Paul's Internet Landfill/ demons/ Blind and Stingy

Blind and Stingy

1. Blind

First of all, I am not blind. I do not see as well as is expected of me without the aid of glasses, however. I am expected to possess 20/20 vision, which means that I should be able to distinguish and read letters 20 feet away. These letters "are of a size that can be seen by the normal eye at a distance of 6 meters (20 feet) from the chart." That's the definition offered on page 845 of The Lippincott Manual of Nursing Practice, 2nd Edition. Because my eyes do not function as expected and I cannot distinguish details from objects that are far away, I am called myopic.

My vision is very weak compared to most people, I think. The prescription for the lenses to correct my vision is very strong. I usually wear my glasses whenever I am awake. During the past week, however, I have not been wearing my glasses even when I am awake. This is because my glasses had an... accident last week, and I cannot wear them anymore. While I have been waiting to get new glasses, I have had to deal with my myopia while trying to function normally.

Vision is one of our senses. Electromagnetic radiation hits the back of our eyes, which triggers nerves to fire in patterns we then interpret. We seem to value vision as one of our most important senses, perhaps because vision is one of our most well-developed senses. We use vision to locate objects, identify people and communicate. We also value our hearing, which is the process of identifying and interpreting vibrations. There is nothing special about sight and hearing other than the fact that they are fairly well developed in human beings. There are other ways to measure the universe. Dogs have highly developed senses of hearing and smell, and relatively poor vision, so one would expect that they identify and define their world primarily through smells and noise. Dolphins use sonic waves as a primary sense. Some organisms respond primarily to salinity or heat. Some animals even see different ranges of electromagnetic waves than we do -- just look at rattlesnakes, who possess organs that can detect infrared radiation. The senses that we use to interact with our world play a large role in defining our reality, I think. Since humans define their reality primarily through vision and sound, am I at a severe disadvantage because I cannot see as well as I am expected to?

In some ways, I think that I am at a disadvantage. While I can make out larger objects in the distance fairly well -- I can tell whether a traffic light is green or red without having to shimmy up the traffic-light pole to take a close look, for example -- it is very hard for me to distinguish details that are even a moderate distance away. This disability is most apparent to me when I am trying to read. I must be very close to my reading material, or I will not be able to see. For example, I cannot read a computer screen if my face is more than 30 centimetres away. Since I have to stare at many computer screens as part of my job, this can be a real problem.

One of the most annoying aspects of my myopia is that I am often unable to recognise the people I know unless they speak to me. I am already awful at recognising names and faces, unless I see a person's name written down and take the time to associate that name with the human in question. My inability to see people clearly just makes this worse, especially since I end up associating a person with his or her face. Since I can no longer do this, I have to resort to other, more apparent means of identification. I am learning to use a person's gait to identify him or her. Some people tend to slouch when they walk. People who work out tend to walk with their arms held away from their bodies, which makes them appear to strut. When people wear shoes with hard soles, I can sometimes associate the sound of their footsteps with their arrival. I never noticed these things as much before. My temporary disability has had some positive effects in addition to being a hindrance.

There have been some unexpected effects of my myopia. I tend to make more spelling errors and typos when at a keyboard. This is probably because I am not a touch typist; I mostly use my index fingers to type, and I tend to look at my fingers as they look for appropriate keys to press. However, this means that I don't look at the monitor as often as I should, and I don't catch my mistakes as easily. Another side effect of not being able to see is that people don't seem to hear me as well. People are always asking me to repeat sentences I thought I had enunciated fairly well. I don't have any good theories as to why this is the case, but perhaps I really do garble my words when speaking to fuzzy blobs. Another possibility might be that since I can't see a person's reactions to my words through their body language, I do not check myself and re-explain things when people use their expressions to demonstrate confusion. A third effect of my glasses-lessness is that I seem tired all the time. One possible explanation for this is that squinting all of the time to see tires me out. Another reason might be that I have learned to associate fuzzy vision with sleep -- as I mentioned before, the only time I don't wear my glasses is when I am sleeping, so the only times I can't see clearly are just before bed and just after I wake up. I am tired at both of these times, so maybe my body has become used to being tired when I cannot see.

I sometimes wonder where I would be if glasses had never been made available to me. Given my terminal lack of judgement, there is a good chance I would be dead, having stupidly blundered into a situation in which I couldn't see danger coming. This would not necessarily be the case, of course -- there are many blind people in this world who lead fairly safe lives, and a few of them are bound to be as stupid as I -- but I can't help but think that maybe I owe my life to my glasses. If our society was not so vision oriented, or if it didn't demand the standard of vision that it does from its members, then perhaps I would have been better off in a world without glasses.

Mind you, nearsightedness is not all bad. I seem to be able to distinguish fine details better than many people. My vision remains focussed to objects held up close to my eyes. For example, I can make out the "Canada" lettering hidden in the wavy background lines of our currency. If glasses had never been made available to me, there is a chance I could have entered a profession where attention to fine detail is important. Perhaps I could have become a watchmaker, or I could have appraised jewellery for a living. I fear, however, that my acute near vision is going to get worse as I grow older, if it hasn't gotten worse already. Then I won't be able to see well at any distance. Seeing as how I appreciate the written word so much, I can only imagine how distressing it is going to be when I have to find my reading glasses (or peer though my bifocals) just to read the paper. Ugh.

My partial blindness should come to an end sometime next week. I'm not going to say that this was a horrible experience, because it proved to be educational. Still, for whatever it is worth, being vision impaired has hampered my productivity considerably. It will be nice to hide behind my plastic eye shielding once again.

2. Stingy

Security has its price. Plastic shielding isn't cheap, especially when that shielding is nestled in a pair of glasses. I find shopping to be a real pain. I don't like visiting stores or the cultural cesspools of malls. I don't like choosing items to buy within my budget. And I really really don't like paying obscene amounts of money that I have been trying to save up, even if those obscene amounts of money are spent so that I can see. Call me a miser. Everybody else does.

Some time ago, I made the decision not to earn a lot of money in my life. I have serious problems with economics in general and money in particular, and I did not want to become enslaved by careless materialism. So I decided that I would try not to earn too much money. That way, I would be less likely to buy things I didn't need. For the most part, I am happy with the decision I have made. Many of the activities I enjoy don't cost a lot anyways, so when I decided to give up an extravagant lifestyle, I was not sacrificing that much. However, this decision has its drawbacks. First of all, I don't always have the money I want to buy extravagant things. Secondly, I now watch my finances rather closely, which might very well accelerate the onset of my materialistic disease. You see, I pay so much attention to the pricetags of goods that I often base important judgements on how much an item costs. That is not healthy.

Why not? For one thing, the prices we assign to goods are more or less arbitrary. It is true that better quality goods are generally more expensive, but this is not always the case. More importantly, however, in making judgements based solely on their monetary costs, I am playing right into the hands of the economists, who expect me to be as greedy as possible. I am a lost cause, it seems. And sometimes this knowledge makes me sick.

Take, as an example, my decision not to bike to work each morning. I had lots and lots of things to consider when reaching this decision. Ultimately, I decided that I couldn't afford to bike, even though in the long term I could have very well have ended up saving money. To be sure, there were other strong factors in my decision -- such as the enormous responsibility a bike takes to maintain -- but I think that I ended up making my choice for the wrong reasons. Would a bike have cost a lot of money? You bet it would. Would I have been able to afford one? Technically, although finances would have become very tight as a result. Even if I ended up making the right decision (which is something I doubt) then I made that decision for all the wrong reasons. That is sickening.

Now look at my quandary regarding my new glasses. As I mentioned above, glasses are relatively important if I want to achieve the level of sight that is expected of me. So did I go out and get the best glasses I could? No. I saw many many frames at the glasses store. Even though I couldn't tell a so-called "cheap" frame from one that was more expensive, in the end I chose the cheapest frames I could, because I didn't want to spend too much money. Mind you, I don't think that I chose poor-quality frames, and I did fork over the extra money to have a pair of my new glasses turned into sunglasses, which is an extra that I don't technically need but will prove useful, but I still made my decision based upon the price of the frames.

Then again, perhaps that was the right decision to make. The only difference the more expensive frames that I liked and the frames I chose were that the expensive frames seemed more attractive to my diseased mind. If I had chosen the more expensive frames, wouldn't I have been giving into my vanity? Who cares what my frames look like, so long as they work? Does it really make a difference if I choose the cheaper route?

Maybe it makes no difference when I am discussing glasses. But buying things because they don't cost a lot makes a lot of difference when choosing other products. Many of the products available for purchase today were created overseas, in poorer countries such as Bangladesh and China. There is good reason to suspect that these items were manufactured in dangerous sweatshops. People could have died so that I can buy cheap headphones and shirts. Certainly, people suffer in inhumane conditions so that I might live a comfortable lifestyle. Yet, I almost invariably choose the cheaper good over a more expensive one possibly manufactured in more humane conditions. Considering that I made my decision to live cheaply because I don't like the injustice of the economic system, my decisions are utterly hypocritical, not to mention repulsive.

This is what is known as a "no-win" situation. I don't want to support the evils of economics by purchasing a lot and working hard for extravagant pay I don't deserve. But I don't want to condone the mistreatment of my fellow beings by purchasing cheap goods. What can be done?

I can do without. I can continue to reduce the number of goods that I bring into my life, because each good has a cost not necessarily measured in its price tag. And, I suppose, I can be crushed under the guilt of living my miserly ways, because no matter what decisions I end up making, they will surely be the wrong ones. It's enough to make a guy wish for a Y2K collapse.