Eye: A Renaissance Of Vision


This is the title of Chapter 3 in the book by physician/author Gavin Francis that I introduced in our prior blog.  In describing the encounter of direct ophthalmoscopy, Dr. Francis writes: “There are few examinations more intimate: my cheek often brushes theirs and usually both of us, through politeness, end up holding our breath.”

Direct OphthalmoscopyEvery Optometry student recalls the effort to get direct ophthalmoscopy just right.  Resting one’s hand against the patient’s face to help create a small barrier between the doctor’s face and the patient, as well as to help pivot the angle of the ophthalmoscope.  And yes, even holding one’s breath as Dr. Francis describes.  He continues:

“It’s an unsettling experience, projecting an image of someone’s inner eye so neatly into your own, retina examining retina through the intermediary of the lens … The first time I looked into the curved vault of a patient’s eyeball I was reminded of those medieval diagrams that showed the heavens as an upturned bowl.”

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Dr. Francis relates that one of his mentors noted Ophthalmology tends to be thought of as a blend of mysticism and the application of drops four times a day.  He added that although the eye is happiest when shut, it has to be open to be of any use.  Gavin Francis writes with a lyric bent and eclecticism reminiscent of a fellow Scot by the name of Donovan Leitch.

I was always enchanted by the lyrics of Donovan’s Epistle to Dippy, and its psychedelic imagery.

Look on yonder misty mountain
See the young monk meditating rhododendron forest
Over dusty years, I ask you
“What’s it been like being you?”

Through all levels you’ve been changing
Getting a little bit better no doubt
The doctor bit was so far out
Looking through crystal spectacles
I can see, I had your fun

Doing us paperback reader
Made the teacher suspicious about insanity
Fingers always touching girl

Through all levels you’ve been changing
Getting a little bit better no doubt
The doctor bit was so far out
Looking through all kinds of windows
I can see, I had your fun
Looking through all kinds of windows
I can see I had your fun

Looking through crystal spectacles
I can see, I had your fun
Looking through crystal spectacles
I can see, I had your fun

Rebelling against society
Such a tiny speculating whether to be a hip or
Skip along quite merrily

Through all levels you’ve been changing
Elevator in the brain hotel
Broken down a-just as well
Looking through crystal spectacles
I can see, I had your fun.

Francis finishes this chapter with quotes from John Berger, an art critic who narrated an award-winning four part series for the BBC on Ways of Seeing.  The essay that enchants Francis comes from Berger’s book following cataract surgery, on which he collaborated with the artist Selcuk Demirel.

Cataract

“The picture to accompany the second to last page is of a couple standing side by side with their arms around each other’s shoulders, watching the night sky, while the taller figure points out a star or planet.  But both the figures’ heads have been drawn as eyeballs, as have the celestial bodies that hover over them – the sun and the stars that generate light have metamorphosed into the organs for receiving it.  Like Borges’s great spheres, they gaze down at the figures on earth, out into the depths of space, or even forward into the infinite literature we all still have to explore.”

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