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See Anything You Like? The Eyes Have It


Column by Jim Bishop

“… to see Thee more clearly,
day by day by day by day …”
– from the musical, “Godspell”

It’s one thing to have a clear vision of what we want to accomplish today, tomorrow and beyond. It’s another to have 20/20 vision – or even better.

But these concerns are incredibly intertwined.

Having good eyesight is an incredible gift, as is being certain where I’m heading next, especially as I grow older.

That awareness literally hit home as I smacked into the doorway while groping in total darkness recently when our electricity went off in the middle of the night. I staggered down the hallway and felt my way into the laundry room in search of a flashlight in order to locate some candles.

What would it belike to operate in near or total darkness all the time? Many blind persons face and compensate for this loss in extraordinary ways.

That question can have more than one answer, I realize. It makes me all the more grateful to be able to see clearly and, usually, respond promptly and, hopefully, appropriately.

I was in junior high school when I slowly realized my difficulty in reading the blackboard from a distance. Usually I sat near the front in my various classes, either because my last name began with “B” or because certain teachers wanted to make sure I wasn’t drawing my Hamey Humbug comics instead of paying attention to the lesson at hand.

My parents arranged an eye exam for me, which conferred our suspicions – I needed corrective lenses. Gloom, despair, agony unfurled …

I hated wearing glasses, especially these geeky-looking, heavy, thick-framed spectacles with plastic lenses. Throughout high school, I only wore them when I absolutely had to. I especially dreaded putting them on in front of my buddies after I had my driver’s license – and especially when a fair young damsel was seated next to me. Why didn’t our 1960 Chevy Impala come with a prescription windshield?

But by the time I was in college, I resigned myself to wearing them all the time. I’m too impatient to fool with contact lenses and was most grateful when glasses became more lightweight and easier on the eyes, in more ways than one.

I also knew I was getting older when my prescription changed to bifocals. So many areas of life focus on eyesight and the ability to see. In reflecting on this theme, it became several words and phrases related to seeing and eyesight quickly came to the fore:

– “Trespassers will be shot on sight.” What if the unintended intruder happens to be a loved one who the nearsighted, shotgun-wielder mistakes for someone else?

– “Love is blind … but the neighbors ain’t,” the saying goes. We can experience and give this most basic of emotions without seeing the object of our affection.

– “Seeing is believing” … is it, really? Two people observing the same incident, like a traffic accident, may give completely different accounts, or, I may not believe my eyes in observing two guys playing air hockey in a noisy boardwalk arcade while both talked on their cellular phones – a true story from the summer of 2007.

The ophthalmologist I’ve been seeing – there’s another example! – for years is Dr. Ronald E. Capstack. He’s practiced for 27 years and with Rockingham Eye Physicians in Harrisonburg since 1984. He notes that sight is one of our most important senses, with some 40 percent of our body’s nerve fibers involved in transmitting images to the brain. Therefore, losing one’s eyesight “can be catastrophic.”

Dr. Capstack believes that many eye problems “are preventable,” citing the importance of having regular eye exams. Unfortunately, some visual problems are degenerative and lead to loss of eyesight.

Most importantly, the good doctor says, “The eye is the sensory organ that allows us to appreciate God’s beauty around us.”

I see eye-to-eye with the good doctor on this observation.

“I think it’s incredible how the eye and the brain work together,” says Juanita Zban, a certified medical assistant to Dr. Capstack for 15 years. “It’s especially amazing how the brain flips the images received from the eye and then reinverts them in split seconds.”

She notes that the eye can see a normal structure and the brain will cut it off, a problem called “lazy eye” that often occurs in small children who aren’t even aware they have it. The problem can be surgically corrected.

“I can’t imagine sight and what all the human eye beholds and deny a divine force behind this amazing physical creation,” Juanita adds.

At the end of the exam I’m asked to return in several weeks for several additional tests, as my eye pressure is above normal. Glaucoma runs in my family, so I want to do whatever necessary to address this or any other potential vision problem.

Our eyes are amazing organs that play beautiful concertos for us 24 hours a day – if we take care of them, keep watch and give thanks regularly for this most remarkable of our senses.


Jim Bishop calls them as he sees them as public information officer at Eastern Mennonite University. He can be contacted at [email protected].



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