05 May 2006

That memento mori: The big picture and little things

JP commented on the memento mori I posted a few days ago, so perhaps you want to see the full picture, as the first picture was cropped from this.

Although I'm quite taken with the neo-Mannerist Lady of the Tripod, my own taste favours the spider, and only a touch of the shell and the watch. There is yet another spider that attached itself to the cord and died, but it is so small that I don't know if you can see it. A pity.

From small things, big things grow, the saying goes.

Yet the big thing, I think, is the small. The world's greatest wonders and most powerful forces are so small that they can't be seen with the naked eye. Everything big is composed of small, and without them, that big thing would be a nothing.

You're most likely to be killed by something that needs an electron microscope to view it, not a telescope.

Michelle Richmond, writing in the San Francisco Chronicle, talks about her son, Oscar, in an essay that is extraordinarily beautiful and funny — and fragile. I want to cheer for his parents who, like their son, look at things with an abnormal perspective. They see dignity where others would crush it underfoot.

At 8 1/2 months, he pays no mind to horses and windmills, fire trucks and Ferris wheels, gigantic cartoon characters of the sort one finds in low-rent pizza joints. He does not care for anything of stature, excepting his father, who, at 6 feet and change, registers on Oscar's line of vision only when sitting down. What my son notices are those things small enough to be contained in multiple in a matchbox . . . perhaps he will be a great miniaturist, or a microbiologist or entomologist, destined to champion the dignity of small things.

Hopefully, Oscar will never grow out of this fascination with the small. I suspect that he will be short-sighted, and that if he is lucky, he'll have abnormally fine close-up power of sight. I did, till a few years ago, and what I could see with this vision has always been precious to me. Lichen flowers, the hairs on a piece of lawn-grass, parrots' eyelashes, the mites on a dung beetle's fur. Normal sight, however, was never something I possessed, and so, possibly like this baby will, I wore glasses for most of my life. Next week, I'll be getting my eyeballs' lenses replaced in a supposedly common procedure in which the eye's lens is removed and replaced by one of polymer. The reason for me is cataracts. The result, supposedly, is great though not perfect sight. Normally, the result is tuned for better far vision than close, and reading glasses are needed. I've wanted to keep the short-sightedness and don't give a damn for the far.

I've fretted about this result so much that I'm a pain to be around. Will the short-sightedness I still possess be lost? It used to be fine as a jeweller's loupe (almost eyelash close), though I couldn't see to the end of a ruler.

Last night I dreamt my fantasy — two different lenses inserted, and a black patch to wear. The left eye gets 'normal' vision, with even the beautiful shattered glass of astigmatism eliminated. When I wear the patch over that eye, though, I can see like an electron microscope.

I wonder what Oscar will dream of when he grows big.

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