Multi-dimensional Constructions

For simplicity’s sake, we often pretend we live in a one or two or maybe three dimensional world. By which I mean, for example, in the world of “identity” I am a white woman from the middle class. Those are two “planes” of the conceptual realm. The first thing we need to correct is that these categories have some clear boundaries (are points) rather than being spectrums (a line of even a plane) where very little lives in the “ideal position” really.

The next thing we can do is layer them, especially when we talk about power. I have a sex, gender, and sexuality… I have a color, I have a financial upbringing and current financial status, I have an education, I have a professional background. I am a point where all these instances intersect across many planes.


Source: via Jean on Pinterest


I have particular empowering and disempowering experiences… I have a degree of many different kinds of intelligences and physical abilities/inabilities. I have an age. I have a religious upbringing (or not, really, in my case) and a spiritual practice that is current. I can go on and on! All of these layers/planes of dimensionality, connect me to communities, some of them make me more central in those networks and some of them push me to the edges. Some of them conflict with each other, shoving me away from those communities.

The conceptual world is not flatland. The world of identity is not a flatland (despite how social networks used to try to singularize identity). Live in the rich multi-dimensionality of being human – of your existence and awareness. I try to… it is an ongoing practice in a flatland world.



This was originally posted to Facebook and then modified and posted here. On Facebook, the following comments were particularly delightful to me:

Alexander Laszlo

and if you are not a being at all (or only in the expository fixedness of our linguistic forms), but rather a continual emergence? More like an aroma, shifting, flowing, emerging – more becoming than being. Then the dimensionality of which you write ebbs and flows through multiple domains in which we find the confluence of others. And it is these others which, in the final appreciation, form and flavor our sense of self.

Charles Hope

Luck and success hide in the cracks between, in the contradictions, in the rounding errors glossed over and stubbornly ignored by the pragmatic grown ups.

John Manoochehri

This makes a certain kind of sense, but leads to, as a lot of emancipatory philosophy, a world of texturelessness and unmanageable complexity. There are countless dimensions, you rightly describe, to being and experience. But which are the most important? And how do navigate without those kinds of obvious signals? I can’t spend all my life interpreting each moment’s dimensionalisation, can I?If my child is hungry, and I am focussed on another dimension of their life, their capacity for artistic creativity “hey, don’t cry about food, let’s do one of those great paintings you do! come on!”, or I am not sure which of their dimension to relate to “ok, I know they are hungry, but what about their art – or their capacity for body movement, or what about nature, maybe we should learn about gravity, or or or …” – I am obviously failing them.So, multidimensionality is good. It is also a dangerous abstraction.

The problem with a lot of equalising, emancipatory thought is that it dismisses all hierarchisation, priority setting, difference, as necessarily normativising, power-brokering, wrong.

Bad move. We must learn to tame benign hiearchies, differences. Otherwise, we drown in righteous speculations and make judgements based on post-modern whim or worse.

Jean Russell 

John Manoochehri, I think you are right to be concerned about being lost in noticing the dimensionality. I think of it more as a perspective tool. For example, am I feeling locked out of things because I am a woman? If so, what other dimension do I have more power to achieve my goal? Maybe I have social power at a different level? Maybe I have intelligence of a certain kind. If you feel blocked in motion because of one dimension, look at the other dimensions within you. That is not to promise a just world to those who are resourceful – it isn’t just and won’t become so. It is that there are many hierarchies, and we navigate their power, in part by being at different points on different planes. All in fluid flow. #gratitude
I don’t want to get to to tied to the instance of identity – as my point is that conceptual fields that relate to things like geographical landscape, limit our ability to grasp the full dimensionality of them. This dimensionality may explain to some people how my brain has learned how to think about things (twisting planes and intersections acting as an axis point to pivot).