Many answers to the question of Why do so many people wear glasses? have been proposed, but the underlying assumption in all of them is that myopia is a bad thing. Perhaps this was true a millennium ago, when corrective lenses were unavailable and poor eyesight kept a person from functioning properly. In the modern world, this is no longer the case. I'm not particularly happy about having to wear glasses for my daily activities (and contact lenses are even worse), but I must admit I'm glad to be nearsighted.

The visual stimuli the average human is exposed to have increased dramatically in modern times, both in magnitude and intensity. The sensory experience of something as commonplace as driving in rush hour traffic is utterly unlike anything a medieval person who wasn't a professional warrior might experience in a typical day. Urban living is a neverending barrage of sensation with a very low signal to noise ratio. The suburbs are even worse, adopting the sensory bombardment of cities without the mitigating effect of actual culture. It seems impossible to avoid it without the extreme measures of isolating oneself in a rural cabin without electicity or running water (and writing awkward manifestos about one's disillusionment). I know I sure as hell wouldn't want to live without air conditioning and integrated circuits. The technology itself is wonderful, but no one yet has found the cure for the epidemic of Spam that seems to be riding on its coattails.

So where does myopia fit in with all of this? Simple. When tension becomes overbearing, I can just take my glasses off and get some some semblance of tranquility. Perfect vision is a good thing, perhaps, for the few whose hyperdriven personalities and physiologies are well-adapted to this world, but I know mine aren't, and I'm glad to have the virtual escape button that myopia provides. It works best when outdoors, ideally on a sunny day (of which there are plenty in Florida). I remove my "corrective" lenses and another world emerges. Colors are as vivid as ever, but the detail of objects has vanished. My surroundings become peaceful, and under the right conditions, beautiful. The broadband input of my eyes has slowed to a 56K, and I can actually appreciate what I see, devoid of the frenetic bustle that pervades my 20/20 reality.

Another benefit of being nearsighted: without corrective lenses, lights look very pretty. You know those pictures of Christmas trees that are purposefully blurred to starburst all the little bright points of light? That's the effect that myopia has.

I never realized how much I appreciated this until my roommate hung Christmas lights in our room. We're both nearsighted, and we realized that even though fussing with contact lenses and glasses and optometrist appointments is incredibly inconvenient, there are actually benefits to having poor vision.

There are two more advantages of being nearsighted that I can think of.

First of all, your vision at very close ranges is superior to that of a nonmyopic person, if you don't wear your glasses or contacts This is because your eyes have a stronger positive lens working-which is exactly what the glasses or contacts counteract. The superior short-range vision is useful for reading extremely fine print, like that found on banknotes, for instance, or for extremely fine work, like soldering.

Secondly, without your glasses, your eyes are focused at infinity pretty much all the time. This is in fact relaxing for your eye muscles, which can be a very pleasant experience. Before my myopia got really bad, I enjoyed reading without my glasses. Like that, I could read the book fine, and still, with my eyes relaxed, I would not have the problems associated with straining the eyes to look at objects that are close, like headaches and tiredness.

One of the best things about being very nearsignted and wearing glasses is, as others have noted, the power to slip away from reality a little bit. The best part about it is that it isn't considered rude: If I have to converse with someone that I (unintentionally) find repulsive, I can easily remove my spectacles, perhaps under the guise of cleaning them, and spare myself some visual agony.

Sometimes, wearing spectacles helps me remain objective about the world: No matter where I look, I see towards the edges a dark edge, and beyond that, the combined bokeh of peripherial vision and myopia.

Additionally, spectacles sometimes serve (when lucky) to protect one's eyes from unexpected contamination and injury.

I was thinking about myopia while working out at the stair master on the gym. The way they are positioned, it forces you to have to look at people. Not bad if there's a cute female in spandex, but I don't really want the other 80%. I find that if I don't wear my glasses (20/1000) then I suddenly get a lot less anxious as everyone kind of blurs. If they are looking at me, I don't notice.

As others have commented, our society constantly tries to focus our vision on a very narrow range. The computer screen. The TV screen. The windshield. The billboard. The boss. The President. We are directed to "look this way" and "pay attention". But obviously in smaller towns and primitive societies, we spent most of our time inattentive. Taking it all in. And what do we do to "relax"? Take a drink (or whatever), and let our mind release and float.

I wonder if it was possible to survive with nearsightedness in a primitive or even rural society? Maybe it's possible to focus without 20/20 vision. Hunting. I wonder if it's better to defocus so you can see where the buffalo is on the plain. And so on...

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