Lentils are plentiful and widely cultivated. They give nutrition and trade opportunities to the less wealthy commoners of ancient Greece and other Mediterranean civilizations. In the heat of the Greco-Persian War, they served to sustain the armies of Sparta during the Battle of Thermopylae, which was made forever famous by the actions of King Leonidas and his 300 soldiers, who defended the Hot Gates – to the last man. A few short decades later, they nurtured the father of modern Western Philosophy – Socrates himself.
This humble legume gave sustenance to those great thinkers and warriors who would be destined to influence millions for centuries to come – giving rise to Western Society as we know it today.
Lentils have yet another connecting point that may surprise you. They served as the geometric template for the first crystal lenses – the Nimrud lens. The Lens – the Greek word for lentil – was primitive by today’s standards in design and function, but was likely of suitable construction to use as a light focusing device to start fires with sunlight, a primitive reading tool, as well as a decoration. Although the efficacy of these functions would have likely been dependent on the craftsmanship of each individual piece.
The Nimrud lens saw a re-imagining in Aristophanes’ (446BC-386BC) play “The Clouds”, which reference a variation of the function of Nimrud’s ability to bend light to create fire, using instead a sphere-shaped glass jar filled with water. The idea is not unlike those found in modern science fiction – Gene Roddenberry representing the idea of cellphone technology in Star Trek as a handheld flip communicator for example. Much like Roddenberry, this fiction foreshadowed the future of ocular technology by adding a twist to an existing idea, inspiring experimentation through storytelling. However, centuries would pass before this particular adaptation was improved upon sufficiently to become reality.
The next evolution of the lens came from 1000s AD Iraq with the theoretical writings of men such as Al-Jayyānī (989-1079), and his peers. His theoretical texts discussed in detail the refined biological and mathematical nature of light in relation to optics as well as the function of the eye. The theories and mathematics the scholars presented in their writing would later be used in Renaissance Area Europe, and again, would be further refined.
1268AD saw the invention of the first-ever reading glasses in Italy, by Roman Catholic monks – who based their work that done by the Arabic scholars -who based their work on the ancient Greek’s use of Nimrud crystals and glass vases – which enabled aging religious leaders to continue to read religious texts to the masses longer into old age without needing to resort to reading stones (a polished glass version of Nimrud).
After another few centuries, the German/Dutch spectral maker Hans Lipperhey (1570-1619) invented the world’s first astrological telescope using thousands of years of cumulative knowledge blended with Renaissance technology.
Hans took single lens technology and pushed it to dazzling new, and innovative heights. Heights sufficient enough to reach the stars. The telescope marked the first-ever instance where multiple lenses could be combined in such a way as to enable the observation of planetary bodies with the human eye. The telescope also saw many further adaptations into navigation telescopes enabling the crews of sailing ships and war galleys to better navigate the sea by dramatically increasing line of sight. The year 1624 saw the first primitive microscopes, enabling the first-ever studies of human organ tissue.
1893AD – Present
Fast forward to the 19th century, we finally begin to see modern examples of lens devices such as sniper scopes, light microscopes, observatories, and side-by-side telescopic lenses which became known as binoculars.
These devices have been at the center of shaping our world ever since. Snipers use a scope to change the course of history with a single bullet. Scientists change the course of medicine by using a microscope to directly observe cells. Astronomers use telescopes to change our understanding of the Universe by looking at the stars.
Now that you have a basic -and I do mean basic – understanding of how connected lenses are to all history, why should you be bothered to retain this information?
The answer is simple. The Binocular Effect is something we all experience daily, without even knowing it.
Every interaction we have with a person or an object is experienced with a singular focus on nothing but itself.
Rare are those who consider the magnitude of the story involved in something as simple as holding a pair of binoculars, or meeting someone new. We are focused on whatever is immediately in front of us – like looking at a distant object through a lens – we only see what we gaze upon. Nothing around that point can be seen, as we have chosen to filter it out.
The Binocular Effect does not mean what we are focused on is unimportant – if we focus the odds are it is important – it means that in order to have that focus we omit 99.99% of all other data – either relevant or irrelevant.
Adopt this principle and hold it in your mind.
It applies to everything you see, or in most cases fail to see.