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May 12, 2017

Myopia

Missing what's right in front of our noses.

I’ve worn corrective lens since I was a teenager and discovered, while having my vision tested for my learner’s permit, that I have trouble seeing things that are far away. In my early twenties I went from coke-bottle glasses to contact lenses and haven’t looked back since. In fact, when my spare pair of glasses got broken a few years back, I never bothered to replace them.

Anyway, I recently found myself down to my last pair of contacts and, as life gets busy, I hadn’t placed a reorder. Murphy’s Law being a dear friend of mine, of course one of my lenses would rip before the replacements arrived. I know, First World Problems. But that meant, for the first time in 25 years, my world once again became a literal blur.

As I should not drive without my lenses, I slid into the passenger seat of my Honda Civic so my wife could ferry me to the eye doctor for a long overdue exam and a replacement set of glasses. I’ve owned this car for a long time and it has lots of, shall we say, character in its body. In fact, were it capable of piloting itself, as some cars now can, it’s old enough to be a surly teenager with its own license to drive. But since I tend to appreciate function over form, I hadn’t realized how long it had been since I’d given my car a good wash, until I gazed out my very dirty window with my now impaired vision.

When one is nearsighted, it means that things that are up close are in sharper focus than things that are farther away. It’s sort of like how the aperture on a camera works; as you open up the aperture and let in more light, the more blurry the background becomes, which makes your subject appear in relatively sharper focus. Wearing corrective lenses is like closing down the aperture so that everything you see appears to be the same relative sharpness. While that’s obviously a good thing, especially for driving, it also means that sometimes we fail to see a problem right in front of our nose.

In other words, while being able to take in the entire landscape is an important and, indeed, necessary skill, opening up the aperture and letting some things blur in the background is also valuable for helping us focus on something specific. After all, typically when we give our attention to something, perhaps even measure it, over time, that thing tends to get better. And in this multitasking, multimedia, multipurpose and multiple choice world, focusing our attention on one thing at a time can help us solve problems we may not have even realized existed.

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