a lot of people get AIWS when they’re six or seven and grow out of it“.

A fascinating article, found via Warren Ellis’ blog, which suddenly reminded me when I read it this morning that I used to suffer a very occasional, very mild version of the same syndrome during my childhood and adolescence. All of a sudden, for no discernible reason, my visual perception of the world around me would become subtly skewed. The best way that I can describe it is that it felt like, rather than the objects around me being normal size and at normal distance, everything was a small, toy version of itself, but placed much closer to me. Sometimes it would be the reverse – objects seemed to be enormous, but distant. They occupied no more space in my visual field than before, but my perception of them had changed. It never lasted more than about ten minutes or so, and sometimes I could make it disappear by looking for a while at a large, featureless area like a clear sky. It most often started when I’d been reading for an extended period and the words on the page would start to shift perspective. I can’t remember the last time it happened to me, but it was probably at least ten years ago.

“The knowledge that another has felt as we have felt, and seen things, even if they are little things, not much otherwise than we have seen them, will continue to the end to be one of life’s choicest pleasures.”

Robert Louis Stevenson, “Essays of Travel”, chapter 13 – “Roads”.


13 thoughts on “Fisheye

  1. CuriosityKiller February 21, 2008 / 8:58 pm

    I can’t imagine having that kind of “vision” for ten minutes, but when I was younger, on numerous occasions, I had dizzying effect of things and shadows scaling out of proportion (zooming out and zooming in) – and I couldn’t do anything except to sit down and let the spell pass. It’ll be the same even if I close my eyes. It’s a sickening feeling.

    Maybe it was just a dizzy spell. But it sure felt like more than a dizzy spell.


  2. Di February 22, 2008 / 12:38 pm

    Loved the quote!


  3. simonlitton February 22, 2008 / 12:58 pm

    Di: thanks. It’s one of my favourites and I use it all the time.

    CK: Amazing. I thought I was the only person ever to have experienced this. Then, in the space of a few hours I find two more people on opposite sides of the planet with broadly similar or related symptoms. God bless the internet.


  4. rasman1978 February 22, 2008 / 3:57 pm

    That sounds like it might be kinda cool, if and only if it could be started and stopped in a controlled manner. I understand that it would be terrible if you couldn’t control it.

    And what Di said.


  5. simonlitton February 22, 2008 / 4:22 pm

    Erik: There is a way of calling up this experience on-demand – it’s called “acid”.


  6. V-Grrrl February 22, 2008 / 8:14 pm

    Makes you wonder if artists like Dali and Picasso who made their mark with stretched or turned proportions and perspectives might have actually SEEN the world that way, not just imagined it.


  7. simon February 23, 2008 / 2:25 pm

    Interesting theory, V-grrrl. Did Dali really see melting clocks and spindly-legged elephants all around him?


  8. rasman1978 February 24, 2008 / 9:21 pm

    Having been to a Dali exhibit, I can confirm that he was definitely not right in the head. Dunno about his visual cortex.


  9. Peter February 26, 2008 / 12:02 am

    “rather than the objects around me being normal size and at normal distance, everything was a small, toy version of itself, but placed much closer to me”

    You know Simon, some people never recover from this condition and experience it 24/24, although in those case it’s called “pathological narcissism ”



  10. simonlitton February 26, 2008 / 9:59 am

    Peter – that’s the best explanation I’ve heard yet.


  11. Adam February 29, 2008 / 3:43 pm

    Middlesex, AIWS and Suzanne Vega. Small world. I’m a little slow sometimes — I just made the connection between your post on my journal and Tina’s blog. OK, I’m with it now.
    So, hello Simon.

    You look so far away. Oh wait, you’re in Belgium. (That’s some insider-AIWS humor there)


  12. simonlitton February 29, 2008 / 3:45 pm

    Slow? Two minutes after I left my comments, you’re here.
    It’s all a matter of perspective, I guess…


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