Eccentric Vision

What is eccentric vision? It’s just another expression for what everyone calls “peripheral vision”. It’s what people like me have to learn to use effectively in order to function in a sighted world.

Eccentric vision has its obvious drawbacks.. It was never designed to see clearly or to focus. It can’t be used to read, drive, recognise faces, that sort of thing. Because I have no sight at all in one eye and only some eccentric vision in my other eye, I can’t do those things, either.

So I have to learn how to use it properly. Everybody notices things in their eccentric vision. When you’re walking along a path, for example, you don’t have to concentrate hard on every step, because your peripheral sight is watching out for sudden pedestrians, or cars, or holes. You notice these things “out of the corner of your eye”, but that is all you do – notice. You can’t focus, recognise, accurately assess. When a gunslinger notices a movement on the periphery of his vision, he swivels and shoots. He can’t use his peripheral vision to assess who or what it is; he shoots first, and hopes it’s not just a stone thrown to distract him.

This is pretty much what life is like for me, and I am often shooting at metaphorical stones. I smile inanely at shadows.

But relying on eccentric vision has its positive sides. When looking at anything, I see blocks of colour rather than tiny details. I concentrate on the big picture, and my colour sense is like a child’s – all the sky is blue and all the grass is green and all the trees are like lollipops.

Today, I was walking east, along the canal. The canal runs east-west, and there was a steady west wind. This kicks up ripples that make it look as though the canal is flowing east, when it is, of course, not moving at all. Walking alongside of it, though, my eccentric vision turned it into a beautiful thing. I happened to be walking at exactly the same speed as the ripples, and suddenly the ripples appeared to be frozen solid and the banks of the canal were flowing west.

It was a fantastic moment, when the world suddenly becomes something else, something you thought was impossible. It was a personal feeling akin to that which people must have felt when they realised that it was not the sun that was moving across the sky but the earth that was spinning under their feet.

I knew that if I looked at it, it would disappear, so I had to keep it in my eccentric vision and consciously “notice” it, without actually looking at it, for as long as possible. Because I have no central sight, to look straight at something is to cloak it in invisibility. When I look straight into someone’s face, which I have learned to do, that person becomes like the innocent suspects in police documentaries who have had their faces blurred to preserve their anonymity. This would happen to the canal if I looked at it.

The whole experience was like that moment in meditation, when you notice that your brain has gone silent, but the very act of noticing the silence involves the thought of silence. As soon as I think something like, “Oh, it’s gone quiet”, I have made a noise in my brain. I cannot “think” of silence; I can only “hear” it!




About stevehobsonauthor

I am blind, and I hate it. It stinks. But life is still sweet. I have multiple sclerosis, and that stinks too, but life is still sweet. These are my musings.
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