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My love for glasses

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I was already an adult before I understood why I actually loved glasses (spectacles) as a boy of ten. There was something about kids who wore reading glasses that made a positive impact on my young impressionable mind. Glasses made one look serious-minded, distinguished and scholarly. Very early in life I wanted to be a scholar, a professor of History, having been attracted by and glued to the distinguished career of the late Professor J.F.A Ade-Ajayi, later Vice Chancellor University of Lagos. This happened each time I read his books in which he usually detailed his degrees- BA, MA, PhD. How apparently insignificant things could become an inspiration to some people! While classmates took on such aliases as ‘Manitoba’, ‘Lash laru’, ‘Observer’, ‘Black Moses’, ‘Alaska’ or the rather weird ‘Cropolo’! (in the prevailing social convention of ‘guy name’) I simply named myself professor. The pair of glasses was part of that image of a professor in the making.

The ‘guy name’ was a reflection of how we saw the world and how we wanted the world to see us too. It had nothing to do with how the world turned out to be. For example, Black Moses was neither a Moses to lead people to freedom nor was he a Bible person; he certainly didn’t lead anybody! He had simply fallen in love with the character in a movie. Indeed, he was one of the ‘bad boys’ of the school who took teachers in different ways. The guy who took on Alaska must have liked the sound of the name. I don’t think he ever visited Alaska. ‘Observer’ it turned out snitched on his hostel mates and spilled to the girls in order to win favours! Let me not divert into commenting on what happened the day the reason behind the name was discovered!

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I started using glasses from age 12. The ophthalmologist at the Specialist Hospital in Benin assured us that my sight defect- ‘astigmatism’ would be reversed by the recommended glasses in no time. I had complained that each time I read (did I love reading!), my eyes would form tears, sometimes spilling into the book. I asked classmates and siblings whether that was their experience. When they all said no I knew that my opportunity to acquire a pair of glasses had come. Those glasses served me for about four years and my sight defect was corrected. Much later in life when I tried to see what some of my other classmates had seen I accidentally found out that my night vision was poor. They insisted that there was an object on a balcony a hundred yards away. I argued that there was no such thing. Fubara Iyagba it was who lent me his glasses. Behold my sight had been defective. Of course I did not know that there were objects that I could not see. I had to squint in order to watch television and I thought that that was how it was with everybody. My visit to the doctor subsequently confirmed that I had been cured of astigmatism; I was now myopic, that is, shortsighted. The new pair of glasses changed my vision and I could see what others could routinely see without glasses!

These thoughts returned to me recently when I read an excerpt from a preacher’s sermon in which he alluded to the wife of a house who always complained that their neighbour’s curtains were always dirty. The man of the house who knew better quietly instructed the maid to clean their window glass. To be sure when next madam commented, she thanked heaven that at last their neighbour had done the right thing by washing their curtains! Mr. Husband quietly reminded his wife that things now looked brighter because her maid had washed/cleaned their window glasses!

How many opportunities do we miss, have we missed in the course of life because of limited exposure, ignorance, ethnic lens, poor judgment, poor background or prejudice? How many times have we condemned ideas we did not understand and did not care to understand? How many times have we written off people on account of our prejudice, our supposed superior judgment? How many times have we as a people rejected the best for the next and later claimed they ‘were the best president/governor/leader we never had? How do we make up for such a tragic decision in the life of a people a clan, a country or a race? Are we currently making such mistakes either in our private lives or in the life of a corporate entity?

It was a shadow of things, this love for glasses. But it was also a way of seeing the world as it is, not as it should be. Nearly fifty years after with the aid of my mental glasses I have come to see the world as it is – with friends, co-workers, co-believers and family. The glasses were a prelude to that lifetime journey of knowing. There are many people we do not really ‘see’ or understand until much later in life, sometimes when it is too late already. We never see them for what they are – good or bad. There are so many ideas we have rejected because we did not know enough at the time we passed judgment. At that time we could have sworn that black was blue and blue was black. Sadly!

It is true that some wear prescription glasses but are never able to see the big picture. In other words, a pair of powerful glasses is not enough to see things clearly. The state of the mind matters. A clean mind could be perceptive and would be suspicious once things do not fall in place. For this reason the mind should always be receptive to new things with a view to assessing them and changing course if need be. These days, designer glasses have stepped into the arena. The glasses must be aesthetically appealing, fashionable and expensive. Except the glasses are expensive they cannot be seen on the face of the visionless man or woman. Which is a tragedy! To buy and put on expensive glasses and still fail to see why the world has changed, or why our political configuration should change is the greatest example of myopia. The seat of power should be like the pair of glasses with which one could have a better view of the world and make a mark in the sands of time.

So whether or not the glasses serve us well, whether or not the apparatus of state is sufficient for our work, whether or not the basic infrastructure is in place, the nobility of the mind is crucial to vision- that is the only way we can transform society and make a difference.


In this article:
J.F.A Ade-Ajayi
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