If you could create your ideal pair of magic glasses, what would you be able to see with them?“Higher Thought Game question
Recently, I informed a friend that I’m having cataract surgery this spring, and she lit up! She told me she’d read that cataract surgery can now give you “perfect vision.”
I said, “Well, I think I probably won’t need glasses anymore for most things but I’ll still need readers.”
She said, “No, I read that they can give you perfect vision now, bionic eyes! It does cost more than standard cataract surgery –”
“My insurance probably wouldn’t cover it.”
“I think it’s only like an extra thousand dollars. For bionic eyes! I wish I had cataracts too so I could get the surgery!”
A personal tidbit: I’m turning 66 next month and my surgeries are scheduled for the weeks following my birthday. I have been severely nearsighted all my life. I was prescribed my first pair of glasses when I was in the first grade. So I was six or maybe seven years old when I first began wearing glasses and I haven’t looked back since, so to speak.
The prospect of waking up each day and not reaching for my glasses before doing anything else – which I’ve done reflexively now for just about 60 years — is pretty exciting.
And I wouldn’t mind still needing to wear glasses for reading and close-up focusing, but I do want to ask my ophthalmologist about the bionic option. Actually, I think he alluded to it during our last appointment, but he didn’t describe it in quite those terms, and I didn’t quite pick up on it, and it sounded expensive and unnecessary. But still!
The lens in your eyeball sits behind the cornea (the outer surface of the eye, the protective layer), the iris (the “shutter” so to speak, which expands and contracts to let in more or less light, as needed), and the pupil (the window that lets in the light). The lens of your eye focuses the light that comes in through the pupil and relays it to the retina which sends the info to your brain via your optic nerve.
A cataract is basically a dirty lens in your eye. I have cataracts in both of my eyes, which means that somehow over the course of my life, my natural lenses got smudgy. Now, to be clear (so to speak), I don’t specifically notice that things have gotten darker. It’s been a very gradual process and for the most part I can still see just fine. But now when I walk in the park at night (as I often do), I need a flashlight to see where I’m going and where I’m stepping, and that’s only been the case for the past few years. Also, it’s strenuous for me to recognize faces in a dimly lit room, much more than it used to be.
And when I drive at night, the glare of other people’s headlights hurts my eyes and just about blinds me. The “retinal specialist” I saw recently (and who greenlighted my upcoming surgeries – hooray!) explained that that’s because, instead of focusing the light as a normal healthy lens would do, my cataracts (i.e. the shmutz on my lenses) scatter the light such that it overwhelms my field of vision.
So I really, seriously am getting a new pair of magic glasses soon, in my eyes. Pretty incredible. They’ll be made of silicone or acrylic or something bionic like that.
And I’m hopeful that, in tandem with the removal of my physical cataracts, my spiritual cataracts can also be eliminated and replaced with bionic mystical lenses.
Analogies abound of course – they’re low hanging fruit for my eager imagination: I want to be able to see my way more clearly through life’s inevitable dark passages. I want to be able to look further ahead than I’m capable of seeing right now. I want to be able to recognize who people really are when I encounter them.
And as I mentioned, my physical cataracts make it difficult for me to drive at night because the glare of oncoming headlights is exaggerated and diffuse and it fills up too much of my field of vision. Similarly, my spiritual cataracts enlarge little worries and annoyances, paranoias and resentments. Crazy thoughts occlude my natural state of contentment.
In fact (a quick thought here about thoughts!), I have come to believe that everyone has crazy thoughts and perhaps one measure of sanity (or insanity) is how many of our own crazy thoughts we really believe. So I’m not saying that my new bionic spiritual lenses (i.e. magic glasses) will eradicate all my crazy thoughts (that idea, in and of itself, feels crazy to me for some reason), but they will restore such thoughts to a proper proportion within my mindstream, so that those thoughts won’t blind me like oncoming headlights do now.
My magic glasses will focus my inner vision like a laser on all the things that feel great, all the blessings I enjoy, and the sheer astounding miracle of everything. They’ll frame my perceptions of my day-to-day life, my challenges, my sorrows and joys, other people’s words and actions, and even world events through the lenses of existential optimism, amazement, acceptance, gratitude, and wonder.
My ideal glasses will enable me to continuously see what’s most important. That’s really all I’m asking and expecting of my upcoming cataract surgeries. Wish me luck.
Thanks to my friends Alice and John for pointing me to the following poem.
(I guess Monet never had to drive at night.)
Monet Refuses the Operation
by Lisel Mueller
Doctor, you say there are no haloes
around the streetlights in Paris
and what I see is an aberration
caused by old age, an affliction.
I tell you it has taken me all my life
to arrive at the vision of gas lamps as angels,
to soften and blur and finally banish
the edges you regret I don’t see,
to learn that the line I called the horizon
does not exist and sky and water,
so long apart, are the same state of being.
Fifty-four years before I could see
Rouen cathedral is built
of parallel shafts of sun,
and now you want to restore
my youthful errors: fixed
notions of top and bottom,
the illusion of three-dimensional space,
from the bridge it covers.
What can I say to convince you
the Houses of Parliament dissolve
night after night to become
the fluid dream of the Thames?
I will not return to a universe
of objects that don’t know each other,
as if islands were not the lost children
of one great continent. The world
is flux, and light becomes what it touches,
becomes water, lilies on water,
above and below water,
becomes lilac and mauve and yellow
and white and cerulean lamps,
small fists passing sunlight
so quickly to one another
that it would take long, streaming hair
inside my brush to catch it.
To paint the speed of light!
Our weighted shapes, these verticals,
burn to mix with air
and change our bones, skin, clothes
to gases. Doctor,
if only you could see
how heaven pulls earth into its arms
and how infinitely the heart expands
to claim this world, blue vapor without end.
Lisel Mueller, “Monet Refuses the Operation” from Second Language. Copyright © 1996 by Lisel Mueller.