“Seldom, very seldom, does complete truth belong to any human disclosure; seldom can it happen that something is not a little disguised or a little mistaken.”

-Jane Austen, Emma

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Two-dimensional Living

Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?
(T.S. Eliot)

While the 21st century provides many opportunities to participate within the three-dimensional space and live a life to its fullest—with more opportunities and advantages present today than in any other era, many, instead choose to believe in and view the world through a two-dimensional lens.

Two-dimensional living though, distorts rather than sheds further light onto reality, distorting both one’s personal life and an individual’s understanding of the world at large.

And, what exactly is two-dimensional living?

For instance, we view celebrities as two-dimensional beings. We see them on TV, in movies, and on magazine covers—the 2D world. However, celebrities are three-dimensional people, not 2D images. They are not flat. They are very real— I mean just ask them if they are, after the umpteenth paparazzi attack. And I know that’s a “captain obvious” observation, but do we really think about or understand the ramifications of constantly viewing them, and many others things in the world from our respective 2D glasses? After all, two-dimensions isn’t reality, but rather a snapshot—and usually a very well-crafted one at that. We see the Vogue photo shopped images, the smiles and the wit, gracing a 2D picture, but the circumstance surrounding that person’s 3D reality is usually quite different.

A 2D perspective and subsequent living habits that accompany it have ramifications in every aspect of our life—not just within our entertainment realm. We spectate at everything, rather than participating in it. From watching TV, sports, movies, engrossing ourselves in social media (here comes the customary Twitter and Facebook shout out) we over time gradually detach ourselves from reality rather than recognizing the truth more. We don’t play soccer—we watch soccer. We don’t go to a play as often or read a book—we watch a movie. 2D realities are even more commonplace within the work environment now, individuals existing on a computer, engaging their reality and with others electronically, rather than through a face-to-face interaction.

I mean I love my Amazon Prime Justified marathons. Let’s be honest. And 2D interfaces whether they be computers, TVs, movie screens, phones (the list goes on) all have their place. However, when people start to live more in cyberspace than within real space, it’s only a matter of time before we subject our 3D life to the 2D perspective that we, ourselves, have become more accustomed too. Everything, whether a person or situation, soon become either more exaggerated or unnecessarily under-exaggerated. We become obsessed with talking-heads and their opinions, mimicking everything they say, while under-valuing our neighbors more real, and perhaps more accurate perception.  We begin to hear more statements like, (as someone is pointing at a movie screen), “She has the perfect life,” (or while listening to the headlines), “That politician is a womanizing-whore-SOB-DC bureaucrat.” When you view reality from a 2D lens it becomes even that much easier to jump to conclusions and make sweeping generalizations. We see 10% of a person or a situation.  And over time, this limited 2D viewpoint, something which once we only engaged with occasionally, becomes more and more oft, until this 2D perspective metamorphoses into our tangible day-to-day reality.  

Although we acknowledge to our peers and family members, that of course we know that “nothing is real on magazine covers” or that “Facebook is a “false reality,” do we truly internalize those messages within ourselves, or do we yet again take another Instagram of a sunny beach in CA, while really harboring angsty feelings behind our camera phone.

Our modern world is more akin to the medieval variety wherein artists communicated to the viewer using two-dimensional space, rather than though painting three-dimensional compositions. The many Madonna and Child icons you find in early Christian cathedrals attest to the more common 2D perception of the era. While these folk viewed their God in the 2D realm, the reality of God is of course incomprehensibly beyond any dimension and understanding. And while we cannot understand the complexity of God, shouldn’t we at least try to get as close to that reality as possible. For, I believe that while God is not only infinite and vast, he is also very personal and intimate and wants to help us. Don’t those sentiments echo more of a 3D vibrancy rather than a 2D abstraction? This statement isn’t an all-out-call to arms against early Christian art, however, I do believe that because most Medieval folk viewed religion through such a limited lens, they in turn created more distance between themselves and their maker, rather than less. Just as we cannot truly assess the worth of an individual through a 2D picture on a magazine cover, the secrets to godliness are also not quite as simply depicted in a 2D icon. The daily hash out of “some folks go to heaven” and “some to hell” is not what all religious sentiment entirely comprises. However, because people have become so accustomed to viewing a simple 2D reality, it increasingly becomes that much more difficult to recognize and find the real thing—the actual God, the real person.

It wasn't until the Renaissance, when the likes of Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci began sculpting, inventing, and painting 3D objects, that suddenly a richer, more vibrant universe seemed possible. This humanization of art enabled people to relate more easily to their God and surroundings, rather than feeling further alienation. Humans, at last, became a little bit more than the mere mortals whom Zeus played around with, but rather God’s children—beings worth protecting and loving. These Renaissance masterpieces possessed vast dimension, gaping-in-awe angles, and filled a space which had rarely been explored or depicted.  Perhaps, now, when greeting St. Peter at the gates of heaven you will at least be a little closer to recognizing the Patron saint in his Michelangelo-esque form, rather than confusing him with John, the cashier from the local Whole Foods.  Because you had a taste for the real thing before, you can now recognize it later--when it means more. 

Three-dimensional living not only sustains and provides a more intimate and realistic environment, but also provides a greater depth, joy and satisfaction in life that can never be found within the hollow, insubstantial, and anxiously unfulfilled 2D realm. You can stare at the picture all you want, but you will ultimately will always come away with either a flawed, or at most, a basic understanding of the individual. She has brown hair and green eyes. And while you can even read a statement she says, you will still never be able to ascertain the exact meaning or emphasis the individual really ascribes to it. The need for more person-to-person interaction, or at least living that involves more participating and less spectating is necessary for a rich life. Duh.

2D information communicates necessary information—true, but ultimately that is its ultimate and final function. I post pictures to my Facebook and write quipping phrases in emails, but that limited form of interaction with others will never replace real meaningful interaction. Whether it is by phone, or if you are lucky, in person. Letters can be infused with 3D meaning as well, but unfortunately modern lingo has suffused the previous poetry which once inhabited letters and correspondence of the past.

I mean, I guess I probably shouldn’t be talking. After all I am writing this entry on a computer, while listening to Spotify, and watching the BBC version of Sherlock Holmes. Whoops. 

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