Lenses change the character of the optical experience they offer. There is a deliberate addition of noise to the simple window that a piece of glass is. This noise may magnify, may compress, may selectively highlight or maybe just create different kinds of focal points of attention.
Lenses are used more often to see than to read. If you can see sharply you can read. The other way round is true as well, if you can't see you definitely can't read. If there was a way to read without seeing the text, it would be a totally different adventure. Reading without the mediation of sight is worth thinking about. What would be the form of text? What would be the shape of characters, would typography exist? If we were all born blind and if Braille was the universal language, what would the nature of our world be. Thinking of this will help us tide over our future as this is how we have to live all our future lives. Blind as bats, sensitive as hell and forced to conjure mental images of everything. Forced to grope around the world, being able to move around only in pre-measured and mapped terrains. What would the word 'lens' mean in that world? All kinds of devices which help in the mysterious formation of imagined landscapes will be called lenses. Hallucinogens and psychosis will be possible enablers. People with barren minds, with nothing to think about when the frame of vision is black, dark as a black-board will want to live their whole lives on drugs. Doctors will realise of course that all the drugs being freely abused can't be very healthy and so they will attempt reverse-psychosis as a mass vaccination drive. They will try to save people from dying like junkies by letting them reside in lasting madness, reside in a psychotic episode that lasts. Then psychosis will not even be called as such, it will be the preferred way of living. And in that time the only popularly held notion of the word 'lens' will be gateway drugs, amorous love and other spaces which make a strong impression.
So lenses do this, they flirtatiously tinker with the pre-existing character of our viewport. This viewport could be held and generated by our senses but also it could be entirely residing in our mind. It could indicate a moment of coming alive for the cameras inside, frantically happy that there is something to generate worlds from.
You think that dreams are aggregations of what we see with our eyes (if we can see). You think that in our dreams landscapes are generated from the recompiled fragments of the visual world that we leave unexplored. If that was the case than in the future when we go blind, we will still have enough visual material from these days of vision to dream about forever. But what actually happens is that in a few days the supply of dreams showing known worlds and remixing memories, movies and fabrication dries up. We knew this first hand when we were blind for some time. We woke up on the third morning of our blind-as-bat life and we had a fresh source for our dreams immediately. No more were our dreams constructed with defunct materials. It was a fresh, new theatre of explosive visual experience. We had to use lenses of course. The first day, three days after we went blind, we used music, marijuana and loving presences. On using the lenses and crashing down on our hard bed, our minds exploded with visual worlds unknown to us. There was no index of reality as we used to know it with our eyes, there was a whole new system trying to communicate with us using symbols that we still had to fathom.
So, lenses facilitate abstract experience. You have something in front of you, you don a lens and then see something else altogether and bingo you have an experience that was created entirely from your own psychic material. There is no intrusion, there is no discomfort. In the current times when we see what we are shown, we see what has been essentially created by the mechanical means of a whole workforce and agree to live with hungry eyes still hungry for something to look at. Something which was especially made for us to gaze at, for us to gain instruction from. In the future when we see dreams, we will see our own mind, we will see what we have to spend our whole life to understand. And that will be something to do.
This future that we talk about will come back home to answer our predicament. Our blind future is going to be like reading text without being able to see it. We are going to know how to do that and this Optics lab is preparing us for that time.