Story of the Square visited by a Sphere

In 1820, long before Einstein’s theory of relativity and study of multiple dimensions, Dr. Edward Abbott Abbott (yes, that’s the guy’s name) wrote a short novella called Flatland. The story is of a world occupied by two dimensional geometric creatures and its main character is named The Square.

One day The Square is visited by a feature called Sphere. He’s so baffled by the idea of a three dimensional world that he cannot comprehend it. So Sphere takes him to Spaceland, where he can experience all manner of three dimensional objects.

Upon his return to Flatland, The Square becomes a kind of prophet of the three dimensional world. He attempts to convince the inhabitants of Flatland of the existence of Spaceland. But they are too locked in their old way of thinking to comprehend the possibility of additional dimensions. In fact, he’s imprisoned for “heresy.”

The Square fails to convince Flatland’s citizens of a three dimensional world because they can’t imagine any truth beyond the frame of what they have seen and experienced. It’s too much of a leap to think outside the lines of their known world, and to accept that there might be other possibilities available to them.

In life, we are constantly creating and reinforcing frames based on what we see, hear, and experience, and those frames both inform and limit the way we think. For example, “I have to work hard to make a lot of money,” or “I don’t deserve anyone’s love.” In most cases, we are so conditioned to accept our frames as fact, that we don’t even know they are there. We just assume the perspective we have on the world is the proper one, or (even more dangerous) the only one.

When you can look at a problem in your life from multiple frames and angles, it opens you up to ask different questions, and actually shifts your experience of the problem. This can ignite your imagination and reveal completely new and exciting insights. An easy way to do this is asking yourself, “What advice would my 80 year old self give me right now?” or, “How is this situation keeping me safe from experiencing something new?”

Albert Einstein is famous for saying, “Problems can not be solved by the same level of awareness that created them.” Being open to new outlooks on existing problems is a key step towards unraveling your old, outdated frames of mind. Only with new perspectives can you truly step into the life experiences you previously could only dream of, and reap benefits that are out of this world.

What is one problem that’s plagued you recently, and how can you look at it from a new frame of reference? What is the belief at the core of your problem, and how can you redefine your problem or belief to open up new possibilities?

“We are not permitted to choose the frame of our destiny. But what we put into it is ours.” ― Dag Hammarskjold

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