“I like you better than Saturn.”
“Wow,” said Rick, “that’s a pretty big deal.”
One of my favorite episodes of the series Cosmos is the explanation of the 4th dimension. Carl Sagan tells us to imagine Flatland, that we are absolutely flat, and live with everything flat. There are Squares, Circles and Triangles, and we live in flat houses and do flat businesses. We have width and length but no height at all. We know left and right, forewards and backwards, but we have never heard of up and and down.
Now imagine that a strange creature, the Apple, comes to Flatland and says “Hello, I’m a visitor from the 3rd dimension”.
Square, Circle and Triangle look around and see nobody and begin worrying about their mental sanity. Apple is not happy with this perception they have of her so she decides to definitely enter Flatland. However, she only shows herself partially, only a section at a time, and little by little, piece by piece, a series of objects are painted on Flatland.
The only conclusion they find is that Apple is crazy.
So she decides to push Square and Square begins flying and at first Square has no idea what’s going on but then he looks down for the first time ever and sees Flatland in a way nobody else has ever done before.
Square descends to the surface and appears on Flatland again. He tries to explain Triangle and Circle what he has just seen and he describes it as a 3rd dimension called “Up”. Triangle and Circle ask Square to show it to them and Square responds he doesn’t know how.
We cannot see the 4-dimensional world but we can certainly imagine it. We are tridimensional creatures trapped in a tridimensional world. We can talk about a 4th dimension, but we cannot experience it. Nobody can point it out.
I imagine Isaac that way. He is not a bi-dimensional creature, but a four-dimensional one. He sees things nobody else sees. It may seem Isaac lives in Flatland but in truth he is the crazy creature who came to visit from the 4th dimension. Ricks knows, knows it a little too well.
“No, we’re definitely stuck to one another. You to me and me to you.”
“Even though I don’t make sense”
Rick patted his back. “Hey, you make sense. You make a lot of sense. Sometimes it’s a sense I don’t get, but that doesn’t mean it’s not sense.”
I must admit that, with the title and a rather short blurb, I expected this to be futuristic or sci-fi, but it wasn’t. If this book was called “Anatomy of the 4th dimension” or another poetical but “scientific” statement, I would have believed it. It was an instant captured in a few words, in a few pages. But that was more than enough. I can bet the author could have achieved to make us feel the same were the pages cut to half.
“Boyfriends?” repeated Rich, which was good, because that let Isaac know he’d understood.
Isaac nodded, and then, just in case Rick was being slow again, he explained: “It’s when you kiss somebody only and don’t kiss anyone else ever.”
“That…” Rick took a deep breath and let it out through his nose. “That’s one definition, yeah.”
Hi, Apple, or better said, Hi, Isaac.
When that book: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, two things happened. One, it was my first book in English I managed to finish. Two, autism spectrum disorder began puzzling me... in a good sense. That straightforward, shameless and honest voice is something I cannot stop being addicted to. In this book, that voice is present for the whole while. I loved seeing the world, love and joy, anger and jealousy, through Isaac's eyes. It's a little gift to listen to him for a little while. And it's indeed for a little while.
He stayed awake a little longer, letting Rick’s breathing and heartbeat be what he imagined the background noise of the universe might sound to the right ears.
People were made of the same elements as all the other things in the rest of the ubniverse – ‘star stuff’, Carl Sagan had said, and Carl Sagan has died, but before he’d done that he’d known a lot of things – but somehow people had screwed up the star stuff and made emotions out of it, which was why Isaac had to pause his walk until he stopped crying.
The train would rock its way down the tracks and Rick's airplane would fly west and the planet would rotate and the solar system would turn and the galaxy would spin and the universe would keep on expanding, and with enough time, everything in it would again be made right.
Maybe people would make more sense if they went in circles more often. Rectangles were full of decisions: left, right, straight, or even turn around and back the way you came. Planets moved in circles around the sun and they never had any problems with it. Planets never wanted stupid things. Moons went in circles around planets and they never wanted stupid things either. They never got scared or lonely or lost of jealous.
Isaac should get a camera and film this too, so that he could show his story to other people, to prove once and for all why circles were better than rectangles and why planets were better than people. Maybe they’d understand.
‘Here are thing sthat Dr. Mazzy says are okay for me:
One, when other people do things that don’t make sense.
Two, when I want to do things that don’t make sense to me.
Three, making mistakes.
Four, when food touches other food on a plate.
Five, asking to be alone sometimes.
Six, asking people to explain what they mean when I don’t understand.
Seven, trying new things.’
As Isaac finished, Rick reached for his hand and twined their fingers together, then turned so they were touching forehead-to-forehead. “I think being boyfriends is a new thing I’d like to try.”
Carl Sagan is a genius of the 20th century but Francisco de Quevedo was a genius of the 17th: “I will be dust, but dust in love.”
You can download it for free here.