Eyeglasses, Reading, and Thanksgiving

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My day begins with putting on my eyeglasses; it’s the very first thing I do. Most of the time,  I do it without thinking. But occasionally, when I pick up my eyeglasses, I remember that I am holding one of God’s most precious gifts to me.

Eyeglasses are a relatively recent development of the human story. David Landes writes that

the invention of spectacles more than doubled the working life of skilled craftsmen, especially those who did fine jobs: scribes (crucial before the invention of printing) and readers, instrument and toolmakers, close weavers, metalworkers.

The problem is biological: because the crystalline lens of the human eye hardens around the age of forty, it produces a condition similar to farsightedness (actually presbyopia). The eye can no longer focus on close objects. But around the age of forty, a medieval craftsman could reasonably expect to live and work another twenty years, the best years of his working life . . .if he could see well enough. Eyeglasses solved the problem.”*

Were it not for eyeglasses, my ability to focus on print would have ended well before my fortieth birthday. So much for books.

Glasses have made it possible for me to read for the last twenty years. Honestly, I can’t  even imagine life without books.

With them I prepare sermons and lectures, the principal work of the pastor’s life.

Books set me on journeys around the world without ever leaving my home. They lead me to people and take me to places that enrich my understanding of God’s diverse world.

Traveling back in space and time may seem the stuff of fantasy enthusiasts, but for serious readers, time travel is only a history book, biography or memoir away.

Novels and short stories have helped me understand the human heart – my heart -better.

Christian poetry, read aloud, unites sight and sound, and fuels devotion.

Fascination with our solar system and galaxies began with the books my primary school teachers put in my hands.

Reading has been an unceasing source of pleasure. Besides running and walking, books are my only hobby. The joy they bring is incalculable.

Thanksgiving is less than a week away. This year I am again reminded of the amazing gift of eyeglasses. They’ve opened not only my eyes, but also mind and heart, to God’s word and world.

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* David S. Landes, The Wealth and Poverty of Nations: Why Some Are So Rich and Some So Poor (Norton, 1999), 46-47.

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