Current Essays

The Roads of Perception On:2004-04-16 18:50:18

When everything is going awry and I'm feeling down, and depressed and nigh on utterly, slougherly despondent1, I find that I get great comfort from remembering that old saying "This too will pass" and, things being the way they are, in time it does pass and all is well again and new and bright and full of joy: and then of course I can't help but remember that old saying "This too will pass". I believe they call this ‘bipolar disorder’.

Though, actually, it’s not so much of a clinical condition as a potted history of my relationship with the highways and bipolarways of Texas, and with the what look as the years go by, more and more like extras from a high-school production of Springtime for Hitler2. Yes! It’s true!! Texas policemen are starting to look younger to me, and the damned kids keep stopping me for speeding! Now, now, I should point out that I am really quite a mature man (in many senses of the word if not all) and so this is not just a case of me suffering from teenage bravado and disregard for authority---and even though I am really rather an expert on the subject, it is (and has been for many a long year and about three times as many a short one too) purely from the outside, from observing my children. And also, to add a few worts to the pot to thicken the plot, there is the interesting fact that for the twenty-odd years I lived in New York and for the indeterminate but vast number before that in England I hardly, if ever, got pulled over by the boys in blue (who of course down here in Texas are also the boys in shiny black jackboots and mirrored sun-glasses I kid you not). So what has happened? Am I about to enter a second childhood via a second adolescence (or possibly a third, but that’s another, and much longer, story). Is it that I have finally got so fed up with a State wherein Rush Limbaugh is widely considered a lefty, liberal pantywaist that I am in a permanent condition of road rage? Or perhaps it’s the mind-beblubbering heat?

No, as a few hours spent in the permanent collection of any decent art gallery will show you, it’s all the fault of those damned renaissance painters! Just where do they get off inventing perspective?

Yes, before the earlier fifteenth century and that ...that... Filippo Brunelleschi I was perfectly safe from speeding tickets, but now...achhhh! Sorry let me calm down and explain. You see all through the middle ages, and really any time before the renaissance, nobody gave an emu’s armpit for the apparent tendency for things to get smaller the farther away they are---everyone pretty well ignored both perspective and its close cousin parallax and everyone got on with life and art was just as good, but different, but Oh! Dear! that too did pass.

You see those bloody Brunelleschoids after the turn of the fifteenth century just couldn’t leave well alone. And once they had pointed it out and mathematicised it, just like those other evils the atom bomb and spam e-mail, it couldn’t be un-invented.
And so perception changed.


Now, I learned to drive and spent much of my formative years behind the wheel in London---a place where the roads tend to be so narrow and so two-way trafficked that the first time I drove Ann around the City was the last time I drove Ann around the city, and just as soon as she stopped crying, we got on the underground and used it ever more. Then, over here, I drove mainly in upstate New York (especially around Ithaca) where, though some of the roads are indeed wider, it’s not by as much as you’d think. But now I’m down in Texas, a place where everything has to be bigger and wider, from the bottoms of the populace, through DFW airport, to even the most minor of roads. I’m now in place where the roads often seem wider than they are long.
Now as any long-time driver does, I don’t spend all my time looking at my speedometer, because I’ve learned all the speed-clues from how fast the stuff around me is changing and here’s the rub; because of that Brunelleschi bugger and the fact that down here all the clues are farther away from me, they suffer from the blight of their perspective and they change too slowly from mine (perspective I mean). So when it looks to me as though I’m doing a law-abiding 40mph, once I do the Maths, I’m actually doing 53.6!

Well that’s my story, officer, and I’m sticking to it...

Cheerio for now
from Richard Howland-Bolton.


Note on the Title
It is such a pity that 'roads' isn't an anagram of 'doors'!
I suppose If I ever did anything on noticing smells I could use 'The Odors of Perception', and I'm certain that if I used 'The Roods of Perception' I'd make at least some of you cross. And anyway we don't want no references to drug-crazed intellectuals around here, thank you very much. So maybe I'd better just change this week's title and I would now having thought about it, but it's too late: so sod it!


1 Slougherly
"... slougherly despondent" "The name of the slough was Despond. Here, therefore, they wallowed for a time, being grievously bedaubed with the dirt;..." Bunyan: Pilgrim's Progress, part i. which can be found here at Project Gutenberg.

2 Springtime for Hitler
"... extras from a high-school production of" In Mel Brooks movie 'The Producers' there is a sure-fire flop that doesn't.
Here are the words:
Germany was having trouble, what a sad, sad story
Needed a new leader to restore its former glory
Where oh where was he? Where could that man be?
We looked around, and then we found, the man for you and me,
And now it's ...
Springtime for Hitler and Germany,
Deutschland is happy and gay.
We're marching to a faster pace,
Look out, here comes the master race.
Springtime for Hitler and Germany,
Winter for Poland and France.
Springtime for Hitler and Germany,
Come on, Germans, go into your dance ...

I was born in Dusseldorf, and that is why they call me Rolf.
Don't be stupid, be a smarty, come and join the Nazi party.
Springtime for Hitler and Germany
(Gun fires)
Goose-step's the new step today
(Machine gun fires)
Bombs falling from the skies again,
(Bomb falls and explodes)
Deutschland is on the rise again
Springtime for Hitler and Germany
U-boats are sailing once more
[woman's voice]: "Well! Talk about bad taste!"
Springtime for Hitler and Germany
Means ... that ... soon we'll be going ... We've got to be going ... You know we'll be going to ... WAR!

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