Lucid From Afar; Blind up Close: A Talking Point for Older Relatives

Plutarch, “Table Talk”: Moralia 625: Why do older men read writing from farther away?

“The situation which attends sight seemed to us to be the opposite of the solution we found concerning the last matter, since older people hold words farther away from their eyes when they are reading. They cannot read something close. This is made clear when Aeschylus says “But you must gaze upon it from afar—for you could not up close. And you must be a clear-eyed scholar, even though you are old”.

Sophocles too, says the same thing about old men: “Slow is the coming of words which barely enters closed-up ears. But when a man sees from afar, he is completely blind to what is near.”

If, the senses of old men heed intensity and strength more, how is it that in reading they cannot endure light coming from nearby but must put a book farther away and water down the light with air the way that wine is thinned by water?”

Image result for Ancient Greek eyes
Διὰ τί τὰ γράμματα πόρρωθεν οἱ πρεσβύτεροι μᾶλλον ἀναγιγνώσκουσιν
Ταῦτα δ᾿ ἡμῶν εἰς τὸ προκείμενον εὑρησιλογούντων ἐδόκει τὸ τῆς ὄψεως ἀντιπίπτειν. οἱ γὰρ πρεσβύτεροι πόρρω τὰ γράμματα τῶν ὀμμάτων ἀπάγοντες ἀναγιγνώσκουσιν, ἐγγύθεν δ᾿ οὐ δύνανται· καὶ τοῦτο παραδηλῶν ὁ Αἰσχύλος φησίν (fr. 358)·

σὺ δ᾿ ἐξ ἀπόπτου αὐτόν, οὐ γὰρ ἐγγύθεν
δύναιό γ᾿ ἄν· γέρων δὲ γραμματεὺς γενοῦ

ἐνδηλότερον δὲ Σοφοκλῆς τὸ αὐτὸ περὶ τῶν γερόντων (fr.774)·

βραδεῖα μὲν γὰρ ἐν λόγοισι προσβολὴ
μόλις δι᾿ ὠτὸς ἔρχεται ῥυπωμένου·

εἴπερ οὖν πρὸς τὴν ἐπίτασιν καὶ σφοδρότητα μᾶλλον ὑπακούει τὰ τῶν γερόντων αἰσθητήρια, πῶς ἐν τῷ ἀναγιγνώσκειν τὸν ἐγγύθεν ἀντιφωτισμὸν οὐ φέρουσιν, ἀλλὰ προάγοντες ἀπωτέρω τὸ βιβλίον ἐκλύουσι τὴν λαμπρότητα τῷ ἀέρι καθάπερ οἷον ὕδατι κατακεραννυμένην;