May 2002: Amy W., a reader over in London, emailed me asking about my glasses and my eyesight. This line of thinking arose from conversation with her on that subject.I am a hyperacted citizen of the future, clutching circuit board to chest, first in line for implants and augmentations, feeling quite enhanced by the world of media and hoping to integrate all of its advantages into my flesh, home and life for maximum electronic participation in the intangible urban.
But ultimately I am a rootless wandering mystic without purchasing preference, who could sleep on pine needles and eat thin gruel and be happy with conversation or staring out at trees. I'm disinclined to allow gadgets to manage my time, when time is so short, and so full without working to fill it. The best things in life are often cheap, and random, and simple.
I got glasses when I was in the first grade. At the age of six or seven, I believe I was the first in my class to have them. My lenses were some kind of transformers - they would darken in the sunlight. My peers were astonished and ran with me outside and back in, to watch my new windows on the world darken up or lighten to reveal my eyes.
I got used to glasses. I needed them to do everything in my life really, except stare at broad, indistinct colors and shapes. In fifth grade I got contact lenses, but in college contacts really began to bother my eyes, especially for long computer sessions, so I began to wear my glasses more.
By college, my lenses were thick, coke-bottles almost. I had thin stylish frames with expensively-ground thin lenses. But when I went to Honduras in 1997, I wanted glasses that could be kicked off of my face by a donkey and still hold up. I found a pair of what Larry used to call "birth control glasses" - thick, black hearty frames that I ended up wearing all the time.
Without my glasses I can't drive - taillights look like a series of red dots on a wet window. I can't read unless I am so close that I can about touch the screen or book with my extended tongue. Walking down the street I can't see expressions or faces; my mother could walk by and I would have to be within hugging range, squinting, to recognize her. One time I left my glasses and screwed up my contacts and had to make it across Tokyo on the subway with only my real eyes; I was unable to read or look at anything in the world around me. Mostly blind, smiling, staring up at the ceiling, hoping to understand when the lady called out my stop, and remembering how to walk from distances and color.
My prescription, as of 2001, is about 8.25, 8.00. I meet few people with worse eyes than me. My Mom was about as bad, but then she had laser surgery to correct that. Both my brother and my mother had their eyes successfully "flap and zapped," lasik eye surgery where the cornea is flipped open and the shape of the eye is changed to normalize vision. After a few months, they're operating pretty good without glasses, though my Mom's eyes are old and she needs reading specs anyhow.
Recently my Mom reiterated her offer to sponsor me for some eye surgery. If I am a digital citizen, ready to move forward into the future with a fully enhanced flesh bag, I should get my corneas flapped and zapped. No more glasses; swimming, loving, running, waking up and sleeping with always useful, always on eyes. Ditching prosthesis in favor of laser surgery.
But my stick in hand, wearing loose robes, hair shaggy I wonder if I have been given my particular eyes for a reason. Some people take party drugs to reduce their perceptions to the level I can readily achieve when I take off my glasses. Perhaps there is something to be savored, studied, or understood from my myopia. Or maybe there is nothing that high-minded about it, perhaps I am just mostly-blind Justin. My eyes are a part of who I am.
I hate my glasses when I'm in intimate situations; they put something between me and the person I love, and they make brushing cheeks a premeditated act requiring eyepiece removal. The best is when I am so close to a person I love and I see them without my glasses; the world beyond them is all fuzzy and nondescript but they are revealed in the pure glowing clarity of my real eyes. It's rare I use my real eyes to look at anything except my lover in the morning and then again at night. When I have my glasses off and I'm looking at someone quite close, these are often my favorite times alive.