The One-Eyed Man is King

By Ken Quek
In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. In a land where everyone else has two eyes, he’s just half blind….

I’ve been half blind for more than 20 years now. More than two-thirds of my life.To be honest, I can’t even remember what it was like not being half blind.Most people I meet tend to avoid the question in neon lights. Presumably they hang around waiting for someone else to pop the sensitive question, or just hear about it from someone else. Maybe there’s an elaborate ritual that takes place everytime I meet a new group of people for them to decide who gets to pop the question.

Anyway, when you’ve been in any condition for more than two-thirds of your life, you tend to act as if life has always been that way. You tend to take it for granted.When others find out that I’m blind, the more curious (and less socially apprehensive) will ask “what’s it like?”  I’m not at all offended. It’s a question that I would likely have asked had our positions been reversed.

My answer, inevitably, is that it doesn’t seem to be all that different from having both eyes.  Of course, I don’t really have a point of comparison, and perhaps my eyes get tired a tad bit easier than others, but I still do lots of computer type near-work, I play sports such as basketball, soccer and rugby. I run, bike, swim, ski, snowboard, wakeboard. I do almost everything anyone else does, and then some.

Thus far, the one thing I don’t do, is drive.

I’m not sure why really. I’ve never felt the need to for one. The transport system in Singapore is sufficiently convenient that I’ve never felt the need to get my own car.  My tendency towards financial prudence also leads me to believe that a car is more of a liability than anything else and thus I never quite intended to get one.

I think a part of me resisted the idea of getting a license out of fear more than anything else.  I know having only one-eye does make a difference in how I see the world.  I’ve read about it. I know I’m supposed to have poorer depth perception, poorer judgement of speed and distance.  I know all that in theory, but the fact of the matter is that it never seems to be much of an issue in practice.

However, the wife and I recently went to the local science center in San Fran, which had two rather telling exhibits which made me think more about the difference between having one and two eyes.

As we were walking through the centre looking at the exhibits, one of them caught my eye.  It seemed to be a simple picture on a wall, that actually changed as I walked past it.  I was amazed at the incredible work of perceptive art that was going on in that simple 2D piece of paper and immediately exclaimed to the wife, “Wow! Look at that!”

The wife turned to take a look, and I could see from her face that she didn’t think much of it.  A couple of minutes passed before she raised a hand to cover one of her eyes and then exclaimed, “Wow!”  I was wondering why she did that when I read the placard that went along with the exhibit, telling the viewer to cover one eye and see the difference.

The wife tells me that what I had thought was an incrdible piece of 2D art, was in fact an incredible piece of 3D art!Think about that for a moment. What everyone else could plainly see was a 3D structure protruding out from the wall, I thought was a flat piece of paper stuck to the wall.  This realisation affected me a lot!  It made me wonder that if I was in the driver’s seat of a car, what might there be out there that would appear clearly to everyone else that would be perceived differently by me? And what would happen when that occured?

“But K,” you say, “You play sports like everyone else! Basketball for instance. And you don’t shoot any less poorly than the next guy! What’s up with that?”

Well, that very day, we saw another exhibit that made me think a bit more about that.

It was a simple setup with a small palm-sized ball and a net by the wall about two arm-lengths away.  The tricky thing was a pair of glasses by this setup that made it look as if the net was slightly more to the right then it really was. (Simple mirrors and prisms.)So what happens is that when you put on the glasses, you end up throwing the ball to the right of the net as that is where your eyes tell you it is.

However, as you repeat your throws another 10-15 times, your hand subconciously adjusts to your previous failures and you soon find yourself throwing the ball into the net just as you would have without the glasses.  Basically, your hand adjusts to throw slightly to the left of where your eyes told you the basket would be. You won’t even realise its happening this way. It just does.

Interestingly enough, if you took the glasses off at this point, your hand would remember that it had to throw slightly to the left of wherever your eyes told you the basket was, and you would start missing the basket again, only this time, you’d miss to the left of the basket instead of the right, and it would take another 10-15 throws before your hand adjusts again.

So the reason why I do decently at basketball is because my hand has the time to adjust to the mistakes I make.  The more I throw, the better I get.  In theory, I guess this could happen when I drive as well. Assuming that every single drive was exactly the same…Which it isn’t. And I don’t really like the idea of me having to make 10-15 mistakes before I can do a nice safe drive…

Maybe… maybe I just shouldn’t. And the wife thinks so too. =D

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I love kissing snow…

that is, when I’m skiing.

Yesterday saw us waking up to aching bodies and our second day of skiing (today, the whole body was protesting). As usual, Ken was all ready and to make sure we got on the first bus again to Badger Pass, we made it to be the first in the line.

Our class (later we realised it’s just the two if us; private lesson!) was scheduled to be at noon and wasting no time, we decided to practise control at Bruin trail. I thought I did well and it was really an awesome feeling, especially when you are able to balance and to do the turns well.

After lunch which was our regular fries (they are darn good) and a burger, we headed out for out lesson. We decided that we were ready for a more challenging trail and suggested to Ryan, our instructor, that we wanted to try Rabbit trail. Being a good instructor, he wanted to ascertain what stage we were at and taught us important pointers to do the ‘J’ when we went over to the Rabbit (which was a lot steeper).

So, under his instruction and guidance, I was able to ski relatively well (with two falls) before we reached the bottom. Unfortunately, he was with us only for an hour and we were on our own again. Oh! I must say the ride on the chair lift was rather terrifying in the beginning, especially if you fear heights.

So, there we were, two short people clad in our red jacket (one of the employees thought that we were the first-aid people) and making our way at Rabbit. I think I did about 4 round of that trail and basically after Ryan left, I lost control. I allowed the sight of the slope to induce fear in me. And when I believed I couldn’t ski well, I lost control and tumbled down. I fell for a good eight times, I think, and all these due to fear and perhaps tiredness. I also tend to be more uptight when there were more people around on the slope. Hmm…or maybe it’s because I love the snow? Falling in the snow is really more pleasant than falling on concrete ground when I learnt roller-blading. But really, it was due to fear and I wasn’t very happy about that.

At the end of the day, I was still pleased with my performance. For a person who just started skiing a day ago, it was a good attempt. And for Ken, he definitely did much better! Go all the way!

More skiing, I would assume?