How Going Blind Showed One Man the Light

Isaac Lidsky says losing his sight by the age of 25 has been the true gift of his life. Why? It showed him the most profound of all truths about being a human being.

Isaac Lidsky: I lost my site progressively over time; my photoreceptor cells of my retina kind of ceased to function.

So if you picture like a Jumbotron screen at an arena, and imagine the bulbs on that screen kind of slowly and randomly break over time, that's what happened to me. So at first maybe you don't even notice it, then maybe a gets a little annoying. Eventually you have some issues sort of making out the image.

For me sight became this sort of bizarre experience where objects would appear and then morph into other objects and then disappear, kind of depending on what information I had or what kind of clues I had. It was this conscious, arduous process to see.

What was amazing is, given that experience, I literally saw firsthand how powerful our minds are to create the reality we experience, to create this immersive experience of sight, for example, which I always thought was objective and true and not much to it.

But I saw that that's not the case at all right, sight is this unique personal virtual experience that our minds create. So that was sort of the profound insight for me in terms of how I went blind. That was then really a gift in my life in many other ways, because I realized that all of us really shape our reality, shape our experience of the world in all sorts of ways that we're not necessarily so aware of.

For me recognizing this power, our ultimate power, understanding it, embracing it, committing to it 1000 percent is an endless source of hope and optimism.

Your life is not happening to you, you are creating it, and that's liberating. It's yours to make of it what you want.

Much of life requires a tremendous amount of effort and skill and discipline. So merrily believing or wanting something for yourself doesn't mean you're going to make it happen for yourself, you actually have to put the hard work in and make it happen.

We all confront circumstances in our lives that are unfortunate: setbacks, failures, end of a relationship, loss of career, et cetera, et cetera.

Now, unfortunately we very often criticize ourselves and kind of beat ourselves up for those failures or setbacks, which there's no good in that.

The key is what do we do with those circumstances? How do they manifest themselves in our lives? What do you make of them?

To my mind that's really about introspection on how you want to internalize the circumstances you find yourself in in a given moment.

And with awareness you can then take control and really work to create the life, the reality that you want for yourself.

If Isaac Lidsky had not gone blind by the age of 25, would he have graduated from Harvard Law School magna cum laude, or clerked for two Supreme Court Justices, or created a technology company worth hundreds of millions of dollars? It is impossible to say. But it is difficult to imagine his life being any better with the supposed gift of sight. Indeed Lidsky says losing his sight was the true gift he received in life. Why? Because it showed him how literally everyone creates their own reality — even seeing the world, says Lidsky, is an act of creation. Once you learn that reality is yours to create, you will only want to create a better one for yourself.

This video is part of a collaborative series with the Hope & Optimism initiative, which supports interdisciplinary academic research into significant questions that remain under-explored. The three-year initiative will provide over $2 million for philosophers, philosophers of religion, and social scientists to generate original, high-quality, collaborative research on topics related to optimism and hopefulness. Discover the public components of the Hope & Optimism project, and how you can contribute, at

Isaac Lidsky is the author of Eyes Wide Open: Overcoming Obstacles and Recognizing Opportunities in a World That Can't See Clearly

Study: 50% of people pursuing science careers in academia will drop out after 5 years

That's a sharp increase from the 1960s when it took the same share of scientists an average of 35 years to drop out of academia.

Surprising Science
  • The study tracked the careers of more than 100,000 scientists over 50 years.
  • The results showed career lifespans are shrinking, and fewer scientists are getting credited as the lead author on scientific papers.
  • Scientists are still pursuing careers in the private sector, however there are key differences between research conducted in academia and industry.
Keep reading Show less

The silent Chinese propaganda in Hollywood films

China's rise has necessitated a global PR push. It includes influencing how the movies you watch depict China.

President Xi Jinping and Brad Pitt in World War Z. (Image: Big Think/Getty)
Politics & Current Affairs
  • China will soon overtake the U.S. as the world's largest market for films, and it is using that fact to influence how it is depicted by Hollywood.
  • While Chinese investors have been interested in buying shares of studios for a while, the real power lies in deciding which movies get into China at all.
  • The influence is often subtle, but may have already derailed a few careers in the name of politics.
Keep reading Show less

New ‘microneedle patch’ could help heart attack patients regrow tissue

The bold technique involves surgically implanting a so-called microneedle patch directly onto the heart.

Red human heart against a yellow background (Getty Images)
Surprising Science
  • Heart attacks leave scar tissue on the heart, which can reduce the organ's ability to pump blood throughout the body.
  • The microneedle patch aims to deliver therapeutic cells directly to the damaged tissue.
  • It hasn't been tested on humans yet, but the method has shown promising signs in research on animals.
Keep reading Show less