Like a Sphere in Flatland


A man in my e-mail group asked to be excluded from my responses.  He said I was “negative” and “liberal.”  I had merely mentioned I don’t believe in war, that it is barbaric, institutionalized murder.  I said I don’t believe in standing armies, either.

It really hurt my feelings that he called me “liberal.”  Liberals don’t like me, either.  In fact, on the political continuum from the various “ism’s” at the extremes and including “liberal” and “conservative,” I don’t fit anywhere.  I feel like a sphere in Flatland.

For those who haven’t read this charming classic satire, Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions, by Edwin A. Abbott (1884), it is well worth reading, and only 160 pages.   In it, narrator A. Square describes a planar world in which the social hierarchy is determined by how many angles you have.  When Lord Sphere makes himself known to A. Square, he is incredulous until taken on a visit to “Spaceland.”  His attempts to convince his fellow Flatlanders of the existence of a third dimension only gets him in trouble, and he ends up in jail for his lunacy.

Another image, maybe more appropriate to the linear liberal-conservative standard and its limitations, is of trying to assess the validity of a book by the scientific method.  The scientific method is the holy grail of modern scientific dogma, but it is limited by its linear approach. Scientists believe this makes it superior to other methods of assessing truth.

The scientific method presumes cause and effect, yes-and-no, good and bad, right and wrong.  It sneers at extraneous information, abstractions, symbols, and patterns. Logic is linear:  words must come out in sequential fashion.  Those who relate this to the left brain–the seat of verbal thinking and expression in most people–claim superiority of this hemisphere because of its lock-step method of reasoning.  The right brain is associated with symbols, patterns, dreams, and appreciation for art and music.

However, the brain is wired such that incoming sensory information travels through the thalamus, the pain center, then through the limbic system, the emotional center, before it reaches left or right brain.  In other words, every thought is colored by physical and emotional input before it becomes conscious.  Even the most logical and rational analysis is founded on emotional bias.

The scientific, linear mode presumes to be objective, insofar as is humanly possible, yet the choice of study subject is based on emotional factors.  The idea that artificial intelligence, with its binary code, can eventually surpass the human brain’s abilities discounts the spontaneous creativity of the right brain and its symbolic language of patterns and associations.

The recent preoccupation with what’s called “fake news” shows how easy it is to confuse the “rational” mind.  Misinformation, propaganda, distortions, opinion, gossip, libel, and slander have always been around.  Assumptions presumed to be factual have fallen apart over and over in light of new evidence.  The earth used to be flat, remember, and the sun revolved around it.  Now there’s a widespread concern that people don’t know whom or what to trust, with “trust” seemingly synonymous with blind faith in the source.

What is truth, after all, and does it matter?  If this trend leads to a greater tendency to question authority or formerly trusted sources, or to more critical thinking, it might result in the revolution in consciousness that some people imagine.  We will not achieve it through the scientific method, which requires an artificial situation that attempts to reduce variables to one.  In life there is always infinitely more than one variable to consider.  Thus, trying to place anyone on a linear political scale reduces her dimensionality to a pitiful caricature, but we see it all the time:  the blacks, the women, the illegals, the racists, the poor, the 0.1 percent, and on and on.  The so-called advocates, whether members of the identified group or not, posture themselves as knowing the condition, needs, and wants of the group.

Labeling of groups dehumanizes them, clumps them into an agglutinated mass of undifferentiated genetic material that serves only to concentrate emotion into an identifiable target for support or attack.  Advocates tend to use that emotionally laden grouping to promote their agendas, which may be personal or may be backed by yet other groups.

I can only know my own truth, and even that changes moment to moment or as soon as I turn my head.  Truth is a slippery little rascal.  Like a sphere in Flatland, or a book whose value defies the scientific method, I can see from above or below the plane, or even with the plane, but at least I know the difference between a line and a circle.  The scientific method might judge based on emotionally based standards of comparison, but patterns make no judgments and have no beginnings or ends, no cause-and-effect, and reveal no ultimate truth.

My dislike for war, and for fighting, compels me to avoid arguing, recognizing as I do that my choice is emotional, as is my detractor’s.  Energy goes out of me when I’m drawn into conflictual situations.  I believe this happens with others, too, but I could be wrong.  The relentless focus on competition and struggle, on differences cemented by stifling labels, only feeds the problems, generating parallel, linear, universes with no spherical perspective.

10 thoughts on “Like a Sphere in Flatland

  1. Cotton Boll Conspiracy

    If those who self-describe as “conservatives” and “liberals” both dislike you, I don’t know that that’s such a bad thing. Anyone who narrowly pigeonholes themselves into a political faction probably isn’t going to be open to new ideas, which is how we’ve gotten into the mess we’re in now.

    1. katharineotto Post author

      Cotton Boll,
      Agreed. That was the main point of the article, so I’m glad you picked up on it. Narrow-mindedness spans all self-identified groups and is exclusive to none.

  2. Rosaliene Bacchus

    Katharine, thanks for your thought-provoking and informative post. We forget, at our peril, that “[e]ven the most logical and rational [scientific] analysis is founded on emotional bias,” as you demonstrate. Far too often – as you must know well from your work in the field of mental health – we humans come to adulthood with overstuffed bags of heavily charged emotional experiences.

    I, too, have been labeled as “liberal” for my stand against war, and agree with you that war is “barbaric, institutionalized murder.” We fool ourselves that only the actions of our enemies, like ISIS, are barbaric. It’s unfortunate that the man you refer to is unable to engage with someone who doesn’t share “his truth” about our world.

    We humans will NEVER agree on all issues that affect our lives from cradle to grave. Yet, if we are to resolve the existential threats that we now face as a species – nuclear war, climate change, species extinction, plastic waste build-up – we have to learn to accept our diverse beliefs and focus on our shared basic humanity: our need for potable water, non-toxic air and food, and livable habitats.

    1. katharineotto Post author

      As always, I appreciate your supportive and simpatico comments. You remind me there are people, verbal and not, who still have priorities straight. Nothing else matters if we don’t have water, food, and shelter. I don’t expect to agree with people on everything, but when they presume to use my money or shove me aside to further their own agendas, I take issue. The idea that these wars are supposed to protect me flies all over me. I think the US is just asking for trouble.

  3. Sha'Tara

    Hi Katharine… quote: “Energy goes out of me when I’m drawn into conflictual situations.” That happens to me big time and I have realized that the more “empathetic” a person becomes, the more energy is lost in conflict. We cannot “do” conflict and our higher sense of rightness tells us conflict is an error.

    1. katharineotto Post author

      How did I know you would understand? I do relate to people energetically and always have. I thought other people did, too. I still believe that, but am not sure how aware they are that energetic interactions are always taking place, not only from person to person, but between people, objects, and their environments.

      It’s a complex subject, hard to express in a single comment, but a theme in my perpetually-in-progress novel. “Vibrational perception” and “vitality theft” play big roles.

      Television, particularly, feels like an enormous “vibe suck,” especially the commercials. The internet can also be draining.

      Thanks for reading and for your comment.

  4. Sha'Tara

    I think a certain level of developed “awareness” is needed to become aware that one’s vitality is being sucked out by what I call energy sucks. TV and radio subliminally suck energy out of people, that is why they are standard fare in pubs and restaurant particularly. As energy is being sucked, the body demands a replacement, and in comes that extra alcoholic drink, extra large side of fries and dessert.

    I am not receiving comments from your blog so I’m going to unfollow, then click on “follow” again to reset the process.

    1. katharineotto Post author

      This is a subject that should be explored in more depth, because few people seem to understand or appreciate the concept. I believe these psychic–for lack of a better word–energy transfers occur all the time and are actively used in some sectors to manipulate and control, as in the example you give above. Advertising or propaganda use subliminal messages to sell their products or agendas. The general de-vitalization of the planet and corresponding unhealthiness are possible consequences.

      1. Sha'Tara

        Quote: ” The general de-vitalization of the planet and corresponding unhealthiness are possible consequences.”

        Personally I think (observe might be more accurate) they are definite consequences. The capitalist (money/materialist) system is in disarray. To counteract, “they” are pushing more and more advertising and propaganda upon a populace that can’t live without the avalanche of lies which have become the drug of choice. Even with less tangible money (real resources) consumerism is going frantic. People are being systematically dummied-down and played as marks at every level of interaction with the System: religion, government and finance. They pray, they vote, they buy, most of them doing all three, unable or unwilling to make the connection between the System’s panic and the observable collapse of civilization.

      2. katharineotto Post author

        Well said. I try to avoid “cause-and-effect” reasoning, as I see it all as part of an interlocking pattern. I also wonder who “they” are. It seems there is a belief that people of all strata share, that is leading to the de-vitalization we see. Call it “learned helplessness,” if you will, the idea that the “enemy” has won, so why try?

        “The System” does seem to be panicking. I used to feel angry about its self-sabotage, but now find it amusing. Just trying to stay out of the way.

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