Issue 82, Winter 1981
Was that the moon? None of my business. And anyway I’m myopic. Third grade. I remember. Things growing dim. Chalk lines fading like runic characters. The fluorescence. My classmates’ faces glowing, indistinguishable. My chronic squinting mistaken for epistemological skepticism. David Hume and I.
You might think the situation correctable. Prescription lenses. Years of association with Buddy Holly. “Horn-rim frames are here to stay.” Six years later, contacts.
Depleted savings account. Social adjustments. New possibilities afforded, though. A boon to romance. Could be induced to pop out at intimate moments. Heavy petting, for instance. “Excuse me, I seem to have lost something.” The Joy of the Search.
I’m against them now. Against the idea of correction. Plexiglass hatches on the portals of the soul. Very dangerous idea. Are there defects in nature? Who corrects them? The Army Corps of Engineers. Totalitarian logic, don’t you think? “This is the way the river should run.” “You ought to be able to read the bottom line.”
After all, to admit that I might see things better with lenses is to imply that I don’t see them rightly now. I say, “dark patch, blurred.” You say, “approaching locomotive.” Each of us makes an appropriate ontological and esthetic judgement. No room here for imperatives.
Not speaking merely for myself here. Speaking for all the nearsighted. Their persecution. At home. School. The workplace. “You must see an eye specialist.” Optometrist in white lab coat seats you in enormous jaw-binged chair. Admonishes to “make yourself comfortable” sardonically. Dim lights in room. Brandishes flashlight.
Enough! I am opposed to graphic description. Obvious reasons. The tyranny of the camera. The knowledge of Tiresias. That’s one reason why the contacts had to go. The fallacy of Perfect Vision.
Other reasons more banal. Like pain, ineptitude, my aversion to mirrors. Perhaps these all can be reduced to a single grievance. The so-called “Laws of Optics.” Irrevocable and unfair. Anthropomorphic too, at least what I understand of them. Why should anyone claim to know something just because they’ve seen it happen? Alright, so the moon passes before the sun and there is darkness. What does it mean?
Of course, there is media coverage. Newswire services and television networks. Barbara Walters interviewing famous astronomer. Astronomer shows Walters his bathroom, decorously appointed with sign-of-the-Zodiac fixtures. Again the lights are dimmed, and Walters blinks in astonishment as bathroom’s dome-shaped ceiling takes on the aspect of heavens. Astronomer explains that bathroom doubles as a private planetarium. Proceeds to demonstrate “what happens during an eclipse.”
The explanation is better than the real thing. It’s better packaged. It has a more attractive logo. There are distractions, which add a kind of subliminal tension. And time left for an editorial comment. Something about the futility of man “before the endless wonders of the universe.” Then a panty-hose commercial.
In principle, however, the phenomenon is no more complicated than closing the closet door. From the viewpoint of optics, anyhow. Which sort of makes you wonder about those laws of optics. Why can’t they explain Barbara Walters?
There is so little we really know about Barbara Walters. Why has the scientific community ignored her for so long? Is she also myopic? What is her cranial size? Does she have any gross deformities? These are the real questions people want answered. Not about the moons of Saturn.