by Neva Bodin
Dictionary.com defines stereoscope (ster·e·o·scope [ ster-ee- uh-skohp,) as a noun and “an optical instrument through which two pictures of the same object, taken from slightly different points of view, are viewed, one by each eye, producing the effect of a single picture of the object, with the appearance of depth or relief.”
I hadn’t thought of my old Viewmasters as stereoscopes, but that’s what they are too. Anyone lost yet?
Without realizing it, each of our eyes sees a slightly different angle of everything, allowing our brains to form the 3 dimensional images of everyday life.
As early as 1823, a teacher of mathematics in Edinburgh, Scotland conceived the idea of creating a 3 D image to view on paper. The first stereoscopes were made of rather large boxes. Finally by 1851 a smaller hand held one was invented, and the one I have from my family was designed in 1861 by Oliver Wendell Holmes, when he was twenty years old. (Holmes went on to become quite a celebrated US Supreme Court Justice until he was 90.)
They are fascinating to look through and see how the image is set up. And of course, interesting to me also, because the images are of late 1800’s and early 1900’s.
The Viewmaster uses a round disc with pictures that rotates as you flip a switch on the side. Little stories accompany the discs. I have Goldilocks, Little Red Riding Hood, Snow White, Hansel and Gretel, The Christmas Story, Alice in Wonderland and more.
I also used the viewmaster to play nurse when I was young. In the doctor’s offices in those days, the nurse looked at your blood through a microscope and had a little counter gadget in her hand that she clicked every time she saw a white or red blood cell. Very untechy to today’s lab techs, but it worked. In my case, this act was usually followed by a shot in the butt.
When young, I pretended my viewmaster was a microscope and clicked the little lever as I looked into it and counted the cells of my pretend blood. That was when I wasn’t playing a teacher, waitress, housewife or preacher. (Amazing I had no trouble choosing my career of nursing.)
As I thought of the ingenuity of people who invented these devices I thought of how we need to remember we see everyone and everything at a little different angle by each eye. And instead of allowing our brain to combine these angles into one impression, perhaps we should evaluate our image of others a bit. Even the characters in our lives and stories. Perhaps while our brain combines the physical image into one 3-D visual impression, we should train our brains to work on the emotional or subjective image of the person or situation we see. Consider them from different angles.
I know, it’s a bit of a stretch to see the simile, but there’s where my brain went.
And maybe we already do. For we create 3-D images of people in our stories—no one being totally good or bad usually, unless we plan it that way. We want people to identify with our characters, so they must have depth, even if they are shallow sometimes.
Have I lost anyone again? Anyway, just some random thoughts as I gazed at pictures through my stereoscope tonight, and then dug out my Viewmastsers (I have two). Nostalgia and amazement at the human mind that is always inventing, be it good or bad.