An Ode to Short-sightedness

As a change from ranting about the heinous state of US politics-dominated English-language media: something a little more introspective.

For the first time in years, I went out this evening without wearing my glasses or contact lenses. Technically, my particular visual impairment is astigmatism, which can supposedly be remedied, eventually, through the regular use of correctional lenses. That said, I feel safe in stating that my vision is significantly worse now than it was some years back, when I would regularly forego wearing glasses or lenses, in favour of recognising people by body language, by gait, and by wardrobe. (My eyesight is not so bad as to have developed any echolocation, but it’s on my bucket list.)


After the initial mild panic at having the impression of seeing the world through a few layers of gauze, a couple of interesting things happen. In some sense, we are each of us a biochemical and electromagnetic processor, constantly, effortlessly, and often subconsciously interpreting masses of incoming data. When one sensory faculty is impaired, the others tend to be galvanised so as to compensate for the shortfall. In short, while I am not partially sighted, my visual picture of my surroundings is so approximate that, rather than forming a happy mesh of visual and auditory sense impressions, I’m instead presented with a largely auditory picture, with some indistinct blobs of colour thrown in, for my delight.

A concerted effort to listen out for the changing pitch of traffic becomes the norm (no longer trusting my eyes, following a quick glance, to tell me that I may be walking into a situation of terminal stickiness), and to the same extent that other senses reach out, the poor quality visuals encourage a reaching in. The same layers of gauze that make everything a hazy mess of colour wrap and insulate you in their indistinctness, and focus the thoughts inwards.

What I’m thinking doesn’t matter. It’s the internal environment created by partial sensory deprivation that makes for fertile ground for introspection, to the same extent that it encourages compensation by the other senses. When the constant pin-sharp focus of life is wearying, taking off your glasses and sinking into the haze is a luxury those of sensory 20/20 will never know.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.


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