Everyone sees the world differently. A shining example of modern architecture to one person may appear as a monstrous carbuncle to others. This is how I see the world.
I was sitting in a café having lunch on Sunday, and there were four stools lined up against the wall opposite. They were not spaced equally. You may ask why I was looking at the spacing of the stools and the answer is that I wasn’t looking at the spacing specifically – I was merely glancing at the stools and the asymmetrical arrangement leapt out at me.
The imperfect arrangement of the stools looked wrong. No – it didn’t look wrong – it felt wrong. It was wrong.
It’s not an obsession with neatness – anyone who knows me will tell you that’s something I don’t suffer from – but simply something in my brain which tells me that an asymmetrical arrangement of stools is wrong.
There are other examples. Hanging clothes out on the line on holiday once, I noticed that I was ensuring that identical clothes pegs were used on each sock from the same pair. This wasn’t a choice for aesthetic reasons; do have mismatched pegs on a pair of socks would just feel wrong. Uncomfortable. Unacceptable,even.
Whenever I buy a new pair of shoes, I am faced with a dilemma. The laces are quite often not threaded and before you wear the shoes you have to lace them up. The lacing of shoes is not symmetrical and so the question in my mind is immediately whether the lacing of the left and right shoes should be identical – or mirror imaged. You may laugh – in fact I can hear that you are – but to me this isn’t an idle thought. It matters.
I count roast potatoes for dinner. Every guest must get the same number of potatoes on the plate. I don’t count the peas; but I do count the spoonfuls of peas.
I’m writing this on a train, and we’re currently speeding through Burgess Hill. On the right, I have just seen a house with an asymmetrical roof. I couldn’t buy that house. It would be too uncomfortable to see the mismatched roof every time I came home.
I’m a scientist by nature though I think my love of science is a symptom of my obsession with symmetry and numbering rather than the cause. Logic and order are at the heart of scientific thinking, and I think I feel at home there.
You may ask how I can appreciate art, if symmetry and order are important. I can – and do – appreciate art. The composition of the painting or the piece of music may be asymmetrical, but that’s fine. What wouldn’t be fine would be if the art gallery had hung the painting unevenly.
I know other people who think the same way as I do. It can’t be that unusual. But surely not everyone sees the world like this.
I don’t hold with the modern obsession with labelling every behaviour or way of thinking as a “syndrome” and trying to analyse – and indeed change – it. I certainly have no idea to change the way I think, I quite like my ordered and counted view of the world. But I’m curious if anyone else sees the world like this – or does everyone think this way and yet nobody talks about it?