Sweetness & Light

The Vision Bended

eye IIThere are fancy neurological terms to describe what happened, but from my perspective the event was fairly straightforward. My eyeballs, which had co-operated in perfect Simon and Garfunkel harmony for more than fifty years, abruptly decided to pursue solo careers.

They were no longer seeing eye-to-eye, you might say. They literally took a different view of things. So, just like Simon and Garfunkel in 1970, they went their separate ways.

It was all very sudden. I went to sleep one night with vision easily corrected by relatively weak lenses and woke to a world seemingly designed by M.C. Escher. Everything ran at strange angles. Reading was possible, at a very close distance, but only by clenching shut one of those warring orbs. Any eyesight challenge more advanced defeated me.

Tim Blair appears in every edition of Quadrant.
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Exterior-wise, this change wasn’t noticeable. It wasn’t as though I’d suddenly turned into some wall-eyed Jean-Paul Sartre or a swivel-visioned chameleon. But the effect of even a minor disagreement between eyes is somewhat dramatic for their owner, let me tell you.

Imagine you’re looking at something that in visual terms is constructed mainly of straight horizontal lines—a staircase, for example. For me, all of those straight lines were still there, but each one was accompanied by another straight line shooting off at forty-five degrees and equally visually convincing. It was difficult to tell which individual stair was real and which was its illusory shadow.

My house has stairs. Many stairs. That day featured more falls than the entire World Cup, with the main difference being none of mine were deliberate.

The multi-angle effect was massively more pronounced at night in traffic and under Sydney’s street illumination. Driving anywhere was obviously out of the question. After somehow filing editorials for the Daily Telegraph, I caught a cab to that evening’s scheduled Sky News appearance. And I managed to bewilder the taxi driver so much with my directional guesses that we became lost, on a trip I’d taken without problem hundreds of times previously.

It beats me how I made it through the broadcast, because I couldn’t tell which camera to look at or even if the object in front of me was a camera and not, say, a hostile Dalek. Afterwards, host Chris Kenny very kindly drove me home, going quite some distance out of his way. I’d have become a Sky News resident otherwise.

An optometrist the next morning confirmed my eyes were no longer in sync, and found a quick way to set matters straight. She attached an additional thin plastic lens, known as a Fresnel prism, inside the right side of my glasses. Order was restored. A US medical website explains how such lenses work:

Fresnel prisms are used by patients who are experiencing a visual disturbance or abnormality. They effectively trick the brain into thinking that the eyes are working together, when, in fact, they are not. The glasses are designed to bend light, shifting the image into proper alignment for both eyes. The adjustment then allows the brain to process visual information correctly.

There I was, with a freshly-tricked brain and no visual complications at all. My optometrist then told me Hillary Clinton has similar vision problems, and that the installation of her own prism was so clumsy that it scandalised the global corrective-sight community.

So I was now seeing the world as did Hillary, modern America’s worst presidential candidate. Great. Just great.

We chatted for a further few minutes, but the optometrist’s tone shifted after she asked how long I’d put up with my feuding eyes. “It happened yesterday,” I answered brightly. “Just like that.” Hillary-vision aside, I was in a relieved state of mind, what with my restored optical clarity. I wasn’t relieved for long. The sudden occurrence of such a condition, she gently but with some gravity informed me, may be due to a brain tumour.

I went from the optometrist’s office to a quickly-arranged brain scan. There wasn’t much time to begin feeling sorry for myself, but in any case self-pity would have instantly evaporated the moment I stepped inside the scan centre, where the waiting room was filled with very young children awaiting their own examinations. They were in the company of plainly terrified parents.

That’ll knock the levity out of even the most flippant idiot (that is, me). Meeting children who haven’t yet reached double-figure ages before confronting the possibility of death is infinitely worse than contemplating your own middle-aged mortality. Every adult in that room would have immediately accepted a negative prognosis if it spared one of those kids.

The scanning process itself is relatively non-invasive and painless. You lie down on a platform that is slowly drawn into a large technology-filled dome, whereupon the scanning takes place. Then you’re wheeled back out, injected with a kind of low-buzz radioactive dye, and the process is repeated.

Except in my case, because in between scans the machine up and quit. Now I faced a waiting room full of distressed parents who in their exhausted and worried state clearly blamed me for breaking the device and delaying their children’s diagnoses. We all had to return the following day for scan completion.

A week or so later the clinic called and a doctor told me I didn’t have a brain tumour. To this day I wonder how many of those parents received the same welcome news. All of them, I hope. Rather fewer than that, I know.

This all happened a couple of years ago. Since then I’ve obtained a new pair of glasses, with the transformative Fresnel prism invisibly embedded. If you have normal eyesight and wish to provoke an instant headache, just try my non-symmetrical specs for a couple of minutes.

A few months ago, however, something very curious took place. I’d picked up a book and was reading it—without, I eventually realised, wearing those miracle spectacles. Not a single word was blurred or angled, at least at normal reading distance.

It was like Simon and Garfunkel’s 1981 reunion concert in New York’s Central Park, minus the songs and the 500,000 crowd. They’re still not completely reconciled, but my eyes are back on speaking terms.


SOCIALISM is basically envy converted to economics. And because envy is such a corrosive, malignant force, those economics tend to be more than slightly inaccurate.

Socialism’s jealous core is also why it, and leftist movements in general, tend to attract bitter, envious people. These types can be tolerable, or even enjoyable, company in the short term. We’ve all been to parties and found entertainment in conversations with leftists. “Why, they almost seemed like normal humans,” you might reflect afterwards, wondering if you’ve been wrong all these years.

You weren’t wrong. Over the middle to long term, your average leftists—not all of them, mind, but most—will invariably reveal their true natures. Most often they’ll reveal those natures to other leftists, because we’re dealing here with people who are intrinsically collectivists.

Thus, leftists end up warring with their fellow leftists. And then, as parodied in Monty Python’s “splitters” sketch, those disputative factions commence breaking up into ever-smaller factions, always at war, all the time.

We see this process in the Greens. Frequent failure candidate Alex Bhathal recently announced she wouldn’t run again for the seat of Batman, now renamed Cooper, at the next federal election. This follows a classic internal Greens war during an earlier by-election for the seat, which was held by Labor.

“I never expected that we’d face internal sabotage in the middle of our most winnable campaign, with some people choosing to anonymously brief the Murdoch media and actively aid our opponents,” Bhathal said during her announcement, blaming Greens-generated “threats, slurs and aggressions” for the by-election defeat and ongoing pressure on her family.

Now, infighting and loathing are by no means traits held in isolation by the Left. They may have mastered them, but such negative qualities are found throughout human history.

At a lunch during P.J. O’Rourke’s last Australian visit, in 2016, the great American conservative humorist amused nine or ten of us with tales from his time in the late 1970s and early 1980s as editor in chief of National Lampoon, perhaps the least politically-correct magazine ever published.

The magazine was consistently hilarious, but working there was hell, O’Rourke explained. There were rivalries between star writers that ran so deep and began so long ago that nobody was even sure why those rivalries existed in the first place. It was one of the few workplaces on earth, he said, where the actual work was more fun than the usual office socialising, flirting and time-wasting.

In terms of pure leftist self-destruction, the #MeToo movement and associated war on “privilege” have opened new battlefronts—all of them damaging to leftism. It’s as though these people cannot help not getting along.

John O’Sullivan may need to add an addendum to his famous First Law, which states: “All organisations that are not actually right-wing will over time become left-wing.”

How about: “All organisations that are left-wing will over time come to hate themselves even more than they hate the right.”

3 thoughts on “The Vision Bended

  • Jody says:

    Should’ve gone to SpecSavers.

  • lloveday says:

    Quote: “Hillary, modern America’s worst presidential candidate”

    Taking that to mean candidates with a realistic chance of being elected (Gloria Estela La Riva was a candidate in the 2016 election), what is “modern America” and were there any worse realistic candidates in non-modern America? I can’t think of any that were, in my opinion, worse than Clinton, but, like, I presume, TB, I am going on my reading of history, not on emperical observation.

    (TB’s commaphobic, so if he reads the comments, I expect him to hyperventilate on seeing me use 8 in one sentence.)

    I dropped into “home” for last Mothers Day, and saw “my” GP. He suggested a brain scan, and knowing I did not use Medicare, said he could arrange it for $250. I made an appointment, but when I saw him for the results, I explained I had cancelled because on reflecting:

    (1) I could be told there was nothing of note – nothing to do on my part.
    (2) I could be told I was a goner – nothing to be done on my part.
    (3) I could be told there was something that could be alleviated by living a “healthier” lifestyle – as he understood, that was not an option.
    (4) If surgery was recommended, I’d take the Einstein option when he refused a brain operation with the words “It is distasteful to prolong life artificially. I have done my share; it is time to go. I will do it elegantly”.

    So I used up my $66 talking about Milo Y (he attended with his son, refuses to recommend to another doctor for abortion and has other characteristics that makes him trustworthy imo), a growth on my arm – “How long has it been there”? “2-3 years”. “Sheesh… it’s benign or you would not be here” – and other niggles. He likes my attitude “There is more to life than being alive”. Much more!

  • IainC says:

    A few years ago I started getting double vision, with similar characteristics to TB’s, lasting 2 or 3 hours. I went for an MRI scan of my brain but, as the old joke goes, they didn’t find anything. So I am just happily living with my occasional infliction, waiting for it to go away, choosing not to be a victim.
    The popularity of socialism with the young is somewhat understandable, since belief in the benefits of socialism require naivety, immaturity of experience, an unsophisticated world outlook, limited education and a blind trust in what people say versus what they actually think and do. Transfer of this belief into adulthood is more sinister, and betrays a deep, dark malevolence of the soul. As I have written before, paraphrasing (possibly) Georges Clemenceau, ”if you are a socialist by the time you are 20, you may be a sociopath; if you are still a socialist by the time you are 40, all doubt is removed”. As is demonstrated daily, all socialists spend every waking moment in teeth grinding terror that, somewhere, someone is happy with their life.

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