The Eyes Have It

My eyes have caused me problems all my life. I was born with hyperopia, or farsightedness (longsightedness in the UK), which is relatively unusual — nearsightedness is the more common ailment. Hyperopia is similar to presbyopia, which most people experience in middle age, when their arms become too short to hold the book at a sufficient distance from the eye.

But hyperopia sets in early. According to the wiki:

Hyperopia, also known as farsightedness, longsightedness or hypermetropia, is a defect of vision caused by an imperfection in the eye (often when the eyeball is too short or the lens cannot become round enough), causing difficulty focusing on near objects, and in extreme cases causing a sufferer to be unable to focus on objects at any distance. [emphasis added]

My eyes became an “extreme case” when I was about forty-five, after which nothing, not even Arcturus, was far enough away to come into focus without the help of glasses.

When I was two years old, my mother noticed that my eyes crossed when I tried to look closely at objects. She took me to the pediatrician, and eventually the ophthalmologist, who diagnosed me and prescribed corrective lenses. I wore glasses until I was twelve, after which my vision was deemed “corrected”.

But it wasn’t, not really. My hyperopia was just in remission. The lens muscles in my eyes had simply learned to pull extra-hard all the time, until I was no longer aware of it. When I passed my fortieth birthday — the traditional milestone when presbyopia sets in — intense discomfort sent me to the eye doctor again. I’ve changed prescriptions several times since, and now my lenses are so rigid that there’s not much more that can be done. I simply have to endure discomfort, use large monitors at 800×600, read large-print books whenever possible, and use a magnifying glass to make out the directions on virtually anything.

All that is bad enough, but my visual situation became much worse overnight several weeks ago. Dymphna and I caught some kind of virus and became ill at the same time, although our symptoms were somewhat different. Mine involved intense migraine headaches with associated visual distortions, plus bad sinus congestion.

I experienced no eye trauma that I was aware of, but perhaps a violent sneezing fit precipitated my new condition: a distortion of the visual field in my left eye. I hoped it was a transient effect of the virus, and would gradually disappear as the other symptoms went away. But it didn’t, so after a couple of weeks I went to see our family doctor, who made me an appointment for today with an ophthalmologist. I returned with a better idea of what ailment I have, and what I’m likely to face.

I’ll be seeing a retinal specialist on Friday for a precise diagnosis and treatment, but my condition is most likely a variety of macular degeneration brought on by a buildup of fluid in a small spot under my retina. The ophthalmologist says that it is probably treatable — which until recently was not the case — so I’m more optimistic than I was a few days ago.

In the meantime, my life has become more difficult. My two eyes cannot reconcile their differences with each other, so that when I do close-up work, both sets of muscles — lens muscles and ocular muscles — keep pulling and tugging trying to bring both images into line. The result is agonizing, and rapidly reduces my eyes to complete exhaustion.

However, now that I have the doctor’s go-ahead, I keep a patch over my left eye when I work at the screen. I have it on now. It’s not a dashing pirate patch, just a medical eye pad held on with adhesive tape. But it does the job — I can read and type without agony, and when I pull it off to work outside or do household chores, my eyes are not exhausted. Driving is actually quite pleasant, since I don’t have to focus on anything close, except for an occasional glance at the dashboard.

Interestingly enough, reading a book or magazine with a relatively large type face is not all that difficult. My right eye is very dominant, and does all the real work. Also, reading is a holistic process. The eye takes in a large block of text — sometimes a couple of sentences — as a unit, and the brain then parses it unconsciously in a split second. I’ve noticed that I’m more likely to misread words that have almost the same “look” — taking in “autonomy” as “antimony”, for example. And my eyes tire more quickly than they used to.

But the screen is another matter. Because of its pixelated nature, the eye cannot resolve the image into hard edges. For people with normal vision, that’s of small consequence. But for us hyperoptics, the lens muscles just pull and pull and pull, trying in vain to obtain clarity. With my new condition, using both eyes to do it has become unbearable.

Then there is the “refresh rate” — the constant rebuilding of the image on the screen. The flicker is faster than the eye can detect, but there are subliminal interference patterns that arise from the overlap of the ocular rate — roughly twenty times a second — and whatever rate the monitor uses. My left eye really feels the flicker, since normal processing is impaired in part of its visual field.

Because of the above, posting has been relatively light of late, and will continue to be light indefinitely. Editing is easier than composition, so there will be more translations and guest posts and fewer essays that I write myself.

Please bear with us for a while. I’ll keep you informed.

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Ever since I first painted my first picture at the age of seven, going blind has been the greatest fear of my life. Blindness terrifies me far more than deafness, paralysis, dementia, or death. For as long as I can remember, life has consisted of glorious colors, entrancing movement, and the pleasure of words on the printed page.

Thus I have lived in terror for the last couple of weeks. The worst time is when I lie down to try and sleep at night. My mind loses itself in a labyrinth of frantic planning about the tasks that would be required of me in preparation for a life when I could no longer see.

One of my concerns has been the possible gradual transfer of operations at Gates of Vienna to people other than Dymphna and myself. As I have often said in the past, this blog is a group effort, and there are others who easily can take up where we leave off. I’ve already had discussions with some of the people who would have to be involved.

Yet now it seems that I have been given a reprieve, at least for a while. Typing and reading with one eye is not all that bad — it can be done. And I must be patient and let the doctors do their doctoral things.

In the meantime, I look out the window with pleasure at the March evening. Spring is late this year — the daffodils are only now reaching their peak, and the forsythia is just beginning to show yellow. I take in the color and the movement, the yellow and green, the blue of the sky and the red haze on the tips of the maple boughs. And I am profoundly grateful.

I’ll close with a meditation on the same topic from the great contemporary poet Pattiann Rogers:

Seeing the Glory
by Pattiann Rogers

Whatever enters the eye — shade of ash leaf,
Torn web dangling, movement of ice
Over the canyon edge — enters only
As the light of itself.
It travels through the clear jelly
Of the vitreo, turning once like the roll
Of a fish in deep water, causing a shimmer
In that thimbleful of cells waiting,
Then proceeds as a quiver on a dark purple thread
To pass from life into recognition.

The trick is to perceive glory
When its light enters the eye,
To recognize its penetration of the lens
Whether it comes like the sudden crack
Of glass shot or the needle in the center
Of the hailstone, whether it appears like the slow
Parting of fog by steady trees or the flashing
Of piranha at their prey.

How easily it could go unnoticed
Existing unseen as that line initiating
The distinction of all things.
It must be called by name
Whether it dives with triple wings of gold
Before the optic nerve or presses itself
In black fins against the retina
Or rises in its inversion like a fish
Breaking into sky.

Watching on this hillside tonight,
I want to know how to see
And bear witness.

25 thoughts on “The Eyes Have It

    • Thank you, Egghead.

      Yes, prayers, please – filling up the cup and running over.

      I cannot imagine a worse sentence being passed on the Baron than that of not being able to see. I am praying that he will retain the vision in his right eye.

  1. Without Lasik I’d be legally blind. Being at the limit of Lasik, I had to go to the big city to have the very best….

    Still, I have the split focus issue that the Baron has… certainly not as bad, though.

    Watch out for high blood pressure. It’s no help.

    You have our prayers.

  2. Wow that’s not good, although the medical verdict sounds hopeful – at least there are treatment options.

    Funnily enough I visited the opticians on Friday afternoon & had a thorough (very thorough) eye examination, & was very pleased indeed to get the all clear. You get a little bit older and things just don’t work as well as they used to. I even got to check out 3D images of my own eyeballs – very impressive.

    And all free up in the frozen north, btw.

    On a technical side – how about the screen of a Kindle Fire or an iPad? I’m really not up to speed with this at all, but perhaps you could think about using a screen with different technology from your traditional PC monitor?

    I saw a Kindle Fire HD the other day in the supermarket, & the screen looked great – clear as a bell. I have an iPad 2 and the screen is pretty good, but the newer iPad with the Retina display is better still – maybe you could use something like that to read stuff online?

    The iPad is easy to set up, easy to use, browsing is a doddle & there’s a handy “Reader” button on Safari to pull out and present individual articles for you as you scroll through a website (like this one) – it’s easy to alter the text size as well. Maybe worth checking out?

  3. Dear Baron (and Dymphna, too),

    I am so sorry about this, and very pleased to hear the good prognosis. I am thinking of you and praying for you, and will keep on. Please update us as you can, an dplease take care.

  4. This is very bad juju. Quite apart from my concern for you personally, Gates of Vienna is a window on aspects of the world I’d never see otherwise. It is indispensible. Best wishes for a complete recovery.

  5. My daughter, Mary suffered from weakened eyes. They were becoming permanently crossed, and we had to patch her eye for several months in order for them to operate on them to straighten them. She must still wear corrective lenses. One of the things I learned recently is that you can dilate one of your eyes, and it has the same effect as patching. That’s a useful thing for parents, since the little ones like to take the patch off all the time.
    I will say a prayer for you both.

    • Oh wow!! I can see far away. Thanks to cataract surgery in Canada. I have new eyes which cost me nothing but might have cost me thousands/ I cant see a thing up close, my problem. I now have 8 paris of glasses/ You know what? I liked my old way. Glasses on in the AM,off at night. No I am alwasay looking for them. Pain in the [fundament].

      • Oh what in the hell was I ever bitching about. Prayer to you, I am fine. I will take a lot of trouble so you two can continue. My eyes are fine, just want yours to be perfect. God Bless you both.

  6. Get a juicer if you haven´t got one and have a glass of carrot juice every other day early in the morning, avoid alcohol and take vitamin complex.
    You will improve that way. best of luck.

    • About carrots: from the research I’ve done, it’s one veggie that is best eaten lightly cooked. The heat releases the carotenoids are otherwise unavailable. They recommend cooking the carrots whole and then cutting or dicing. Less vitamin loss that way.

      Tomatoes are another exception. Cooking does destroy some of the vitamin C but it releases the anti-oxidants, including lycopene.

      We couldn’t afford a juicer so it’s fortunate I like to eat the whole food anyway, rather than discard the fiber. In addition, we don’t eat fruit because of the high sugar content. I do use half an apple in some recipes, though.

      I have been experimenting with soured and fermented foods. Who knew sauerkraut for breakfast could be so good? I am considering trying to learn to make my own. Have learned to avoid the recipes which begin, “This is so easy…”

      At the periphery, the science of nutrition is undergoing some revolutionary changes.

      • Recalling a chapter from a novel I read long ago . . .making your own sauerkraut can take on a life of it’s own as author Herman Wouk’s recollection in his 1985 novel “Inside Outside” tells it. I don’t have the novel easily within reach, but found this referemce online:

        Known for his syndicated columns that appeared in the New York Times for more than 30 years and his Times magazine column “On Language,” Safire read “The Sauerkraut Crisis” from “Inside Outside,” about a product so foul-smelling that it provoked a visit from the New York City Health Department and the proffer from one of the neighbors: “My husband still has his gas mask from the war, dollink, if you need it.”

        Prayers going up for successful, speedy treatment for the Baron. FWIW . . .digital contact lenses are already on the horizon.

  7. Sorry to hear that.
    I have the same condition since I was three years old.
    What is even more disturbing is that the disease seems to be genetic, since my daughters also have it.

  8. Sorry to hear of your condition. If it gets much worse, the blog may have to go, but a new life may begin — as long as you have each other. I knew a Japanese master archer who was blind and had little left of his stomach.

    On another level, I am not an Evangelical and have always been sceptical about Revelation, End of Days, and the like. Yet it seems like things are not only accelerating toward a bad end, but some dark force is trying to knock out the few human obstacles in its way. Larry Auster’s blog has become little more than a chronicle of his last days on Earth. Your vision is being hijacked. Fjordman is in some anonymous shelter, presumably living out of a suitcase; not the best conditions for writing. I am running around frantically trying to save our savings from beeing Cyprused, Shanghaied, Weimarized or stolen otherwise by the Evil Crooks. I am sure there are other cases of sudden misfortune unfolding now that you know of.

    All the more reason to resist and persevere.

  9. Thank you, Takuan. Indeed I will persevere.

    The crucial issue is the ability to drive. My wife can no longer drive, and we live in the country, so if my eyes go, everything will change.

    Yet I will bear up, somehow.

    • You may have to move to where you have friends willing to help. If you moved to where I have a perch, I would drive you. So would any other regular GoV reader and contributor. Larry Auster who is single and no close family he ever mentions, couldn ‘t cope with his advanced stage cancer, dealing with the NYC poublic healthcare system etc. A reader of his blog, a devout Catholic, took him to her home in Pennsylvania. The hospitals there are much better for him there too. So now Auster lives in a spare bedroom of one of his readers, and live-blogs his progressing departure from our plane of existence.

      BTW, many years ago when I was new in the US I had some distant relation in upsate New York who’d become blind in his adulthood. He wanted to show me NY City that he knew inside out, having commuted there for 40 years to his job. Problem was, he couldn’t drive. So I drove, and he was the pilot, announcing every turn of the road in advance and describing what I was seeing, including history of the neighborhood and even individual buildings. He could sustain that throughout the 50-mile drive.

  10. Please consider treatment at the world famous Wills Eye Hospital in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

    May Ss. Lucy and Clare intercede with the Lord for your healing!

  11. That’s not funny, but ends that way, happily. About 40 years old my eye doctor told me “you’re hypermyotropic” – the same thing. So they gave me contact lenses growing stronger and stronger, until I was wearing +2.75. Hey, that’s heavy, man! Then I went for another check-up and the guy said, “why are you wearing those things?” Snappy come-back: “cause you told me to”. The guy who fitted the lenses said it was a miracle. I’m not so sure. Regardless, I managed to correct right through those bottle-bottom lenses and could still see adequately. Hey, I’m a photographer… Miracle? No, but inexplainable, yes.

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