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April 13, 2010

Peekaboo, I see you.



A close friend just had both eyes operated on. My spouse recently got new custom-made contacts, and I got new, very progressive lenses for my fashionable yellow spectacles. We can all see better than ever before. It’s a coming into focus from the slightly blurred vision of so many years. It’s a high-definition miracle of new, improved eyesight. It’s a shock.

The houses I see from my balcony all have lovely clear lines; the windows have curtains, and behind the curtains I can finally see dancers, partiers, and couples making love and fighting and murderers disposing of bodies. I can see everything I couldn’t see before, the gold pot at rainbow’s end, the guy in the hood hiding around the corner. Those roadsigns jump out at me, telling me where to go and what to buy. At long last I can tell a strike from a ball even sitting in the upper deck.

There’s a problem with seeing too clearly. 20-20 vision is considered normal (called 10/10 in Europe), but 20-10 is too good, it’s very disturbing to the psyche. Blind people who have had sight restored through surgery, for example, often have serious neuro-perception and adaptation difficulties. Cataract surgery has been around since ancient times, bringing sight to the partially and totally blind. About 3 million procedures are done each year in the U.S. The new awareness is both a joy and a burden.

... she was permanently blind in that eye. A disfiguring layer of scar tissue formed over it, rendering the previously outgoing child self-conscious and painfully shy. Stared at and sometimes taunted, she felt like an outcast and turned for solace to reading and to poetry writing. Although when she was 14 the scar tissue was removed—and she subsequently became valedictorian and was voted most-popular girl, as well as queen of her senior class—she came to realize that her traumatic injury had some value: it allowed her to begin "really to see people and things, really to notice relationships and to learn to be patient enough to care about how they turned out." Who said that? Alice Walker.

I’ve read about people who kill themselves after losing their sight, but also about people who kill themselves after regaining lost sight. Some of the ex-blind become dependent and weak, refusing to socialize. Some continue as if they were blind in a tactile world, ignoring their new sense. The longer they’ve been blind, the harder it is to see. The eyes say yes, the brain and heart say no.

On a small scale, new glasses cause headaches. All those details to process, all that sensual bombardment. It’s tiring for the rusty old wheels. It takes growing into.

Peekaboo [the baby game] is thought by developmental psychologists to demonstrate an infant’s inability to understand object permanence. Object permanence is an important stage of cognitive development for infants. Numerous tests regarding it have been done, usually involving a toy, and a crude barrier which is placed in front of the toy, and then removed, repeatedly. In early sensorimotor stages, the infant is completely unable to comprehend object permanence. Psychologist Jean Piaget conducted experiments with infants which led him to conclude that this awareness was typically achieved at eight to nine months of age. Infants before this age are too young to understand object permanence. A lack of Object Permanence can lead to A-not-B errors, where children reach for a thing at a place where it should not be. (from Wikipedia)

You’re getting my drift, right? All this can be taken metaphorically (duh). Hard to see crude reality, reaching in the wrong place, etc. You can make poetry or philosophy or horror stories from the sight/insight motif. Better wise and weighted-down, or light, happy and stupid? Oops, answer’s in the question. (It is?) As always, the eyes have it.

When I was eight years old I went to visit the Blind Camp, and I was the only sighted kid in camp. But, heck, I’ll tell you about that another time.

Happy trials, Martin


Mutt: Two Eskimos sitting in a kayak were chilly, but when they lit a fire in the craft it sank, proving once and for all that you can’t have your kayak and heat it too.
Jeff: I’m sorry for you.
Mutt: Whatever for, my dear friend?
Jeff: You’ve got it all wrong.
Mutt: Well, lay it on me, brother.
Jeff: The husband of Kate was called to court on a charge of bigamy. Kate told the judge that her husband’s other wife, Edith, was causing too much friction in their marriage. The court ruled that he could not have his Kate and Edith too.
Mutt: For the love of Mike!
Jeff: Quite. And I propose we should quit right there.
Mutt: Fine. This one is true though: a polar bear, a giraffe and a penguin walked into a bar. The bartender said, "What is this? Some kind of joke?"
Jeff: Joke? What’s a joke?

2 comments:

Graham Moody said...

The blinders fell off and I could see...
Your meditation (or was it lecture) on sightedness and unsightedness, coming at it from either end, was illuminating. Let the light shine on this subject, as long as it isn't the light at the end of the tunnel (we're using that one already.)

Anonymous said...

thanks