Perspective is a funny thing, leaping out at me from all corners as I lie in the bath staring up at cobwebs and paintwork. All these lines surrounding us. All these angles and shapes, trying to squeeze neatly into carefully-defined boxes, tracing their ideal designs through the air.
Yet looking closer the lines don't really line up, but dance vaguely parallel with each other. The delicate modernity of right angles, sewn into us through classical artwork and gridded paper at school, starts to fall apart.
Is the top of the door level and the doorframe is out? Or has the door slipped away from its rightful position, taunting the rest of the room with its wayward attitude? What if both are just doing whatever they want to do, disregarding the fundamental centre of the earth and all the perpendicular CAD models projecting out into space? Surrounded by foam, I realise I don't know which of the lines above me are 'correct'.
Perspective is a funny thing, and easily betrayed. The artful lines of perspective that underlie so many paintings, traipsing away to an imagined horizon. The lines on flattened screens that we instantly convert into 3D worlds ready for exploring. The inside-out illusion rooms, where our minds actually prefer to imagine people growing and shrinking in front us, than give up the idea that the lines holding them could be anything but 'correct'.
We are easily fooled, but what's the alternative? Without some assumptions, without trusting in what we see, would we even be able to move? Without distance, without judgement, without any sense of place. We would become lost and helpless, no more three-dimensional in practice than a diagram in a maths book.
Perspective is funny, because it's not just about lines and shapes, but about viewpoints. We have to have viewpoints in order to move on with things. We make assumptions and trust our judgements all the time.
Yet if our visual perspective can be fooled so easily, and if it is jumping to all kinds of rapid conclusions, what other assumptions suffer the same betrayal? We may be moving forwards - learning new things, discovering amazing ideas, ticking boxes - but can we really say our choice and judgement is based on anything concrete? Is everything really as neat and tidy as we want it to be?
Would you know an optical illusion was an illusion, if nobody told you?
Grey Pebbles, an intermittent mail out tracing a path back home. Subscribe here.