A Journey in Self-Reflection
My Dictionary tells me that to be one-dimensional means that I am without depth and am shallow.
Here is another definition I found on Quora:
“To be one dimensional you would dismiss any and all beliefs that do not fit into your tiny box” (Jess How July 2018).
These definitions reflect the views of famous social and critical theorist Herbert Marcuse whose famous book ‘One dimensional Man’ proposed the theory that:
‘The function of one-dimensional thinking is to produce a one-dimensional society by whittling down critical, two-dimensional consciousness’ (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy).
I know I’m getting a bit deep here and this post is not an essay on philosophy (it’s years since I wrote one of those) but it gives us an idea of what being one-dimensional means. It is a complicated concept, but if all of us were one-dimensional, if all of us were without depth and shallow, if we all dismissed beliefs that didn’t fit with our own, then diversity would not exist. How boring.
I can’t remember what triggered this thinking some days ago. But it made me think about my life. Again it comes back to being a disabled person. Is the person I have become through illness and disability one-dimensional or have I always been like that?
How would I know?
Its not until you start to think about it that you realise it’s not something that has occurred to you before. Not ever. I mean, who goes around thinking about an abstract concept like that? We’re busy, we have jobs, kids, living spaces to take care of. At the moment we are having to protect ourselves and everyone else from this horrible virus.
Maybe being in lockdown has given us more time to think, to engage in self-reflection.
Before becoming disabled I led a full life according to who I am (was). I’m not a sporty person, but I did go to the gym. I ran a business which was demanding, and brought up a fairly large family. I liked to read, study, sing, go to the theatre and concerts, listen to music. After I gave up my business, I went back to what I was trained to do which was to be a legal secretary. So that was me.
After becoming disabled, naturally, most those things went by the board. Anything at all physical was not possible. I could no longer sing because my diaphragm is compromised which means no deep breaths! But I can listen to music, read, and write, which has become more important to me. I still have the use of my right hand and forearm which is brilliant.
Did this reduce me to a one-dimensional person? Actually I would say no. I can’t work, but I’d be retired now anyway. I can talk, I can think, although ‘cog fog’ can be a bit of a problem but that’s possibly age related! I have learned over the years how to use my teeth as my left hand! In fact I’ve regained a little very limited use of my left hand and that helps. I can feed myself and hold a mug of coffee.
So, no I don’t think I’m physically one dimensional.
But just hold on a minute. Everything I’ve just written points more to the mental rather than the physical.
Stop and think again
What this means is that it is almost impossible to separate the physical and mental dimensions of ourselves. The physical part of us is surely made up of mental processes enabling us to carry out tasks etc.
I asked a few people whether they thought I had been reduced to a one-dimensional person. Most of them just said ‘no of course not’ but one person gave me a more considered reply. These are her words:
‘I always personally would view people’s ‘dimensions’ as more of a mental than physical thing. So no I wouldn’t say that you are now 1-D because of your disability at all because your dimensions to me are your personality, your intelligence, humour, compassion, sensitivity amongst many other qualities’.
She thinks that obviously my MS has become ‘all encompassing’ and as such dictates my life because it is my life. But, she says
‘it is one ‘physical’ dimension of which you have many that are not reliant on your physical status!’
She finishes with what she thinks one-dimensional means
‘I think people that are 1-D are totally self absorbed and struggle to empathise with others. They tend to have tunnel vision about their own lives’
I think this is a well-thought out answer to my question (apart from being immensely flattering!) and gives me another person’s view of me. This is important because we really cannot know how other people see us.
Am I one dimensional?
Having thought this through out loud, as it were, I think I have to conclude that no, I am not one-dimensional.
I am usually open-minded so my beliefs are not restricted and I’m always open to new things. I don’t judge people on their views or anything else, but I will engage in constructive debate.
I’m not shallow, I think deeply about things. I learned critical thinking during my years of study.
In general, I don’t think for one minute that our society has become one-dimensional in the way Marcuse proposed, but he must not be dismissed but put into the context of his time.
This has been a journey of self-reflection and I’ve enjoyed the ride. I hope you have too. Any thoughts you have please comment.
Thanks to Victoria Clement BA(Hons) for her thoughts