Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Sight Sense

Many people experience a well known age-related deficiency in our sight mechanism. The modern remedy for this sight deficit is within easy medical reach. We speak of the common problem known as cataracts, a minor malady providing fodder for humor relating to our golden years. Modern medicine has made cataract surgery a less invasive microsurgery affair these days. This ophthalmologic procedure introduces us to a more in-depth discussion of one of the most wonderful organs of the human body along with spiritual lessons our sense of sight provides.

Dirt-streaked house windows, foggy automobile windshields, or condensation-covered eyeglasses on a cold winter day, all illustrate the medical malady of cataracts. The eye’s focusing mechanism centers on the lens, located behind the pupil. This opening becomes larger or smaller to permit entry of different amounts of light. Contraction and expansion of the opening is accomplished by muscles in our iris. The flexible lens, in our youthful years, is also able to change its shape due to involuntary muscles. By so doing, light images from different distances are able to focus precisely on light-sensitive cells in the retina, similar to focusing slide images on the screen during our power point presentations.

Cataracts occur when proteins in the lens undergo changes and become cloudy, usually with advancing age. The cloudy lens is removed. A new artificial lens is surgically implanted to transmit the light rays and focus the image clearly on the retina once again. Some advanced multi-focal lenses enable patients to focus on images at different distances. Our youthful lens formerly accomplished the task by changing its shape with muscular contractions and relaxations.

The physical sequence of proper light transmission within our eyes is perhaps the simplest process to understand relative to our vision. We have mentioned only a few parts of the eye’s anatomy, including the lens. Treatment of cataracts is a relatively simple procedure when performed by the trained hand of an experienced surgeon. We must not compare the simplicity of cataract remediation with the divine genius manifest by our Creator when he designed an organ of vision as marvelous as the human eye. The cascade of processes enabling vision after the light image focuses sharply on the retina demands a different and enhanced understanding of chemical, electrical, and psychological processes of majestic complexity. This does not, however, minimize the simple beauty of the focusing and transmission capability of the eye’s lens.

Charles Darwin uttered a famous statement questioning whether the process of evolution could ever produce a functioning structure such as the eye. Darwin stated, “To suppose that the eye with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree.” This Darwin quotation has been repeated many times as an indicator, from Darwin’s own mouth, of the absurdity of evolution. But in the same passage he goes further to propose that such a scenario is not unrealistic after all, if we could affirm numerous imaginative “What ifs?”

One of my favorite KJV passages is the translation of I Cor 13:12. Near the conclusion of the love chapter the Apostle Paul states “For now we see through a glass darkly; but then face to face…” Many spiritualize this translation which more realistically speaks of looking back through a mirror at a distorted or fuzzy image. The spiritual application to blurry vision is appropriate. Sometimes our physical vision is impeded by age-related or illness-related handicaps.

Another application relates to the well-known scientific reality of aging physical systems. This universe is running down according to the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics. Briefly stated, we observe that all physical systems are slowly deteriorating from a useful, high energy level to a less useful low energy level in our present frame of time. This includes emergence of cataract phenomena from protein deterioration. Welcome to the experience of aging!