I’m always learning something new, but this week I learned something big. At least it seems big to me.
The human eyeball, especially in children (though also in the rest of us), can get physically reshaped by excessive screen time. That screen time would be a reference to those electronic devices that infiltrate our lives. The rates of myopia or nearsightedness around the world are soaring these years, in large part because of kids staring at digital screens for long periods of time. By 2030, the World Health Organization predicts that 40% of the world’s population will be nearsighted and in need of corrective glasses.
This news came first to my ears and then to my eyes thanks to TED Radio Hour host Manoush Zomorodi, who has been consulting with experts studying myopia for years. She says that the long-held assumption that myopia is purely genetic is being debunked by the month. As with other mammals, kids’ eyes will physically elongate in order to adapt to their environment. The solution to this growing crisis of sight is quite simple, says Zomorodi: Spend more time outside. Our eyes need to view a macro world as much as a micro one.
When Jesus told his followers one day to go out and look at the lilies of the field and the birds of the air, he was offering an antidote to that human stare in a mirror that causes us to worry about our food, clothing, and body. It was his nudge for us to look macro. Not micro, as in “go grab a magnifying glass and study the intricacies of a lily, or some binoculars and observe the twitch of a bird’s neck.” No, this was encouragement to take in the majesty of a whole panorama. The fields. The sky. The flowers and grass.
I have more to write here, but I’m going to end this post right now before your eyeballs elongate in some damaging ways. I’m also aware of how little time I spend outside most days. So, let’s go take a walk right now. Together. You and I. Let’s visit, give thanks for autumn air, and take in that great big world out there.