Second Sight in the Ice
Suddenly, I could see without the eyeglasses that IÕd used since my
teens, about sixty years earlier. I could discard the glasses that I
used for movies, theater, sports and driving. It happened as I was cruising
the Southern Ocean in the Ice off the coast of Antarctica on a Soviet-era
ice breaker with other members of Elderhostel.
Now I could see the roiling waters, the ice floes, seals, birds and
whales all without glasses. First, my glasses were off intermittently
and then constantly as I discovered that I could distinguish between
fellow passengers across the dining room and down the long passageways.
I was always nearsighted; I had myopia. At a distance, faces werenÕt
sharp enough to produce certainty. I was able to read without glasses
but reading the blackboard in school required corrective lenses, eyeglasses.
I recall my disappointment at the age of twenty when I failed an eye
exam for Army Air Corps flight training during World War II. I wasnÕt
going to get a officerÕs uniform and wings. Instead, I got sent to basic
training in the Field Artillery as a private although laterI got a chance
to transfer to premed studies in the Army Specialized Training Program
and finally to med school. No opportunity for combat here. Did myopia
save my life? Maybe, although not all those who entered flight school
became aviators or were shot down.
It was on a tour of Antarctica in 1997 when I discarded my glasses
so next year, I will have a seven year cure. Folklore and textbooks
both speak of Second Sight as occurring when the blurred vision of an
older person becomes normal again. Acuity of vision depends on the ability
of the lens controlled by the ciliary muscle to expand and contract
in order to focus the image on the retina. The retina sends the image
to the brain. If the picture is focused in front of the retina, the
blurring is called nearsightedness; if the image focuses behind the
retina, it is called farsightedness.
In middle age, a usual development is presbyopia when
the lens becomes less flexible and there is some compensation for the
focal deficiency of nearsightedness. Myopia plus presbyopia can improve
vision. A cataract which is caused by the hardening of the lens may
also improve the ability of the nearsighted eye to focus the image just
as the shaped lens of the eyeglass does. This isnÕt the usual effect
of cataracts which cloud vision. I will ask my eye doctor what caused
my second sight since he agrees that I donÕt need glasses now.
So the miracle is a correction of an error of accommodation. But isnÕt
the discarding of eyeglasses like the experience of cripple who walks
miraculously after a visit to a shrine and abandons the crutches?
IÕve seen heaps of discarded braces and crutches at Ste. Ann de Beaupre
in Quebec City and I recall there were eyeglasses too. There must be
larger piles at Lourdes. Could the Ice be a natural shrine?
© Paul Lowinger 2003