Flatland has to be proof that ideas once conceived last way beyond their time and place of creation. A novel published in the 1800s resonates with such lucid clarity to a 21st century mindset! Perhaps its the subject, or even the perspective, or even its metaphorical import..or even all put together. This is a masterpiece.
The book, for its slender disposition, has all the tact of a 900 pound gorilla when implicitly dealing with the prejudices of modern scientific/rational man. The story is of a two dimensional world where sentient beings are geometric figures. They have a functioning society, complete with a caste system. Within this setup is Mr.Square who is ‘visited’ by a creature of a three dimensional world. To ease this ‘revelation’ upon his poor head, he is also given a dream of a one dimensional world, where ‘point’ beings make up a society. Each dimension gives rise to its own peculiarities, and each thinks his society to be the pinnacle of creation.
Edwin Abbot, the author of Flatland, in setting up the two dimensional world as the home base for his story, seems to have accomplished two things i) Reduced the threshold for understanding ideas involved, since every primary school kid would know about the level of geometry discussed and ii) Lulled our head about its simplicity to launch his primary attack on our three dimensional pre-dispositions.
I especially love the way it demolishes conventional rational/scientific ideas using its own language! There is a sequence where the 3D being appears within Flatland, to the 2D being, our Mr.Square. And appearing of the 3D being is like that of a vision to our Square, he seems to magically appear out of nowhere, materializing and dematerializing at will!
Indulge me for a while, but isn’t this what religious experiences are all about? And our dear rationalists want to use their machines to measure and asses it??? I have often wondered how the scientific community can be so smug about its monumental ignorance. Not that I have anything against them per se, but given their disposition to revise their theories and models every century or so how can they shoot down the mystical aspects of spirituality or religion, with the air of a colonial looking down upon a native!
Do note that I do not recommend either to accept things with blind faith. But to allow the possibility that some things cannot be measured with machines, at least not with machines of the 3D world.
Perhaps just beyond our infantile sensibilities, there lies another, or even many other, worlds. We too shall wake up to it one day. Our lives shall not be sterile anymore – Apollo shall be in our songs, Diana our aid in pursuit, the Herd-boy to sweeten our acts with his sanction, miracles shall be common place and all life an epiphany.