Before you stop reading because I’ve already lost your interest, let me assure you this post isn’t going to go over your head (and hopefully won’t bore you). After all, the rest of this post is about shapes! You can handle that.
There’s a scene from Flatland: The Movie that, for lack of a better phrase, blows my mind. The short film is one of several based on Edwin A. Abbott’s 1880 story, Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions. The trailer below gives you the basic idea. It’s about a world of two-dimensional (“flat”) shapes where the idea of the existence of more than two dimensions is laughed at (it’s also an idea that can get you in big trouble with the ruling shapes).
The point is unable (and unwilling) to consider the possibility of anything existing besides itself.
The square next encounters a line (no clip for this one, sorry!). The line, a character of two dimensions, has no conception of above or below.
Stay with me here… this is where the point (no pun intended) really comes home: The square, inspired and excited by all that the sphere has shown him, asks the sphere about the possibility of a fourth dimension. If the sphere knew a dimension more than the square (and the square than the line), then wouldn’t there be another figure who knows a dimension more than the sphere?
The sphere laughs, and rejects the idea as impossible. Even the sphere–who ridiculed the two-dimensional inhabitants of Flatland for not recognizing the third dimension–cannot (or will not) consider the possibility that there is more beyond what he has always known.
Our paradigms–our models by which we approach and structure life–are so comfortable. They give us a sense of security and the sense that we are right. Questioning those paradigms is scary, disconcerting…. and humbling.
I ask, again: How stubborn is your paradigm? How willing are you to consider beyond what you know or believe to be true or possible?
Related Posts: Careful, Your Limited Perspective Is Showing, Can’t Relate? Use Your Imagination, We Are All Unreliable Narrators
*Of course, both of these theories have been challenged and expanded upon (with varying degrees of success/recognition). However, based on their prominence and endurance, let’s assume for the moment there’s something to them.