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How I Tried To Teach The Theory Of Three Dimensions To My Grandson And With What Success

From: Flatland

I awoke rejoicing, and began to reflect on the glorious career before
me. I would go forth, methought, at once, and evangelize the whole of
Flatland. Even to Women and Soldiers should the Gospel of Three
Dimensions be proclaimed. I would begin with my Wife.

Just as I had decided on the plan of my operations, I heard the sound
of many voices in the street commanding silence. Then followed a
louder voice. It was a herald's proclamation. Listening attentively,
I recognized the words of the Resolution of the Council, enjoining the
arrest, imprisonment, or execution of any one who should pervert the
minds of people by delusions, and by professing to have received
revelations from another World.

I reflected. This danger was not to be trifled with. It would be
better to avoid it by omitting all mention of my Revelation, and by
proceeding on the path of Demonstration--which after all, seemed so
simple and so conclusive that nothing would be lost by discarding the
former means. "Upward, not Northward"--was the clue to the whole
proof. It had seemed to me fairly clear before I fell asleep; and when
I first awoke, fresh from my dream, it had appeared as patent as
Arithmetic; but somehow it did not seem to me quite so obvious now.
Though my Wife entered the room opportunely at just that moment, I
decided, after we had exchanged a few words of commonplace
conversation, not to begin with her.

My Pentagonal Sons were men of character and standing, and physicians
of no mean reputation, but not great in mathematics, and, in that
respect, unfit for my purpose. But it occurred to me that a young and
docile Hexagon, with a mathematical turn, would be a most suitable
pupil. Why therefore not make my first experiment with my little
precocious Grandson, whose casual remarks on the meaning of
three-to-the-third had met with the approval of the Sphere? Discussing
the matter with him, a mere boy, I should be in perfect safety; for he
would know nothing of the Proclamation of the Council; whereas I could
not feel sure that my Sons--so greatly did their patriotism and
reverence for the Circles predominate over mere blind affection--might
not feel compelled to hand me over to the Prefect, if they found me
seriously maintaining the seditious heresy of the Third Dimension.

But the first thing to be done was to satisfy in some way the curiosity
of my Wife, who naturally wished to know something of the reasons for
which the Circle had desired that mysterious interview, and of the
means by which he had entered the house. Without entering into the
details of the elaborate account I gave her,--an account, I fear, not
quite so consistent with truth as my Readers in Spaceland might
desire,--I must be content with saying that I succeeded at last in
persuading her to return quietly to her household duties without
eliciting from me any reference to the World of Three Dimensions. This
done, I immediately sent for my Grandson; for, to confess the truth, I
felt that all that I had seen and heard was in some strange way
slipping away from me, like the image of a half-grasped, tantalizing
dream, and I longed to essay my skill in making a first disciple.

When my Grandson entered the room I carefully secured the door. Then,
sitting down by his side and taking our mathematical tablets,--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 believe that a Square may in the same way by
motion 'Upward, not Northward' produce another figure, a sort of extra
square in Three Dimensions. Say that again, you young rascal."

At this moment we heard once more the herald's "O yes! O yes!" outside
in the street proclaiming the REsolution of the Council. Young though
he was, my Grandson--who was unusually intelligent for his age, and
bred up in perfect reverence for the authority of the Circles--took in
the situation with an acuteness for which I was quite unprepared. He
remained silent till the last words of the Proclamation had died away,
and then, bursting into tears, "Dear Grandpapa," he said, "that was
only my fun, and of course I meant nothing at all by it; and we did not
know anything then about the new Law; and I don't think I said anything
about the Third Dimension; and I am sure I did not say one word about
'Upward, not Northward,' for that would be such nonsense, you know.
How could a thing move Upward, and not Northward? Upward and not
Northward! Even if I were a baby, I could not be so absurd as that.
How silly it is! Ha! ha! ha!"

"Not at all silly," said I, losing my temper; "here for example, I take
this Square," and, at the word, I grasped a moveable Square, which was
lying at hand--"and I move it, you see, not Northward but--yes, I move
it Upward--that is to say, Northward but I move it somewhere--not
exactly like this, but somehow--" Here I brought my sentence to an
inane conclusion, shaking the Square about in a purposeless manner,
much to the amusement of my Grandson, who burst out laughing louder
than ever, and declared that I was not teaching him, but joking with
him; and so saying he unlocked the door and ran out of the room. Thus
ended my first attempt to convert a pupil to the Gospel of Three

Next: How I Then Tried To Diffuse The Theory Of Three Dimensions By Other Means And Of The Result

Previous: How The Sphere Encouraged Me In A Vision

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