Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Ode To the Eye

The eye is a phenomenal organ. "Organ" doesn't even feel like a good enough word to describe all that the eye does. The stomach is an organ, churning our food and sending it on to the next part of the assembly line. But the eye does so much more than a single, optimized function.

The eye protects itself in ways the other organs of the body never do. Sure, the stomach has part of a rib cage and abdominal muscles and skin keeping it from the nefarious outside world, but these hardly seem the work of the stomach, itself. The eyelids, however, are part of the eye -- its gatekeepers, if you will. The eyelids close on an instinct if any sand or dust or bright light attempts to damage the tender eye behind them. The open wider to allow more images and light in, and shrink to slits when the light is too much for the eye to handle. The eyelashes are there to help with anything the eyelids can't react to quickly enough. Primarily, though, they are there to filter out the particles in the air, so the eyelids can stay open longer to let the eye do more of its thing.

Why all the protection for these amazing machines that make up such a tiny fraction of the mass of the human body? The eyes are important for many reasons, and this is seen in the ways our poets write about them. They are "windows to the soul." The eyes are where you see death overcome a person -- almost as if they are the defining part of life. They indicate if someone is telling the truth or embellishing, such as noting that a person who looks up and to the left while speaking is lying. The eyes can show a range of emotions from surprise to shame to fury to love, and a whole lot more. A simple change in the eyebrow shape can indicate someone in deep thought who would be best undisturbed or the thoughtful look of someone who is shocked at learning something new. Clearly, a major amount of communication occurs through these complex pieces of our face.

Speaking of the face, there are lots of beaty products for the eyes. There is eyeliner, mascara, eye shadow, and eyebrow pencils, but there are also eyelash curlers, and our eyebrows must be tweezed to keep them in shape. Uncared for, the eyes can make a person look old or dumb or indicate a social outcast.

As a powerful part of a person's exchange with the world around it, it's tough to think about not having eyes. More than the eye itself, though, my fears revolve around the loss of vision. With one eye already gone and the other declining, it's a real possibility. All I can do is continue to look for good opthamologists and hope the technology beats me to blindness. In the meantime, I'll enjoy my eyes.

4 comments:

Monica said...

Your post about eyes reminds me of A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle, in which the main characters travel through various dimensions, and in one end up on a planet being cared for my hideous creatures that don't have eyes. The protagonist(s) are freaked out at first, but learn to ignore what their eyes see and to depend on their other senses more. It's interesting.

Heather said...

I'd forgotten about that part. I will have to go reread that book...

Stephanie said...

Is your eye just a random think to write about today? I'm having some eye issues myself, hopefully if I ignore it long enough, it will go away...the issue that is! Pump up the carrots, save your sight! :P If only that would work!

Heather said...

Just a random ode -- no particular eye trouble lately, not to worry.