4 Ways Life Looks Shockingly Different With Only One Eye
If you find yourself in some kind of Saw situation and have to lose a body part, an eye seems like a good choice. After all, you've got another one, and then you'd be legally allowed to wear an eye patch without even risking scurvy. Well, we spoke to a few Cyclopes about their experience, and it turns out it's all fun and games until somebody loses an ... oh, right.
The Eye Connects To The Brain In A Weird Way
Ever heard of phantom limb syndrome? Ben came down with a case of phantom eye syndrome. He can even sort of will himself into blindness if he focuses wrong. "If I mentally concentrate on my sight from my right eye, reality gets stronger," he says. "And if I concentrate on my left, the blackness gets stronger."
That paragraph also doubles as the greatest black metal chorus ever written.
Whenever Ben slept, he'd dream with two eyes and get all his vision back. Then, each time he awoke, he'd have to transition again from seeing normally to half the world dark. "Sometimes the world doesn't seem quite real," he says. "It's like there is a blackness behind it. It is flat, lacks depth, and the colors are a little wrong because of the black overlay."
Which is starting to get into The Mamas & The Papas territory, lyrically.
That happens when his brain is trying to process non-visual non-signals from the non-eye. If you're an idiot like us, you probably think of eyes as little more than convenient skull holes that you can see through. Turns out your nervous system is a bit more complicated than that. The eyes code light into electric signals and transmit them along wire-like nerves to a part of the brain all the way in the back of the head. Also, the image they send is upside-down, but you imagine it right-side-up and centered in front of your face, because you're super arrogant and you think the world is all about you.
That means losing an eye isn't quite like losing a hand: The whole system freaks out. Your field of vision gets chopped short and pushed off-center. But your brain compensates in all kinds of weird-ass ways, like stretching images to fill in the reduced field of vision, sometimes even making square objects look rectangular. In Ben's case, losing an eye came with the jarring sensation that his good eye had migrated to the middle of his forehead.
It's a well-documented phenomenon.
"The center of my vision is in the center of my right eye," he explains. This has led to a number of embarrassing incidents: "I sometimes run into things on my left side, because I still feel like the center of my body is the center of my vision, but that is no longer true."
See? We weren't being uh ... two-eye racist(?) earlier -- losing an eye can cause you to imagine yourself as a Cyclops.
Simple Tasks Become Impossible Thanks To A Lack Of Depth Perception
Everybody knows losing an eye messes with your depth perception. Since humans typically have at least two forward-facing eyes, they can look at an object from slightly different angles at the same time, triangulating its location in space with an accuracy we take for granted. That's why predators tend to have forward-facing eyes, while their monocular friends, like most birds, tend to stick to close-range food like worms and seeds. Otherwise, they'd have to rapidly whip their faces around like adorable little metal heads.
Monocular vision can still provide some depth cues -- you know that cars usually aren't the size of quarters, so that one's probably pretty far away -- but it's not nearly enough to keep a human in the manner to which they've become accustomed. For example, pouring drinks is surprisingly hard -- our sources report that they have to touch the bottle to the glass, or they'll invariably pour the liquid in front of or behind the target. None of them can enjoy 3D movies or Magic Eye posters, and not just for the reasons no one else does. Try as they might, they'll never, ever see the sailboat.
Well, actually, it's a schooner.
Of course, there are simple ways to adjust to those realities, but there are far-reaching implications, too. CJ was crushed to realize he'd never live out childhood fantasies like being a jet pilot or going to space. Because people generally like operators of flying doom-machines to be able to see as many things as possible, but also because he has a newfound fear of heights that he blames on the lost eye. "I have no frame of reference for exactly how far away things are beyond 'very far,'" he says.
"Trip downtown? Do you have a rocket?"
If he's at any significant height at all, he fears falling. He'll never get on a Ferris wheel, not even if a whole troupe of circus clowns is chasing him.
The Blind Spot In Your Eye Actually Matters
Most of the time, just about everything you think you see is imagination and wishes, powered by the large parts of your eyes that don't see much at all. Just one tiny section of each retina, the fovea, can focus tightly on anything. That's only enough for you to closely look at, say, a couple words at once, which is why you can't read an entire paragraph at a glance unless you're a genius character on a TV show. For a slightly more active demonstration, close your left eye and put your nose right against the screen, focusing on the cross in the image below, then slowly move your head away. Notice what happens to the dot.
Ninja dot! The dot disappears because it hits your blind spot, the point where your optic nerve connects to your retina. It's a pretty important thing, because that's the only way the nerve can receive signals from the photoreceptors there, but in order for it to do that, it has to jam itself right up into the retina, blocking any photoreceptors from settling down in the area. Think of it as neural gentrification.
Also, the dot doesn't actually disappear -- it turns white, because that's the color of the surrounding area, and without your other eye to tell it what's going on, your brain just fills it in with its best stupid guess. Here, try the cross thing again, but this time with a red X in the middle of two horizontal black lines. When the red X disappears, instead of a white gap, you'll see one continuous line.
But don't believe it. That line is a goddamn liar.
That's your brain going, "Well, there's a line on this side and a line on this side, so it probably goes straight through. I don't know; is it dinner time yet?" When you have just one eye, that's what's always happening, so the most mundane things can trip you up. For Kaitee, shaving her armpits is a painstaking process -- she invariably misses one hair on the first pass and has to reach out and feel for it, shift her head a little, and watch it suddenly appear like magic. CJ frequently misses while shaving too, and he has his girlfriend search for stragglers. When he looks down at his keyboard, one key may seem to be missing. One of those important keys in the middle, too. Not like a useless tilde or something. That frivolous bastard.
The Body's Pretty Awesome At Adapting
Can't shave? Grow a beard. Can't see the Magic Eye poster? Stop traveling back in time to the '90s. These aren't problems. But car accidents are pretty serious, and they happen twice as often to people with severely impaired depth perception. In spite of that risk, everyone we spoke to drives, insisting they can judge distances by the size of cars and other objects around them.
Which is similar to what other people do, only with penis size instead of distances.
"Every now and then, I'll have to stop a little harder than I thought when I started hitting the brake," CJ fails to reassure us, "but for the most part, all the challenges from a lack of depth perception are offset by the various points around me I can use for reference. Things like the lane divider lines, signs and trees, even other cars around me."
To be fair, when CJ was in college and sports became a game instead of a sorting mechanism to catch nerds, he learned that years of adjusting to having one eye made him reasonably good at judging the distance of an object even as fast and small as a baseball. He won't be playing for Whoever Your Favorite Team Is Please Don't Hurt Us anytime soon, but he wasn't terrible. Ben's Cyclops syndrome went away eventually, too. It's even possible to shrink your blind spot with training. There are also ways to compensate for things you can't just will your brain to do, like having peripheral vision.
Which used to require taking a belt sander to the bridge of your nose.
"I generally have an odd side-to-side swing of my head to keep everything in my vision," Kaitee says. She doesn't even notice she's doing that anymore, and she only occasionally gets comments likening her to a grazing mare.
But you've still got the problem of an unsettling gaping hole in your face, and for that, there are glass eyes. Their entire purpose is to make people who have to look at you more comfortable, but when you're a troll, everything looks like a bridge, so CJ's and Ben's glass eyes find plenty of traffic in the opposite business. With each of them, the go-to trick for freaking people out is sticking a Nerf dart on his eye, right on the pupil. As he looks from side to side, the dart waggles and points in different directions.
Here's a photo of CJ. And here's a GIF of Ben:
Don't worry -- when you pull the dart off, the eye only comes out like 10 percent of the time.
His cat is deeply weirded out by it, and so are we. And so are you. So is everybody, Ben. Damn.
For more insider perspectives, check out I Have No Hands: 4 Life Hacks I Use To Live An Awesome Life and 6 Things I Learned Having My Penis Surgically Removed.
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