminal perception. Whenever we want to be in touch with others and with ourselves, we succeed well when we do it with our heart. It was a heartfelt evening. Even smiles that cannot be seen give so much, I felt them.

What can be said then of such a special experience?
At the end of the evening, table-companions have left little notes for recollection, comments and expressions of gratitude. Those are the sentences in italics in this text. We wanted these observations to be a starting point to take this further, to see if there was possibly a difference in what experienced older and younger participants; men and women, and other such variables. The results were unfortunately insufficient to go any further. We were able to observe, however, that participants experienced wonderful  sensations never felt before. I was not possible to expect these by any stretch of the imagination. Another important data was the drastic change in points of reference: abled people are used to having a spatial interpretation of themselves, and to unconsciously experience that sense of space. The concepts of high-low, up-down, here and there, have become an intrinsic part of the way we think. Usually, the vision of a person who sees goes from the general to the particular (I first see a chair in its entirety, then I notice that it has rungs or inclinated armrests.). The non-sighted touching the chair will go from the particular to the general, before being aware of the rungs and the armrests, then having a global representation of the chair. Even the daily verbal exchanges with someone change whether they are done in the light or in the dark. All this contributed in creating emotional intensity. Of course, knowing that the experience revolved around an invitation to dinner and that after three hours everything would come back to normal, that sight would have again the superioty above the other perception channels, had a highly calming effect. And the President's behaviour had the objective of providing an evening of calmness, and it made the situation appear less overwhelming (The President was in a fun way troublesome from the beginning until the end, with his own way of doing and saying things, drumming his fingers against the table, he has created an entertaining atmosphere, confronting the guests' anxieties.).

Looking into the darkness or in the light, I can perceive two different realities, the vase and two faces.