Monday, September 10, 2007

The World, Like a Pop-Up Greeting Card

I never saw the world around me in three dimensions until I was seven years old. I was born with bilateral strabismus, which means I saw through only one eye at a time. Every few minutes, my brain would switch over to the other eye, which led to more than a few spilled glasses of milk when I was a kid. Clumsy? No, it was just my eyes, that glass of milk isn't where it was a moment ago. If this condition isn't fixed by surgery, eventually by age 13 or 14 the brain gets tired of playing hopscotch and shuts one eye off permanently.

So, age seven, in between semesters of second grade, I went in to Madison General Hospital for eye surgery. I was in the hospital five days, I still remember parts of it. It was right before Christmas, Santa came to visit the hospital, he gave me a set of dominoes which I still have.

I will never forget when they took the bandages off my eyes. I looked around me, and for the first time in my life I saw things in three dimensions. As I put it at the time, it was like the whole world around me becoming like one of those pop-up greeting cards. You know, the kind you open up and a little scene pops up from inside in 3D.

A new dimension opened up in the world around me, a dimension the likes of which I'd never dreamed of before in my life. A new dimension, a depth dimension opening up out into. I think that was one of the sources of my later interest in signs and symbols, and of how in more subtle ways new dimensions of depth can open up in a symbol. The whole world around me, opened up and transformed like nothing I ever would've imagined possible.

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4 Comments:

Blogger The Tetrast said...

Unforgettable for the reader, especially for the regulars here. Thank you for relating it. And it's so you. I mean, if I were told of that experience and given a choice of a hundred people of my acquaintance, I think it would take me just a few seconds to guess, Paul Burgess. And it's not just the three-ness. It's everything about the experience.

I've long relished 3D vision -- 3D special effects by looking through red and blue Play Plax were my 5th Grade science "exhibit." And I loved my ViewMaster 3D rotary slides. Unfortunately I don't have 3D vision in as good form as I used to, because of a problem in one eye. But thass life.

Monday, September 10, 2007 7:39:00 PM  
Blogger The Tetrast said...

"I think it would take me just a few seconds to guess, Paul Burgess"
-- please don't take that in a "gee, I've got you pigeon-holed" kind of way. There's an unaffected richness to it that befits you -- well, if that's a pigeon hole, it's a preferable one.

Monday, September 10, 2007 7:52:00 PM  
Anonymous redjack said...

yes thank you

a new dimension opening up in the midst of everything that really is food for thought for both head and heart

Tuesday, September 11, 2007 3:29:00 AM  
Blogger Paul Burgess said...

Well, thank you, both of you! If this piece sounds especially like me, that's probably because this incident was an important part of what has made me who I am.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007 7:39:00 AM  

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