Book Diary September 2021- Flatland by Edwin A. Abbot

Ah, the joy, ah, the joy of Thought! What can It not achieve by thinking! its own Thought coming to Itself, suggestive of its disparagement, thereby to enhance Its happiness! Sweet rebellion stirred up to result in triumph! Ah, the divine creative power of the All in One! Ah, the divine creative power of the All in One! Ah, the joy, the joy of Being!

A. Square
Flatland by Edwin A. Abbott (A Square)

Flatland is a brain-teasing reading where a universe is made of lines and geometrical shape. Back when I learned geometry in High School, I accepted blindly the knowledge in Geometry that 2 dimension contains dot and line that give us line, square, hexagon, or circles, 3 dimension adds the depth so it gives us cubes and sphere. I did not soak more the meaning of it by acknowledging the presence of motion, the sense and the action that give more meaning to its existence. Some action words even become more meaningful: 3 dimension gives us “sitting”, “laying”, “standing” position. Thus we stop searching what are the fourth, fifth, sixth, and higher dimension. Maybe by knowing what they mean, the line and the sphere we know is perceived even more differently. It should not be applied only in math, it should be applied in everything.

I may have written the review of Flatland by Edwin A. Abbot in StoryGraph and even starting another book to read. But my brain is unable to stop processing what I read in Flatland. There are so many good quotes I want to sip it to my soul and so many good thoughts I want to continuously delve into. I made this post, so I can visit anytime words from Flatland that touched my soul. If you want to know my opinion about this book, feel free to see my review on StoryGraph.

Memorable Passages

When I was in Spaceland and I heard that your sailor have very similar experiences while they traverse your seas and discern some distant island or coast lying on the horizon

This is great introduction from the book which describes how their people see other objects as flat based on what they see and finally it becomes a belief. ‘Seeing is Believing’. This part hits hard to Flat Earth theory followers.

Flat Earth Map by Orlando Ferguson

When I call them Priests, let me not be understood as meaning no more than the term denotes with you. With us, our Priests are Administrators of all Business, Art, and Science; Directors of Trade, Commerce, Generalship, Architecture, Engineering, Education, Statesmanship, Legislature, Morality, Theology; doing nothing themselves, they are the Causes of everything worth doing that is done by others. Although popularly everyone called a Circle is deemed a Circle, yet among better educated Classes it is knows that no Circle is really a Circle, but only a Polygon with a very large number of very small sides. As the the number of the sides increases, a Polygon approximates to a Circle; and, when the number is very great indeed, say for example three or four hundred, it is extremely difficult for the most delicate touch to feel any polygonal angles. Let me say rather, it would be difficult: for as I have shown above. Recognition by Feeling is unknown among the higher society, and to feel a Circle would be considered a most audacious insult.

The Narrator, who he regarded himself as Square, which commoner in Flatland, described the highest status in Flatland, who is the Priest is illustrated as Circle. As you read, you realized the status is measured by their sizes, amount and degree of angles. Circle is considered as perfect shape because it is almost like a Polygonal with hundred angles.

Image from storyofmathematics.com. As you can see, the more angles gives shape becoming more circular.

When my Grandson entered the room I carefully secured the door. Then, sitting down by his side and taking our mathematical tables,- or, as you would call them, Lines- I told him we would resume the lesson of yesterday. I taught him once more how a Point by motion in One Dimension produces a Line, and how a straight Line in Two dimensions produces a Square. After this, forcing a laugh. I said, ‘And now, you scamp, you wanted to make me believe that a Square may in the same way by motion “Upwards, not Northwards” produce another figure, a sort of extra Square in Three Dimensions. Say that again, you young rascal.’

The book introduces three Universes, Pointland, Flatland and Lineland, where each of them have unique attributes to perceive their people social status. The Square is coming from universe that similar to Cartesian Plane, while Sphere is coming from universe made of Euclidean Space. (which they found each other funny to call the Space as Plane and vice versa).

My favorite part of this book is how the Square finally acknowledges the presence of third Dimension and starting to see everything from new perspective as well as wondering other possibilities they might have not discovered yet. This part reminds me there are so many things we have not discovered, but most of us are so arrogant to believe what we know is already the rightest.

You see,’ said the Teacher, ‘how little your words have done. So far as the Monarch understands them at all, he accepts them as his own- for he cannot conceive of any other except himself- and plumes himself upon the variety of “Its Thought” as an instance of creative Power. Let us leave this God of Pointland to give the ignorant fruition of his omnipresence and omniscience: nothing that you or I can do can rescue him from his self-satisfaction.’

The Circle may be considered as the perfect shape, but through other universe’s perspective, the Circle is seen as a straight line, which is offensive to the Square for seeing Circle to be equal to commoner. After an encounter between Square and Sphere and exchanging view in their own Universe, the Square returned and tried to share what he learned to his community, alas, it was a difficult quest as their belief is strongly shaped by what they see.

Flatland is a very challenging reading, but if you love math, you may find this book fun rather than challenging. Moreover, this book implicitly criticizes the social structure that is made in our real World, so I highly recommend this book if you enjoy math and satire.

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