Wide-eyed Wonder: an artist's musings on three-dimensional vision

Some are color blind. I am stereo blind.

How would you feel if you could see with both eyes?

with 2 comments

Tuesday, November 16th, 2010


I am determined to leave “flatland” and enter the three-dimensional world God has created for me.

I spent a great part of yesterday reading stories of others who have sought and gained binocular vison. I spent the evening looking at the world through my left eye for the first time.

I have viewed the world with my right eye since I was a small child. I will start this journey by making my left eye stronger … strong enough to team with my dominant right eye.

How much I have been missing! We drove out to the farm, Patrick driving as usual. I fired up my left eye and stared holes into the car in front of us. I had used my left eye before while driving, and my focus has always been fixed pretty much straight ahead. The second I look in any other direction, my right eye kicks in and my left shuts down.

But at the farm, I made the effort to look around with my left eye and tame my right to simply track without dominating. It was impossible, then jerky at first— but within minutes my right eye was tracking and I was looking at the whole wide world with my left eye!

I rode home with Patrick by my side. I had never seen him fully before! The bridge of my nose would always block him from view, and my switched-off left eye would only contribute a blurry awareness of him.

Of course, as I was seeing Patrick for the first time, I noticed I was missing the scenery to my right. Until my eyes team, it will be win-lose. Nevertheless, I am discovering a lost world!

I spent the rest of the evening exploring my left-side world. I was able to do everything, including surf the internet.

What a joy to kiss Patrick and see his whole face!

– – – – – – – – – – – – –

Monday, November 15th

Today I contacted a local vision therapist via email. She emailed back “I’m happy to see you to see if vision therapy would even be a possibility.”

I am not terribly encouraged and emailed back “Thanks … for being honest and not getting my hopes up … perhaps not much has changed in the last 30 years.”

I found the NPR broadcast in half a minute, but saved it until my husband could listen with me.

Susan Barry was born cross-eyed, but did not have surgery until after age two. As an adult neurology professor, she explained her monocular vision to another neurology professor at a party one evening:

She … told Sacks that she didn’t think she was missing very much, not seeing in stereo. And that’s when Sacks leaned in really close and said, ‘Do you think you can imagine what it’s like to see the world with two eyes?'”

Susan then sought out a vision therapist, and after only practicing the exercises for three weeks, began to see things float in front of other things. The story ends with her walking IN the snowflakes … not in front of them.

To see the space between the snowflakes as I walk among them … oh my! What a goal!

Oliver Sacks tested her later, and she was and remains binocular. (He wrote about her story in the New Yorker, but you have to have a subscription to see the article on their website, or jump through hoops to purchase just the article.)

– – – – – – – – – – – – –

Sunday, November 14th 2010

Al persisted “How would you feel if you could see with both eyes?”

Without thinking I replied “I’d feel like I’d died and gone to heaven!”

When I came to the David Kassan workshop this weekend, and inadvertently started to talk to the other portrait artists about seeing flat, I had no clue that anyone had ever broken free at such a late age.

Al, who was the model, overheard a rather loud discussion I got into with another artist in the audience who grilled me about my 2-dimensional monocular vision. He couldn’t believe that I function normally with everything looking like it was on a movie screen.

“Yes, I have peripheral vision. No, I can’t see depth like you do. I see depth the way a camera sees depth.”

“So you don’t have depth perception, but you can still see 3-D.”

“No, I see flat.”

“But how can you draw? … How can you drive?”

The artist couldn’t believe me, but on break, Al beat a path to me and urged me to check out a National Public Radio story about a 50-year-old woman who had exercised her eyes in order to see three dimensional space for the first time in her life.

“You’ve got to do this!” he reminded me twice more during the day.

I left the workshop determined to find out what new technology may have developed in the vision therapy field over the last 30 years.

It was in the early 80s when I was told I was too far gone to guarantee the exercises would even work. The most the therapist could guarantee is that I would make myself see double. There was no promise of breaking through the double vision phase to see stereoscopically.

At age 20 I had decided I would be using my work-around system of seeing the world for the rest of my life … I had decided I wasn’t really visually impaired enough to invest in a solution … until today.


Written by Lynda Rimke

November 16, 2010 at 9:42 pm

Posted in monocular vision

2 Responses

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  1. Lynda,

    I am so glad that you are embarking on this journey as well despite your earlier efforts. I started 14 months ago and I do see in more depth, although I don’t see in 3D yet. I could totally imagine your experience at the art workshop with your inquirer dumbfounded at your ability to drive despite not seeing in 3D. I’ve felt like the martian in the room on many occasions when I break it to people that I see them flat. I also have a blog on this topic: http://www.oneeyedprincess.com.



    March 25, 2011 at 2:07 pm

    • Susanna, glad to “meet” another adult strabismic patient! I’m going to check your blog next. The more strabismic bloggers the better, I say!

      I have also started an “Adult Strabismic Patients’ Forum” at an established social network for ODs and patients http://www.sovoto.com
      You can read discussions without joining sovoto, eg http://www.sovoto.com/group/adultstrabismicpatientsforum?xg_source=activity
      but if you do join, you can friend others and then message them, etc. similar to Facebook.
      After joining, it will take a day or two to be “approved” by a moderator.

      We’re building a revolution!

      Lynda Rimke

      March 25, 2011 at 5:52 pm

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