Perspective

The slide on the auditorium screen showed Scandinavia, but the speaker wanted to highlight something about the Norwegian coast, which is fifteen hundred miles long, as the crow flies. It’s important to realize that in reality, the Norwegian coast is actually over fifteen thousand miles long—it’s one of the most indented coasts in the world—that’s right, the fjords where they grow all that salmon.

Scandinavia, laid on its side to highlight the length of the Norwegian coastline.

When I looked at the giant screen, I couldn’t help seeing a phallic image, and the scale that had been drawn over the length of Norway made it even funnier, like some kind of Kinsey metric—I’m talking about Alfred Kinsey, who was a professional sexologist—now there’s a great job title.

Perspective makes us all different, and is responsible for a great deal of conflict in the bargain—it makes us view things in disparate ways. Logos are a simple example of that, and the one below is a classic. Some people see the arrow immediately, and some take time. Once you see it, your brain fills in the gap, and you’ll never see the logo in the same way again. Perspective.

The FEDEX logo, one of the great examples of inverted design.

Perspective is rooted in interpretation, and that can be malicious—the results can be serious or just plain ridiculous. Some of the sillier examples make for a fun read, and boy do we need a bit of fun at the moment.

A favorite of mine is a theory doing the internet rounds that Finland doesn’t exist.

The Baltic Sea, aka the artist formerly known as Finland.

This astounding wickedness defends that Finland is a nation imagined by the Russians and Japanese to allow them to fish the Baltic, while other countries do not compete for those fishing rights because they are misled into believing it is actually land.

I spent a week in Helsinki some years ago, and the weather was relatively clear for that part of the world, since it was just before midsummer’s day. For those misguided fools who believe this watery Finland theory: should you happen upon these pages, I assure you I saw where the Baltic ended—there’s even a search and rescue station on the beach at Helsinki, and the lifeguards are equipped with a surfboard—which made for great hilarity, since the tide is only about two inches—Dr. Kinsey would be greatly disappointed, not to mention Mrs. Helsinki.

Lest ye think I jest(eth), I present official Wikipedia evidence. On that medieval note, a few other loonies are also wandering around (some posthumously) promoting the notion that some periods of history don’t exist.

Of this collection of nutters, who are collectively twelve cans short of a six-pack, the most fascinating—and there was severe competition—is a fellow called Anatoly Fomenko. This guy is a mathematician who taught at Moscow University, and his particular ‘perspective’, or perhaps it would be kinder to call it conspiracy theory, centers on the ‘new chronology’.

The notion that history is in parts misdated is neither wrong nor crazy—it simply must be, just as the facts are often only partly correct—fake news was not invented yesterday. Isaac Newton plunged into the issue with vigour, and in 1728, two years after his death, a book entitled ‘The Chronology of Ancient Kingdoms Amended’ was published in London.

Unlike the laws of physics that made the British scientist world-famous, this tract did not endure because it included too many leaps of faith. But others have pursued this condensation of history with enthusiasm, including Jean Hardouin, who was a contemporary of Newton, and more recently the Russian Nikolai Morozov, who died in 1946.

The general theory is that history as we understand it, from the time of the Assyrians through to the present day, is in fact a complete fabrication, and that most historical events of significance have only taken place in the last one thousand years (starting around the year 800).

Those who see world history from that perspective claim that the accounts of the great Greek and Roman writers were actually produced by monks during the renaissance. Like any self-respecting conspiracy theory, a deluge of ‘facts’ supports the claims—these include interpretations of astronomy, carbon dating, knowledge of human anatomy, and various other fun facts.

So there it is: perspective is the spice of life. If in doubt, just ask the Finns.

The India Road, Atmos Fear, Clear Eyes, and Folk Tales For Future Dreamers. QR links for smartphones and tablets.

 

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