Flatland: A Parable of Spiritual Dimensions by Edwin Abbott

Flatland

Summary

  1. The narrator, a square living in a two dimensional world called Flatland, is shown a third dimension which he cannot initially comprehend. He is eventually taken to Spaceland, where three dimensions exist, and attempts to spread the “gospel” but is locked away due to the social unrest this would cause if it reached the masses. Found for free, here
Key Takeaways
  1. “I – alas, I alone in Flatland – know now only too well the true solution of this mysterious problem [what is the origin of light]; but my knowledge cannot be made intelligible to a single one of my countrymen; and I am mocked at – I, the sole possessor of the truths of Space and of the theory of the introduction of Light from the world of three Dimensions – as if I were the maddest of the mad!”
  2. As the Square entered Spaceland – “Either this is madness or it is Hell…it is Knowledge; it is Three dimensions: open your eye once again and try to look steadily.”
  3. “That Point is a Being like ourselves, but confined to the non-dimensional Gulf. He is himself his own world, his own Universe…Yet mark his perfect self-contentment, and learn his lesson, that to be self-contented is to be vile and ignorant, and that to aspire is better than to be blindly and impotently happy.”
What I got out of it
  1. There are always more ways to view any situation but often we are blind to them and even if we saw it, might not recognize it. Always look for points of view or people who disagree with you or challenge you to look at a problem differently. That is where you learn and where you grow

Read Flatland

  • The narrator brings us through his world, the social classes, how they recognize each other, the irregulars, the addition of color to their shapes which brought about the Universal Color Bill and great protests and anarchy which led to a war and eventually the prohibition of color
  • Isosceles = lowest class and soldiers
  • Straight lines = women
  • Equilateral or equal sided triangles = middle class
  • Squares = professional men and gentlemen (of which the narrator belogns to)
  • Hexagons and polygonal shapes = nobility
  • Circle (or so many sides can’t tell) = priestly, and highest order
  • The more sides, the higher the status
  • Law of nature that a male child shall have one more side than his father so that each generation shall rise one step in the scale of development and nobility…But this rule applies not always to the Tradesman and less often to the Soldiers and to the Workmen; who indeed can hardly be said to deserve the name of human figures since they have not all their sides equal
  • The sphere enters into Flatland and attempts to describe height, the third dimension, to the square and although he desperately tries, he can’t understand and eventually attacks the Sphere
  • Sphere – “Why will you refuse to listen to reason? I had hoped to find in you – as being a man of sense and an accomplished mathematician – a fit apostle for the Gospel of Three Dimensions, which I am allowed to preach once only in a thousand years: but now I know not how to convince you.”
    Where is this land of Four Dimensions? There is no such land. The very idea of it is utterly inconceivable [Sphere]
  • The Square attempts to teach his grandson of the Third Dimension but is unsuccessful. He contemplates the Third Dimension for months and eventually can’t keep it in anymore and is charged with treason and imprisoned for speaking of these other dimensions

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