Stereoscopic Lustre

Many would call him obsessive, but that was not how he saw himself, just fortunate that his work was also his hobby. His mind was of the type that must model concepts as pictures and he found stereoscopic pictures to be strangely fulfilling, but there was one thing about them, now so obvious, which he had never noticed until he found himself reading about it in an otherwise dull article. The strange thing was that no sooner had he read the word ‘lustre’ than he remembered in his mind’s eye that numinous glow, the lustre of the projection which is never present in the original. It was as though part of his mind had always known about it, but considered it to be so obvious that it never bothered to tell the rest. And now echoes of it were everywhere. They were there in the satisfactory effect of stereophonic sound, or when couples, both young or old, found fulfilment in each other, as though this was nature’s reward for getting something right. But his work was to find out what caused it. Obviously the strange light was not in the picture, but produced by the brain once the depth cues had been perceived and acted on.

His hope, and the hope of his sponsors, perhaps encouraged by some more than half promises, was that these cues could be separated from the depth cues so that other features of two dimensional art could produce the same effect, if not of the spectral light, at least of the feeling of wholeness and compliance that this light brings. The one thing that he had no wish to consider was the uses to which any practical results of his work might be put, because it was clear that so many things with the power to increase human happiness concealed more insidious powers also.

Of course he realised that the best way forward should be to generate the paired images on-screen and then to adjust the parameters until the glowing sheen appeared, and where better to start that with the three dimensional images of stars and galaxies painstakingly rendered from information and reasonable guesses, the amazing body of work of a like mind.* However it was now that disillusionment arrived because for all their glitter and life, or perhaps because of it, no lustre was apparent in any of the images. None of his attempts to vary the balance of the component pictures made the slightest difference and he began to think that the phenomenon was only associated with reflected light or possibly only with monochrome images.

Indeed it was while he wondered whether or not the lustre was a bonus mostly for the old monotone pictures that he suddenly found that these stereoscopic pictures had lost their charm for him. Yes, he could see stars that were near and stars that were distant, but there was no more to it than that. Could it be that only real pictures showed the true excitement of depth, of prospects concealed, and that the semi artificial exercise of offsetting picture points gave no sense of mystery because there was no mystery to give. Then he thought of the world-wide-web. Such a three dimensional name, but what was the reality. A mesh enclosing a vast sphere but pathetically thin, both physically and…and what? and only three dimensional because of the sphere it bounded. But those initials, the apotheosis of a letter that did not exist in so many languages, a symbol of Anglo-Saxon domination and then there was the qwerty keyboard itself further enhancing its status. But why did this layout still exist, given its raison d’etre and the fact that the means existed to make it irrelevant? Again, what would replace it, what letter should occupy the prime position and where indeed was that prime position and which one occupies it now.

 This was another of those surprises. There was the h, the letter that more than any other occurs in specified pairs, and there were its partners t,c,s and g (but not p) ideally placed to be pressed too soon and jam the keys together, if that every really did happen in the old typewriters, he did not know. But again, that was not the point, this pairing of letters, this central position, did they account for a certain hauteur, was this not a letter beyond all of the others. Even in its function it was unique. It was then that he found himself typing hhh//lustre and for an immeasurably short time he entered a multidimensional world and saw, felt, breathed the lustre, and what lustre, because the addition of each new dimension multiplied the light until it blazed beyond possibility.

Maybe this has been described before, remembering the lines, ‘I saw eternity the other night’ or ‘wheels within wheels in the middle of the air’ and indeed what he entered with all his senses, resembled a vast sphere in which the eleven dimensions of space and time intertwined and it was so clear that each dimension was exactly the same as the others, whilst being completely different. As they wove through each other, every movement was both logically impossible and yet simple and inevitable. Numbers ceased to exist and with them distances. Nothing was far from anything else and he saw every star in every galaxy, and every sentient being on every inhabited planet. Then the loop-hole, if that is what it was, closed.

He never spoke again, but he appeared to be quite docile and could obey any instruction, however complicated and, if anyone had thought to test this, in any language spoken anywhere on earth or beyond. But how can a man speak when he knows every word for every object in every language that has ever existed, or would ever exist, in the whole universe?

The other strange fact was that everybody who visited him had exactly the same sensation. It was as though they had previously been moving at an unknown speed and had entered a place of stasis. But no-one ever mentioned this to anyone else because it was so obvious that most of their awareness never even recalled it.  Everyone, though, could have described it in this way. It was like listening to a constant noise, say the humming of a motor, but not hearing it at all, until the sudden crescendo just before it stops.

* This refers  to a Japanese astronomer (name temporarily lost) who created a programme to show the three-dimension nature of the universe at least as far out as the 100 nearest stars.