I started a class on perspective Sunday; the first session, besides the housekeeping, which always takes up a big segment of any first session of any class, was simple foundational work in horizons — low horizon, mid horizon, high horizon. This seemed essentially simple to me, which was sort of worrisome, given that many of the other students were confused by it. I suppose that if I was so bad off that I didn’t even know I should have been confused, I will find that out later.
My largest question, though, was well, what happens when people who have no depth perception — and I mean none, like I didn’t lose it, but it was never there, and never shall be — try to think about perspectives? Cause I mean, I don’t know that I’m capable of thinking about perspective.
Well, the teacher said, can you tell if things are far away or close? Can you drive? Yes, I said, I can. Well, then your brain uses the same tricks that we use to create an impression of three dimensions on a two dimensional piece of paper. You notice exactly the same things. Further away things are smaller, and eventually a shade of blue; some things overlap others; there are angles going off into the distance.
There you are then. I don’t know what you all see when you look at a landscape, but I see a flat surface, which I interpret as having depth, even though it has none, for me, visually.
It doesn’t always work, though. My favorite Visual Misinterpretation so far happened long ago in San Francisco, at the beach. We were sitting up on the sand, and at the water’s edge I saw a little miniature Irish Setter running along the shore. I had no idea that there was any sort of breed like a miniature Irish Setter, but we get new breeds all the time, so why not. I remarked to the friend sitting next to me that the little miniature dog down by the water looked just like Star’s dog Lily. Who had come with us. And was indeed the tiny dog down by the water.
If there had been any other references besides Lily herself, other than those vast expanses of sky and sea and beach, I would never have made that mistake. Tiny Lily next to a tiny human would have been, obviously, Lily and a friend, far away.
But she was on her own. So Tiny Lily is for me ever a reminder of what it is like to be a Flatlander, come amongst you all. I’m totally pretending over here. You have some really cool miniature dogs.