There is the old story told by Edwin Abbott, a 19th century Anglican headmaster, in his book Flatland, first published in 1884 and reissued in 1984. The central character is a college professor named A squared. A2 lived in Flatland. Everything in Flatland had just two dimensions, height and length. Nothing had depth. If a friend turned sideways, you couldn’t see him. People lived in flat houses, ate flat meals, drank flat sodas, thought flat thoughts, and lived flat lives.

A2 taught higher mathematics at the university. One night, he threw a party for some of his friends. Upstairs, his precocious little son, Pentagon, tried to sleep. As he tossed on his bed, he began to dream. He dreamed a dream no one had dreamed before, that everything had not only height and length, but depth. Houses and trees and especially girls looked so different. He felt different. Life took on a whole new scope. This new dimension seemed to change everything.

Then, as unexpectedly as it had started, the dream ended.

Pentagon couldn’t sleep because he couldn’t keep the dream to himself. Before he knew it, his little bare feet hit the floor and carried him downstairs right into the middle of his father’s party. There he stood in his rumpled pajamas pouring out a dream of an unheard-of dimension. Pentagon tried to explain what depth looked like and felt like. People didn’t have to go on without it, he said, living their flat lives and thinking their flat thoughts.

A2 couldn’t hide his embarrassment. Nor could he shut Pentagon up. The party ended in a shambles. Far into the night father tried to reason with his son. But Pentagon stamped his foot and insisted that what he had dreamt was really true. The next morning the boy talked to anybody who would listen, and most thought that he had lost touch with reality. His willful fantasy agitated him and completely undid his parents. Eventually, as people did in those days, they committed him.

Now it was A2 who couldn’t sleep. In his hours of restlessness he began to wonder: maybe things can be different. Maybe there was a dimension of depth. Maybe there ought to be.

Source | Edwin A. AbbottFlatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions
Dover Publications; Unabridged edition, 1992


Are you living in Flatland?  Are you trying to ‘explain’ everything all the time,  reducing life to a superficial, two dimensional one, with no profundity? Note that the English word ‘explanation’ derives from the Latin ‘explanare’, a word that means ‘flattening out’.

I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. | Ephesians 3:18


Author: philipchircop

I'm a Jesuit from Malta, an artist at heart and madly in love with all things beautiful and soulful: music, painting, sculpture, photography, film, theatre, poetry, good company, good food, good wine and more. I believe that beauty is a wonderful entry into the mystery of the God “whose centre is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere.” God can be sensed in all things if and when we engage in a long, loving look at the real that surrounds us. I consider myself a seeker with bottomless curiosity, an eternal student of life, exploring fresh and creative ways to proclaim the Good News in the hope of helping fellow pilgrims and seekers to embrace real and radical changes that will lead to conversion and transformation.

One thought on “BEYOND FLATNESS”

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