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The Myopia Club
Ever since I was a teenager, I have awakened every morning in a kindly and forgiving haze. No sharp edges, no shocking self images in the mirror, just a cozy, comfortable view of my surroundings. When necessary I would put on my glasses and take in lessons written on the chalkboard, distant landscapes and passing traffic. I don't remember ever being great at baseball or football, but I was excellent at long distance running and fair at soccer and basketball--both involving large balls and lots of running around. Mostly I remember good friends, helpful teachers and marvelous play and adventures.
People have been playing with vision aids for centuries. In 1352 they became fashionable when Italian
artist Tommasa da Modena painted a series of frescoes featuring monks wearing
glasses and Crivelli painted Hugh
of St. Cher, featuring its subject in rather primitive, bulky spectacles. Benjamin Franklin invented bifocals and the "John Lennon" look. I had a rather nerd-like horn rimmed version complete with a wire in the middle where it had cracked. They weren't all that important at the time because I was still blissfully unaware of what was out there.
When I discovered contacts, my myopic world flashed into sharp focus. One of the first benefits was increased mobility not only in the physical realm, but the psychological one as well. I saw a lot of things I had missed in my myopic world and started to hold myself and others to a higher, more disciplined standard. Others began to return the favor and my life of comfortable haze disappeared as quickly as I could bounce up and put on my contacts. When a waiter in a sushi restaurant stepped on one of my hard contacts recently, I decided to wear traditional glasses until my eyes adjusted and I could be fitted with contacts again.
I didn't like it. With glasses my world changed. Restricted vision slows my reaction times down a bit, because I am unsure, disoriented or just plain uneasy. Now you would think that this would hamper my social life, but instead, something completely unexpected and pleasant happened.
I got nicer.
It is difficult to hold others, or yourself for that matter, to a high standard when your world is in less than sharp focus. Thinking that perhaps I had discovered something revolutionary, I decided to do a little research and see if others had stumbled upon this phenomenon as well. Little did I know that I would uncover a far-reaching and (the non-myopic among us might say) nefarious conspiracy that reaches up to the highest levels of our society. It begins like this:
The Myopia Club
Shortly after the civil war there were four Princes: Gordon, Charles, Morton and Frederick--not royalty, Prince was their last name. All four of the brothers were plagued with less than normal eyesight and found it difficult to compete with other athletes more fortunate than them. While others with this handicap might have taken up chess or debate, the four Princes started what some historians believe to be America's oldest country club, The Myopia Club, founded in the 1870s on the shores of Wedge Pond in Winchester, Massachusetts. Sure, it was mostly a boys club for athletic dweebs who just wanted to have fun and have the kind of trappings that the jocks had, but after the members' interests turned from boating and tennis to riding and foxhunting, the club moved a few times closer to Boston where the famous railroad magnate and philanthropist, John Murray Forbes and others founded the Myopia Hunt Club in Hamilton, Massachusetts in 1882.
This time, bespectacled dweebs were not content to ram into things in boats and chase after fuzzy tennis balls (fuzzy in more ways than one,) they wanted to be able to ride after and hunt a creature they couldn't see. Being fabulously rich, they spared themselves the embrassment and liability of firing guns wildly at a moving and mostly invisible target and employed expert bloodhounds to do the actual hunting for them. They didn't even have to see where they were going because the dogs made such a racket they merely followed the noise, holding on for dear life and congratulating themselves that while any old 20-20 athlete could probably do what they were doing, they wouldn't have nearly as much fun.
Now I don't want you to get the wrong idea about these
brave stanchions of society. Being loyal members of the fraternal
brotherhood of myopia, they were a kinder, gentler breed of sportsmen.
Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote of Forbes: "Never was such force, good meaning, good sense, good action, combined with such domestic lovely behavior, such modesty and persistent preference for others. Wherever he moved he was the benefactor... How little this man suspects, with his sympathy for men and his respect for lettered and scientific people, that he is not likely, in any company, to meet a man superior to himself," and "I think this is a good country that can bear such a creature as he."
There--good meaning, good sense, good action...such modesty and persistent preference for others. Myopic brothers and sisters, grab a hanky and stand with me and applaud from the heart the true spirit of those who wear their hyperphacosorbitomyopicosis humbly and with pride!
Bolstered by this new information, that the grand tradition of country club gentry was founded by my fellow Myopia Club members, I got in my car and went boldly out in search of others like myself. There must be more of them than I thought because everywhere I went I found them lifting their hands in salute. They, brave souls, tried to yell encouragement to me as well and many swerved to the side as they did so.
I learned that fully a third of us develop myopia--most during the early school years, coinciding interestingly enough with an increase in sugar intake and a drop in dopamine levels. It is no surprise that the shock of boring, repititious information being force-fed into adolescents would cause the pleasure centers to shut down and require large amounts of Baby Ruths, Hershey Bars, Butterfingers and Twinkies to make up for the loss. Benevolent Nature, saddened by the state of affairs, steps in and ushers her favorites into pre-pubescent Shangri-La, the lost gardens of Myopia.
Jaded and non-believing medical practitioners say that
members of the Myopia Club have swelled lenses or corneas resulting in
elongated eyeballs to which one of the gifted MC'ers replied: "A man's
sight should exceed it's grasp or what's a heaven for?" The truth is
that those of Myopia are among those who see the really important
things with perfect clarity.They are the first to recognize that
respect for the limitations in all of us is what makes us truly human.
I would write more of Teddy Roosevelt, John Lennon, Benjamin Franklin
and other stellar members of the Myopia Club, but I realized I picked
up somebody else's laptop at Starbucks again I must return it right
away because the boat is blocking a fire hydrant and the fox is hungry again.