Barring a level of introspection usually reserved for bearded holy men perched atop windswept mountain peaks in places like Tibet, most of us rely heavily upon what we see to interpret the world around us and everything in it.  

And, with the possible exception of the heart, our eyes are the organs around which most sonnets, songs and, yes, even love letters, are written.

So many things revolve around our eyes. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and the phrase “out of sight, out of mind” demonstrates at least metaphorically how much we rely on our vision to understand and organize our world. But in spite of the importance of our eyes both to see and to organize clever sayings around, most people seldom give the eyes more than a cursory (I just did it again with the eye reference) thought, and even less actual care. We wash the sleep out of them in the mornings, then promptly ignore the very things we use to see how well we have brushed our teeth, shaved or applied makeup.

Of course, the eyes are amazing organs that work extremely hard to make it easy for us to ignore them. For the most part they are self-cleaning and self-lubricating, and even get the eyelids and eyelashes involved in trying to protect themselves. Quite an exceptional amount of trouble so we can abuse them by binge-watching television into the wee hours of the night; admit it, we have all done this and worse.

We seldom even protect them from the sun, unless we want to show off some cool shades. Maybe that’s why we can’t see our own noses — our eyes are jealous that we at least put sunscreen on noses? Sounds plausible.

Most people, unfortunately, don’t follow any sort of eye care or protection regimen, though it is extremely important, and we should. Seriously, should there have to be a sign reminding us to wear safety glasses while being in or around an area where things might be flying through the air? The answer is a resounding yes, because, as I said, most people fail to think about their eyes at all. We go to the doctor when we must, we buy eyedrops after something gets in our eyes, and are generally oblivious until we are forced to pay attention. But by then it is often too late.

I say these things because I am one of the worst offenders in the eye care game. As I have said before, I used to repair automobiles for a living. And during the course of doing that I have grinded, welded, sandblasted, torched, painted and just generally sweated — and I used my eyes to do all of it. Usually, I took precautions by wearing masks, safety glasses and other safety equipment, but not always. Sometimes, if it was a small task, I admit to pushing the safety envelope. And as a result, my eyes have been welded, sandblasted, painted, etc. I once had to have a piece of metal taken out of my eye because I didn’t take the time to walk across the shop to get the safety glasses before grinding a spot the size of a 50-cent piece.

It wasn’t that I was stupid (well, maybe a little), just that I didn’t take the time to take precautions. I was in a hurry to get the job done and go to the next step. But as happens sometimes when we fail to do things properly, the time or inconvenience we save doesn’t work out too well. The less than 30 seconds I saved by not walking over to get the safety glasses didn’t offset the hours and hundreds of dollars it cost me to “save time.”

But hey, at least the nurses in the ER got a good laugh when they found out I waited three days before coming in. Because you know I tried to fix it myself before finally admitting I couldn’t. Not my finest moment, and both nurses who worked on it said they had never seen an eye actually rust before.

That was an extreme case, but people get eye damage both to a lesser or greater degree every day. Simple precautions like sunglasses with the proper UV protection and even the proper amount of sleep and a decent nutritious diet go a long way.

Regular trips to an eye care professional are a good idea as well, because a professional can offer expert advice and check for infection and disease. Many eye problems can be corrected, prevented, or the severity lessened with regular care. We should make eye care a priority, because we are only given two as factory equipment. And they are much easier to maintain than to replace.

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