Forced Perspective

One of the tricks that gets used in art is called “forced Perspective.” God reminded me this week that a little forced perspective can be a good thing if you find yourself a little short of the non-forced kind.

Now that I’ve integrated my iPad into my life, I find myself with a perceived lack of downtime. I’m not putting in any extra hours at work (if you don’t count my hour-long commute), and I’m not, at the moment, getting any significant work done on my myriad artistic or entrepreneurial projects. But I’m also never (well hardly ever) just staring into space anymore.

Forced perspective is an optical illusion. There’s a number of different systems of perception that we use to determine size and distance. There’s binocular vision, the way we see 3D because the view seen by each of our eyes is slightly different. There’s also the arc of vision that something takes up, that is, how much of our field of vision it fills. It’s this latter clue that forced perspective plays with. By making something physically smaller the artisan makes it seem bigger. To be a little more precise, by making the part of something that is further away from us smaller than the part that is near, it makes it seem as if the thing is actually bigger because we know that for it to look that much smaller, for it to take up that much less of our field of vision, and still conform to our expectations of its geometry, that it must be a certain distance away.

A good example of this is in one of my favorite places in the world, Disneyland. On “Main Street, USA,” the stores along the street are all built with the second floors on a smaller scale than the first floors. This is done to make the buildings seem bigger and grander, it’s a subtle thing that adds immeasurably, though not immensely, to the ambiance. It allows them to make a barely two lane wide street feel much larger.

With the iPad, I find myself filling in all the cracks of the day. I’ve always got something I can do. I keep up on the news more than I ever have before. Thanks to social networking, I can keep up on the lives of my friends like I never have before. Thanks both to computer A.I.s and to network access, I get to play more games than I ever have before. Now to be fair, when I was younger I used to always carry a book with me and used it to fill in those small moments of downtime, but with the book I could see progress and I could measure (by space on my shelves) a certain kind of advancement over time. With the constant and massive deluge of things on the web, I only ever feel like I’m falling behind.

So God’s advised me to find a way to skip more of what interests me, so that I can do more of what interests me. In a way, I’ve got to both narrow what I’m willing to spend time on and go into it less deeply than I’d like to. It’s just like the technique of forced perspective which gives you less while seeming to give you more. The trick will be to do it without feeling guilty.

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