Tuesday, March 12, 2013

You're Never Too Old To Learn

I learned a term not too long ago that I probably should have already known. Long story short, I had surgery when I was 16 to straighten my eyes. I didn't know that the medical term for this is strabismus. I only learned the term when a local magazine that writes about Washington, DC-area artists interviewed me for a profile piece in 2011. In the course of our interview my cross-eyedness was mentioned. The talented writer was Donna Cedar-Southworth and the magazine is elan.

A friend of mine contacted me after reading my profile in elan and mentioned that in doing research for a book she was writing she discovered that Ulysses Grant's wife Julia also was a strabismic and she was an artist. She further went on to explain that apparently quite a bit of research has been done to determine if having the condition has a connection with following a path in the arts. My friend sent me an article that was extremely interesting. It appeared in The New York Times in June 2011. A link to that article follows - A Defect That May Lead to a Masterpiece by Sandra Blakeslee

I never really knew what stereo blindness was but I did know that when I put on 3D glasses I could never see what all the fuss was about. I could not see in 3D, even though my eyes had been straightened when I was 16. I still had stereo blindness. I essentially see with one eye at a time - always have always will. They are "out of alignment" as the article states and work independently. I am not aware when my brain switches from using my predominant eye - my right eye - to my left, but for the most part the only time I depend on my left eye is when I am driving and need that peripheral vision on my left side. Needless to say, I was fascinated with the article and with the idea that stereo blindness might have something to do with artistic talent.

It is an idea I will delve into further because I personally find it fascinating. In case anyone is wondering why I waited until I was 16 to straighten my eyes. It wasn't until I found out through a girlfriend in high school that my eyes could be straightened. She had undergone two surgeries by the time she was three years old. I never knew that it was possible because I never went to doctors. I was raised a Christian Scientist and at the ripe old age of 16 the only time I had gone to a doctor was to have stitches in the emergency room. I, of course, ran home to my father after learning of the procedure, pleading to let me have the surgery. I had suffered enough stares and name-calling for one lifetime. My mother was a devout Christian Scientist, but my father was not and I lived with my father at that time. While a little apprehensive about surgery on my eyes, he agreed to let me meet with an opthamologist and ultimately have the surgery.

One last note, my father was cross-eyed (a word I hate using to this day for obvious reasons), but I never knew it until a friend mentioned it to me. He had his eyes straightened when he was in his 70s.