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Thoughts on Dwindling Eyesight

The quietness and dim lighting of the eye doctor's examining room were conducive to one of two reactions. One might have been to sleep, but I was too wide awake for that. The other was to think, and that's what I did, and myriad thoughts flashed through my mind.

I was transported backward through time to the summer between my fifth and sixth grade years. An eye test conducted at school near the end of fifth grade led to a recommendation that I see an optometrist, so Mother arranged an appointment with Dr. George Goodman, whom she had known since her teenage years.

One Saturday morning that summer, we made our way into Knoxville's downtown, parking in the Miller's department store parking garage and walking up Church Street to Dr. Goodman's office.

It was a narrow, wedge-shaped office tucked between two other businesses on the block. The small waiting room narrowed to a hallway off which was an even smaller examining room on the right. At the end of the short hallway was a slightly larger room in which were displayed a variety of eyeglass frames.

After a short wait, a patient exited the examining room followed by a short, neatly dressed, balding man who limped noticeably. He chatted briefly with the patient, and then, after he had left, turned to greet Mother by her first name. "Hello, Hazel. It's so good to see you. How's Narma?"

I was surprised that he knew my cousin Norma, but amazed that he had mispronounced her name. Afterward, I asked Mother how he knew Norma. She sounded a bit exasperated as she explained, "He wasn't talking about Norma Peterson. He meant Norma Jean--your Aunt Jean! He used to date her, but she didn't care much for hm, not least because he insisted on calling her 'Narma.' She hated it!"

But, as my brother Dale is wont to say, I digress.

After examining my eyes, Dr. Goodman decided my eyes were a bit lazy, refusing to focus, and he prescribed lenses that would force them to focus. So I got glasses. Those first lenses, however, didn't work, probably because I discovered that I could see better without them. I lifted the glasses so I could look beneath them to see what Mrs. McMillan was writing on the blackboard. (Yes, we still had blackboards back in those "good old days.")

Eventually, seeing that his experiment had failed, Dr. Goodman prescribed corrective lenses, and I've been wearing them ever since. And, just as he predicted, my eyes continued to get worse until after college, when they seemed to stabilize for a while. But about the time I reached middle age, they again resumed their deterioration, and it's only gotten worse over time.

Several years ago, I began to see "floaters," two of them particularly large, one shaped like a stirrup, the other like a cursive letter P. Almost simultaneously, I began to notice a fogginess that would obscure my vision briefly, then clear, and then fog up again. I did a lot of blinking in an effort to "clear the fog," I also noticed that straight lines and objects began to appear wavy or broken. I began to see double images. That particularly presented a problem when I was driving and trying to read road signs.

Eye doctors whom I consulted determined that the lining inside my eyes had come loose, though not completely detached, and were hanging so that images entering the eyes weren't being focused directly on the retina. That sagging not only distorted my vision but also had created the floaters and "fog" I was seeing. It was "debris" that was just floating around in the aqueous humor. "You'll get used to the floaters," they assured me. (I didn't think it was very humorous.)

The doctors also said that I had a wrinkle on the retina of one eye. That was causing the waviness. It could be resolved by surgery, but they wouldn't recommend it. And as if all of these problems were not enough, they were compounded by the fact that I must have trifocals.

As I sat in the examining room, another thought entered my mind: Am I going blind?! The devil's advocate suggested the question. My whole writing career depends on my ability to see to read, to research, to proofread, to edit, to correspond!

But the "better angel" suggested a couple of positive thoughts. You could always listen to audiobooks and even use a voice-recognition dictation device to continue writing. Or, if worse came to worst, remember Milton's words from his poem "On His Blindness," or Sonnet 19: "They also serve who only stand and wait." But I hate waiting, especially helplessly. I need to do! But his words kept coming to mind:

When I consider how my light is spent, Ere half my days, in this dark world and wide, And that one Talent which is death to hide Lodged with me useless, though my Soul more bent To serve therewith my Maker, and present My true account, lest he returning chide; “Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?” I fondly ask. But patience, to prevent That murmur, soon replies, “God doth not need Either man’s work or his own gifts; who best Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state Is Kingly. Thousands at his bidding speed And post o’er Land and Ocean without rest: They also serve who only stand and wait.”

However, the writer within ordered me to find an application greater than my own physical problems, and this quotation came to mind: "None so blind as they who will not see" (attributed to John Heywood, 1546). This statement is specifically applicable to spiritual truths. And it is the result not of inability but of an unwillingness to see or understand the truth.

As strange as it might seem, some people don't want to see the truth. They are those to which Christ referred when He said, "[T]hey seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive" (Matt. 13:13-14).

But others perhaps want to see but are hindered. They have "debris" floating in front of them, floaters or fog, that prevents them from seeing clearly. Paul said that "the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not" (2 Cor. 4:4).

David prayed for God to clear away that debris, to give him clear vision and open eyes, so that he could "behold wondrous things out of thy law" (Psa. 119:18).

Many spiritually blind people continue to be blind because they are following other blind people, false teachers whom Christ called "blind leaders of the blind" (Matt. 15:14). The inevitable result is that "both shall fall into the ditch."

As bad as my physical eyesight now is or how bad it might get, that malady is as nothing in contrast to willful blindness, being distracted by the debris and fog of worldliness, or being led astray by false teachers.

The way to improve my physical vision, the doctors said, is (1) to use lubricating eyedrops, which will (I hope!) reduce the fog, which is caused in part by dryness. And (2) I can get stronger prescription lenses, which I've already ordered. I earnestly hope this combination of actions will work!

The way to reduce or avoid the obstructions to spiritual eye problems is to pray for open eyes and clarity of sight so we may "behold wondrous things" from God's Word, and that implies a sincere desire to see what's there. It's a matter of the will.

How is your eyesight today? Do you need spiritual corrective lenses? Perhaps some spiritual eye lubricants?

Whatever your condition, it will affect your writing.

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