I recently took a friend to an interesting restaurant called “Dark Table“. It’s one of those places where you eat in complete darkness & all the waiters are blind. Have you heard of these places? They are also in other cities like London, Paris, New York & Montreal.
The unique concept is to give the diner the experience of being blind…to empathize with the visually impared & also to note how other senses are enhanced when you can’t see.
I was really excited about trying this place but as soon as we were led into the pitch dark room by our server I felt like I had made a mistake. Sitting in the darkness trying to get my bearings I even felt slight panic. I found my eyes playing tricks on me. I kept thinking I saw light out of the corner of my eye, but there wasn’t any. My friend said the same thing.
I felt around in front of me & identified a little plastic butter packet, plate, fork & knife. The waiter brought a basket of bread & offered us each a piece of bread. He did that by pushing the basket against my breast & holding it there. It was rather ‘familiar’ to have this stranger in the dark holding a basket of bread against my boob & I wondered how much of an accident it was?
My friend & struggled buttering our bread in the dark & I laughed at how this must look…but when I realized no one could see I gave up caring how evenly the butter was smeared.
When the salad came I found the food kept falling off my fork. I worried there was going to be salad everywhere like when a 2 year old eats & flails food all over the place. I then brought the bowl up to my face & started shoveling the food into my mouth. Table manners? Gone! I had food all over my chin & said fuck it as I literally licked the bowl clean.
All the while my friend & I are trying to carry on a normal conversation while also discussing the food & trying to figure out what we were eating. Did the blindness effect the taste of the food? I think it was meant to, and it was delicious but it wasn’t profound or anything like that.
The drinks came & I was surprised they actually gave me a real wine glass (as he pushed it against my breast). I half expected a sippy cup or something. I was so glad to have wine that I protected that wine glass like breaking it would have cost me a limp.
The salad was a surprise (& not just because he also pushed it against my boob) but the main course we chose before coming into the dark so we knew what to expect, more or less. The big plate of hot food seemed daunting when I realized the food wasn’t pre-cut into bite sizes. I brought a large chunk of potato up to my mouth & struggled to get it all in like an idiot. It was a fucking potato, I just needed to bite it but I was afraid that the part I didn’t get in my mouth would drop & cause some kind of carnage. I imagined it hitting the other food on the plate & splashing god know what all over me or it might ricochet off & hit my wine glass. There was no fucking way I was going to let that happen.
I struggled through the main course with food all over my face & hands even though I was trying to use my utensils. I had been going at it for several minutes before I discovered a green string bean that I had no idea was on my plate. I wondered what else I had missed?
There was still a lot of food on my plate (and everywhere else) by the time I gave up & let the waiter take my plate away. He didn’t touch my boob that time. Probably because he suspected it was covered in food shrapnel.
The dessert came & I only had one bite. I was full & tired of the struggle. It tasted too sweet. I just finished my wine. At this time one of the other diners turned the light on her phone for some reason & I thought there was going to be riot as the other diners yelled at her. My friend, desperate for information asked what I saw from my angle when the light went on. How big was the place, etc.? Hilarious.
We were led to a dimly lite room to pay the bill & then left. I’m glad I went & I would recommend it but I doubt I’ll return.
What I loved about the experience is that it got me thinking about what it would really be like to be someone else for a day? There have been movies done on that concept. Mrs. Doubtfire & Tootsie (men experiencing what it’s like to be a woman), Trading Places (The rich experiencing what it’s like to be poor & vice versa), etc.
“Empathy is the capacity to recognize emotions that are being experienced by another sentient or fictional being. One may need to have a certain amount of empathy before being able to experience accurate sympathy or compassion.”
I encourage you to take a moment today & put yourself in someones shoes. Even better if it’s someone that you would normally dislike or judge. A different gender, sexual orientation, race, economic position, weight, health, etc. There are always going to be people who have it better than you & people who are going to have it worse…and you can always find something to feel thankful for. A dose of empathy & gratitude is a good thing *smile*.
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Well said, Mistress. We too often look at the things we don’t have and the problems we do, not putting them into perspective. Happiness is always available if you look inside for it.
this peace of (good) literature reminds me of the writings of helen keller. – and perhabs even st. exupéry got it right by saying you can only see truely with your heart. – a new perspective from our admired genius
Nice sentiment in this post. I like it. Very positive and makes me want to try something new too. Thanks Mistress T.
Interesting take… In certain fields, the dichotomy of sympathy and empathy are not a linear entity. In my mind, empathy is a fleeting feeling due to the emotion depth we avoid intrinsically at least for most people. To be empathetic, and to truly place yourself in anothers circumstance requires the imagination of a burden transcending your own life that is analogous to another tragedy, which without emotional stability can be trying to say the least. Sympathy resides in a concern for another experiencing a particular situation where empathy is allowing yourself to wade in those waters. Both of those terms are characteristic reaction to a negative circumstance in which a bystander creates a mechanism to cope with anothers grief.
Being thrown into a dark room though intentional can be equated to sudden life changing events in some peoples lives. In my profession, because I deal with acuity in others health it is an all too common observation. So empathy in high doses can be emotionally crippling.
In terms of others judgement, you can only be who you are and that has to be beautiful no matter what any other person’s perception of ideal maybe. Because in a word, we dislike and judge other for the characteristics in which we struggle within ourselves as a blue print for humanity… K