July 8, 2010

New Eyeglasses

I was overdue for a new set of glasses. Oh, I used to have perfect vision when I was young; but when I turned forty, my eyesight began to slip. After a year or so of progressively stronger cheapo reading glasses, I finally had to get a prescription. But that was almost three years ago and my vision had gotten noticeably weaker over time. Gosh, it’s nice to be able to read the fine print on my CDs again!

Over at An Overgrown Path (in a post tangentially about Igor Stravinsky and technology), there’s a thought-provoking quote from Jeff Greenwald’s The Size of the World that seems timely:
Arthur C. Clarke once suggested that the invention of eyeglasses (an event that occurred around 1350) may have actually launched the Renaissance by doubling the useful productive life of writers, artists and scientists.

This makes intuitive sense, even if it’s pure speculation. We take for granted such archaic technology and it is difficult to imagine what life would be like without corrective lenses. We certainly wouldn’t be zooming around at 80mph on the freeway talking on our cellular phones if we hadn’t first made it possible to see where we were going. (Not that this is a good idea in practice.)

So, even though as Bob Weir once said, wearing glasses is like “wearing a cage” (and it’s true), we should be eternally grateful for this ancient technology that allows us to see clearly, to read a book, to look at art, to drive a car -- even as we reach middle age and our eyes naturally begin to fail. Indeed our useful productive lives are doubled by this humble invention.

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