I have acquired a new look. This “new look” derives from a pair of massive amber wrap-around sunglasses more suited to a dealer in some exotic, high-priced drug made in Pakistan by renegade pharmaceutical laboratories.
And all because we went to the optometrist this weekend.
Once upon a time my eyes, though in need of correction, saw clearly. Examinations were predictable: periodic checkpoints on the gentle, gradual decline of my vision.
But last year my heretofore trustworthy eyes threw a wild party: odd flashes of light, posterior vitreous detachments, sprays of blood bubbles across my field of view like tiny UFOs, floaters as thick as schools of whales. And yes, cataracts are beginning to come on. It was a party all right – the kind that requires a new carpet afterwards, and repair of the holes in the wallboard.
Things have quieted since then. The blood bubbles dissipated; the problem retina calmed down. Occasionally I must clear the whales out of my eyes. But Doctor Young, my Generation-Y optometrist, let me off easy this year: no new developments, no imminent disasters. I’ll need more extensive tests – but next year.
Doctor Young had one other point to make while he had me in the chair: yes, you’re developing caratacts, and someday you’ll need surgery. But why hurry things along? Wear sunglasses outside at all times; protect your eyes from UV; put off the day of reckoning.
I’ve avoided sunglasses: I already have two pair of prescription glasses, and I didn’t want a third. Contact lenses have never been for me. So when the sun is bright, I just squint.
But what the doctor suggests, my wife Rhumba enforces. I had a pair of sunglasses by the end of the day: bulky, non-prescription plastic jobs called fit-overs that “fit over” the prescription glasses that I wear constantly. They’re cheap and easy; amber in color, UV-proof, and polarized.
I now inhabit another planet: a planet with a red sun where colors gleam rich and ruddy and the shadows are black as night, and where every object stands out clearly from every other. It’s like watching a film strip of the “Wonders of Yellowstone” on an old View-Master 3-D viewer. The “real world,” in comparison, seems mushy, washed-out, boring.
So this weekend has been like an exotic vacation in my own town. And wonder of wonders, after a day of wearing the fit-overs outside, the muscles around my eyes began to tingle and relax. I’d been squinting constantly for decades, and hadn’t even realized it.
Moreover, my depth perception improved. I’d lived in a relatively flat world; now it has depth. Each object exists in a plane of its own at a unique distance from my eye.
It’s all about perception. We judge the world as we perceive it. Change the perception: change the world.
While Doctor Young shined lights in my eyes, Rhumba shared the waiting room with a three-year old who’d come to pick up his first pair of eyeglasses
The boy’s father and the optometrist’s technician hovered over him as eyeglasses slid onto his nose for the very first time.
The little boy blinked. Then he looked around the room. Very slowly. He looked at everything. Twice. He left with his father, head swiveling back and forth as if he’d never seen a street or buildings or cars before.
Because he hadn’t. His world of fuzzy shapes and colors had been replace by a crisp, injection-molded universe of incredible detail and complexity.
It had been there all along. All that had changed was his ability to perceive.
We all know of the differences between perception and reality. Every day, salesmen and politicians try to change the way we perceive the world. Unlike the optometrist, they don’t seek to help us find clarity: they merely want us to perceive the world in a way that’s of benefit to them and their friends.
The most arrogant of them boast of their ability to “create realities” on demand, and to convince the rest of us to accept them. They want us to live in a foggy, hazy, near-sighted world of indefinite shapes and colors which they will interpret for us. All can seem well in such a world – until you’re hit by a truck that you didn’t see coming.
I’d love to tell you that the bad optometrists who think they rule us will eventually be overthrown; that justice will be done; that society will become kind; and that we’ll all march off to a better tomorrow. But in the time before all that takes place, if it does, who’s to say that you won’t be hit by an invisible truck?
No eyeglasses can help you. But I hope that you can keep an open and unsettled mind – unsettled in the best sense, as in a willingness to reconsider your assumptions without abandoning your humanity.
And whatever the television tells you is or is not happening – listen for the sound of trucks.