The functioning of the eye in many respects resembles that of a camera. A picture is snapped on a film but we do not see it until the film has been developed. A picture is flashed on the retina of the eye but we do not see it as a picture until the mind interprets it.
The seamstress who threads the finest needle with ease and yet cannot see to read is an example of a person whose sight is normal in respect to a single visual act that is perfectly remembered and therefore perfectly seen. In other words, vision does not depend solely on the image focused upon the retina, but on the mind's interpretation of the image.
I have observed over and over that the people who come to me suffering from defective vision and eye-strain almost invariably suffer from poor memories. This is most noticeable in the case of school children whose work nearly always falls below normal when they have trouble with their eyes.
It is staggering to observe how children's work improves when their eyestrain is corrected, and how their mental development is accelerated. This is not simply because they see better but because they are released from an emotional block which prevented them from learning better. It is the rested mind that learns and retains what it learns. All of us know the student who stays up all night before an examination, feverishly going over the material, and then fails the test because he was so tired he forgot the answers to questions which he actually knew.
Valuable as memory is as an aid to seeing, it cannot be forced. Everyone has experienced the exasperation that comes with trying to force himself to remember a name. "It is as familiar to me as my own," he exclaims impatiently. "It is on the tip of my tongue!"
By trying to force memory you are creating a mental strain; just by staring at an object, trying to force the eye to see, you set up an eyestrain. In both cases you defeat your object. Maximum efficiency comes only with relaxation. When the mind is relaxed and the tensions are released, the name you struggled so hard to recapture is waiting for you with no effort on your part
Our second mental aid to better eyesight is imagination. By imagination I mean the ability to conjure up sharp mental images, to recall with the eyes closed a clear picture of a particular object.
I find the word images is a source of confusion to many people. Ribot in his Psychology of Attention gives an excellent definition: "Image is not a photograph but a revival of the sensorial and motor elements that have built up perception. In proportion as its intensity increases, it approaches more and more to the condition of the origination."
Now imagination, as we are using the term, is dependent upon memory. It is a mental synthesis of ideas from elements remembered separately. We can imagine-or visualize-an object only as well as we can remember it. For example, if we are to try to imagine the sharp clear image of a big capital C, we can do so only if we remember perfectly how a capital C looks. The effect that perfect imagination can have in improving vision has been demonstrated again and again.
Some people discover that they have the ability to visualize vividly, quickly, and without any difficulty. The majority lacks it. The type of tension from which you suffer affects your ability to visualize. The difficulty is more pronounced in troubles of accommodation, particularly with myopia.
The degree of attention and interest you have is the measure of the memory you will have, and your memory will influence your capacity to imagine or visualize.
Sight is dependent upon memory and imagination rather than the physical organs. Therefore, eyes are never too old to be corrected. As long as the mind can function, old eyes can be taught to see better. Eyes are intended to be used, and when properly used, better eyesight will be the result.
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