Thursday, March 29, 2007

For the World is Flat and you'll fall off the edge

There are times in your life when something that never made any sense all of a sudden takes on the sharpest of meaning. An epiphany - a comprehension or perception of reality by means of a sudden intuitive realization (www.thefreedictionary.com) I've had a few of these over the years -- some have been more poignant than others. (like the one I had on writing itself!) My most recent moment of startling realization came about several weeks ago while I was traveling to Virginia Beach, VA to attend Epicon.

While the plane was coming in for a landing at the airport, I saw something out the window which really got me thinking. What I saw, as we came toward the coast, was the horizon. And the more I looked at it, the more it gave the impression that it came to an end and just dropped off to nowhere, like seeing a waterfall from upriver.

(hm, I seem to be on a vision kick these last two posts...could it be a trend? Naw.) :P

Seeing such a view, I suddenly understood where all the old tales of a Flat World and the edges you would fall off from might have come from. Eyes and light can play all sorts of tricks on the beholder, giving the viewer visions of things they are left alone to interpret. So I could very well see how such a view off of a coast as I had seen in the East (and then remembered seeing something similar in the West) could have given seafarers the wrong impression of how things actually were.

To us modern folk visions like these mean nothing. We know better. But what of those who didn't know anything else, who only had their eyes with which to attempt to reason what they saw? Can you imagine the courage it would have taken for someone believing strictly in their senses to have sailed toward this seeming precipice to see just how far they could go before the end? It boggles the mind.

Going to California last year, I ran across two other illusions. The first was on the way to San Diego on the plane. Out the window, where the mountains were covered with clouds, they seemed to fade/be eaten out of existence. As if the land itself were being sucked into some unfathomable void. The second was from the ground, staring out toward the ocean. The clouds rose from the water up high to the sky, a giant wall stretching upwards and left to right all the way around. It made the world look as if it were contained in a giant bowl.

Without science, without the basic education and beliefs we're given as children, what would such sights inspire within us? Amazement, wonder, fear? Of such things tales would be made. Traditions and knowledge imparted to help those who see it cope with the unknown. Setting of boundaries to give a tenuous sense of control or understanding of the world around us. (Yeah, I think about weird stuff. What can I say?) :P

Have any visual illusions you want to share? Epiphanies of your own?



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