Correction of bifocal vision and the art of dancing

“I can clearly see now that the rain is gone.

I can see all the obstacles in my way.

No more dark clouds that had blinded me.

Last week the Jimmy Cliff version of this Johnny nash the composition played over and over in my brain. The impetus was the conclusion of a marathon of excessive viewing.

Granted, I’m a history nerd. So much so that I watched with fervor the 24 episodes of the lecture series “The black plague: the most devastating plague in the worldIn just two days. Among my many takeaways was the resulting societal loss of visual acuity.

The fact that the sudden onset of the plague in the mid-14th century caused such widespread panic was hardly a surprise. But the way the hysteria manifested was myopic. He spawned the Flagellating movement, whose members publicly tortured themselves to appease the alleged wrath of God. Other extreme behaviors included relentless hedonistic indulgence and crazy dancing.

Having no apparent causality to report, grabbing the straws ruled the day. Among the most popular theoretical origins were a rare astrological confluence, bad air, and earthquakes. The tragic scapegoat for Jewish communities was also at stake.

Before watching the series, I was unaware of the wave torment of the plague over several centuries. Apparently, he would only take his devastating course to reappear a decade or so later. During these subsequent epidemics, people were often caught in a clairvoyant stupor. Many people could not focus on the lessons learned from the recently ended devastation.

After multiple iterations of torture and then reduction, society has adapted. A balance has been found allowing clear vision, both near and far. The medieval world, especially Europe, advanced.

The speaker of the series, Dorsey Armstrong, professor of English at Purdue University, does the case where the plague left a world completely transformed. She proposes that by virtue of the changes it made, the Black Death produced the forces that resulted in the Renaissance and the Protestant Reformation. The long-term consequences also allowed a continent that, less than two centuries later, would have the technology and the means to explore a new world. He accelerated the arrival of modernity itself.

As I deepened the lectures, parallels between the community impact of the Black Death and my own post-ALS experience began to emerge. I have had my own fits with blurred vision, both far and near.

Immediately after communicating the diagnosis, a crippling panic swept over me. A few days later, when some semblance of function returned, I found myself in a myopic, bitterly torn haze. On the one hand, I was afraid that my fate was the result of years of accumulated sins. On the flip side, with a future harbinger of dwindling opportunities, the thought of profiting from spontaneous and unbridled mischief while still being able to wave.

I desperately searched for a culprit. Time and time again, I was willing to blame the mercury uptake, Lyme disease, or head trauma.

As the plague behaved in the Middle Ages, ALS did not enact a stationary decline with me. On the contrary, he attacks, then leaves me a bit on a plateau. Think of an elevator without an elevator and random stops of varying lengths on its inevitable descent. It was as a result of these relatively calm interludes – when ALS had put me to sleep in a false sense of farsighted security – that the most damage was inflicted.

Finally, like the plague survivors, I evolved from a bifocal perspective. I live always aware that ALS fully intends to tighten its grip on me. Severe restrictions, rigorous precautions, and grim emergency responses govern my activity. However, I approach life as if ALS was irrelevant. From my current base, I can only move forward, striving to improve. In this regard, ALS has changed everything, without changing anything.

An artistic genre arises, coinciding with the plague. Capturedited both in poetry and in painting, the Dance of Death, or Dance of Death, depicted skeletons escorting living humans to their graves in a lively waltz. Clergy, kings, knights and commoners join them, asserting that no matter what their status, wealth or achievements in life, death comes for everyone. It served as a sober reminder of impending death, while also inspiring in some a desire to make the most of what’s left. Kind of like the effect ALS had on me.

To put it another way, I’ll borrow from the singer-songwriter Jesse Winchester, and reference some of my favorite lyrics of all time:

“If the wheel is fixed,

I would take another chance

If we walk on thin ice,

So we might as well dance.


To note: ALS News Today is strictly a disease news and information website. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your doctor or other qualified healthcare professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard or delay seeking professional medical advice because of what you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of ALS News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and aim to spark discussion on issues relating to ALS.

Rick is a 62-year-old man who was diagnosed with ALS in January 2007. Currently a resident of Southwest Florida, he has lived in four other metropolitan areas, but Greater Chicagoland will always be “home.” Rick is a graduate engineer, spending his career in the medical device industry. He has been fortunate enough to travel to the United States, Europe, Asia and the Caribbean. He writes, in part, to be an advocate for ALS. Plus, he hopes his production will help dispel the myth that technical folk and digestible prose are not mutually exclusive.

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