The Circle of Life, Time-Lapse Style
By Dr. Paul Gooch
The human mind is an amazing thing. The ebbs and flows of our humanity are deeply influenced by the way we remember things. One of the most fascinating elements of human memory is called “situational memory,” which is the effect of environmental context on how we recall things. Our situational memory makes it easier to remember acquaintances in the places where we usually interact with them, than it is to remember them when we run into them in random places.
One of the things I enjoy most about my job as an optometrist is that I get to witness the circle of life unfold in front of me, in my exam chair, as if I were watching a movie of a mighty tree growing in time-lapse style. Because we get to see our patients on some kind of regular cycle—usually yearly, we get to experience this time-lapse effect in what feels like real time. As we get to know each other over the years, the sensation we feel when you sit in my exam chair is “Really? It has been a whole year since you were here? Feels like yesterday!” …and then we get to discuss the tragedies and triumphs of the past year while we are catching up during the exam process. From birth to death, and everything in between, life is on full panoramic display. Situational memory. What a gift we possess, among the many…
Because I love word play, I often tell people that I bend light for a living in an optometric sweat-shop. We take advantage of our ability to manipulate light to understand your health and to help you see better. But it is so much more than just glasses, contact lenses, and tests. It is so much more than medicine, procedures and treating biological diseases. As I flip the famous “better-one-or-two” dials, and operate today’s technologically miraculous machinery to understand the health and quality of your vision, it really is just the circle of life on display. It is the value of human connection. It is friendship. It is the breathtaking vista of interesting people, who live interesting lives, seen one patient and one year at a time.
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