S1: Episode 31 - Ray Paz

Portrait of Ray

Episode Information

[Intro Music]

Narrator:  Welcome to My Heart is Not Blind. Narrative histories about blindness and perception. A traveling exhibition and book published by Trinity University Press, supported by Kronkosky Charitable Foundation, edited and hosted by Michael Nye. Stories are often found, resting along the edges of surprise and revelation. Every person, every place is a map to somewhere else. episode 31, Ray Paz.

Ray: Hello, darkness, mild friend. I’ve come to talk with you again because a vision softly creeping lefted seeds while I was sleeping and the vision that was planted in my brain still remains within the sound of silence. My name is Ray. I’m 48 years old. I live alone in Corpus Christi, Texas. I got my bachelor’s degree in piano performance at Corpus Christi State University. My occupation is a keyboardist. As far as I can recall. Nobody’s ever asked me what it’s like to be blind before. I’ve never known what it is to see light or a face or anything for that matter. Even as a child, I’ve never seen anything. Some of the questions I’d like to know a little bit more about are, do things always look the way they feel? What is color like? What is light? One of the things that I really have trouble grasping is what storms look like.

I think about these questions from time to time. These questions sometimes show up in my dreams. The first time I began to suspect that I was different was when, when in my own mind I felt that I bumped into things when other kids didn’t, and it made me mad. Then one Saturday afternoon, I remember mom telling me, son, you know that I love you. I said, yes. She says, well, the Lord made you blind. All that means is that you can’t see with your eyes the way I see with my eyes, but it doesn’t make you less than anybody else. You still can do the same things that we all can. But the more she tried to explain that to me, the more mad I got, because I resented even that word blind. For years. For years, both sighted persons and blind persons have vision.

Vision is more of a awareness where one is where one is going, that doesn’t require sight. I can imagine the walk along the beach. I will hear the sound of the water, whether it’s loud or soft. I hear the birds or other people talking, whether they’re in the distance or up close. I feel the sand under my feet or the rocks I might step on. Ouch. I’ll smell the the breeze, the salty air. Mom is a fireball. She’s, she’s a ball of life. She’s nothing but smiles. One of the main things she’s given me is the will to stand up for what’s right, the will to fight for something I believe in. She’s extremely positive. One of the questions I get as a blind person is, how do you get around? Or Why do you snap your fingers? That sound lets me know when I’m approaching an object.

Is that like a bat? Oh yeah. It’s like my cousin’s the bats. It sounds like an echo ta ta ta ta. Or depending on what the object is made of, it’s gonna have different echoes. A car has a different sound as opposed to a wall or a fence or a post. I learned echo location on my own. As a matter of fact, in school, the teachers would say, those noises are not appropriate, sighted people don’t use those noises to get around. As far back as I can remember, sometimes my dad would purposefully put me in situations that he knew I was scared. He would stand me as close as he could to noises that were really loud, for instance, to a saw. Or he’d put my hands on the track itself while the train was coming. But he would always yell at me when I would act scared. Or he would tell me, if you’re crying like a girl, I’m gonna have to break you with that. And sometimes dad would invite his friends over. He would either hit me or put things in front of me so I could trip and fall and they’d laugh. Beauty is a very interesting word to me. Beauty is warmth that one can feel in a person. Beauty can be even fresh cut grass or children playing on a playground. I think a majority of sighted people take things for granted. They tend to see only outer beauty rather than inner beauty.

[Outro Music]

Host:  Ray says, silence is a reminder to listen, to pay attention, patience, to hear another person’s point of view and not to judge them. Listening is an essential part of life. Like breathing. He received his bachelor’s degree in piano performance at the University of Texas A&M in Corpus Christi. Ray started playing music at the age of three, and he can play the violin, piano, and the accordion. Ray was a member of the famous music star Selena Quintanilla’s Band. When she was starting out. After Selena died, there was a movie made called Selena starring Jennifer Lopez. Ray was asked to be the keyboard player in the movie when the young Selena was singing at a state fair in South Texas. Ray believes that words are extremely inadequate to describe experiences. However, music, music is different he says, music is magical, it’s uplifting, and there’s always, always a potential to connect with others.

Join us next week. Two new episodes will be released. Please subscribe, rate, and review this podcast. You can also go to my website, michaelnye.org/podcast for portraits and transcripts. Thank you for listening.