Tag Archives: stained glass

kaleidoscope

A kaleidoscope seems such a quaint thing now, so… analogue: a tube like a telescope in which little flakes of stained glass (or plastic) collide and are mirrored. A literal physical collide-o-scope! A toy patented in 1817, so much simpler than the incessant stream of fragmented digital images that now fill our days with brain flakes.

The word kaleidoscope doesn’t come from collide, mind you. It’s καλός kalos ‘beautiful’ plus εἶδος eidos ‘form’ plus σκοπος skopos, which I’m sure you know has to do with looking; it traces to the verb σκέπτεσθαι skeptesthai ‘look out’ which, yes, is also the source of skeptic. So a kaleidoscope is an instrument for looking at beautiful forms.

Which, in my view, is just my eyes. The world is full of beautiful shapes, from the simplicity of soft shadows from stained glass to the intense complexity of people passing in a shopping mall or on an urban street – and I can have both within a quick walk of each other.

Nothing is unproblematic, of course; in our world we bounce off each other, and our frictions and collisions generate heat. But where would the world be without warmth and interaction? No need to take all at face value; there is beauty in wisdom, and wisdom comes from seeing twice, seeing deeper, seeing past, doubting what you see. Enjoy looking, but look out, be skeptical. See the slivers in the floor that is so prettily dappled with coloured light. Get the picture – and see how your own self getting the picture gets in the way of seeing it all clearly. And enjoy that too.