THE POINT OF VIEW
"I am too modest!" snapped
the great Haskel van Manderpootz, pacing irritably about the
limited area of his private laboratory, glaring at me the while.
"That is the trouble. I undervalue my own achievements, and
thereby permit petty imitators like Corveille to influence the committee
and win the Morell prize."
"But," I said soothingly, "you've won the Morell physics
award half a dozen times, professor. They can't very well give
it to you every year."
"Why not, since it is plain that I deserve it?" bristled the
professor. "Understand, Dixon, that I do not regret my modesty,
even though it permits conceited fools like Corveille, who have
infinitely less reason than I for conceit, to win awards that mean
nothing save prizes for successful bragging. Bah! To grant an
award for research along such obvious lines that I neglected to
mention them, thinking that even a Morell judge would appreciate
their obviousness! Research on the psychon, eh! Who discovered
the psychon? Who but van Manderpootz?"
"Wasn't that what you got last year's award for?" I asked
consolingly. "And after all, isn't this modesty, this lack of jealousy
on your part, a symbol of greatness of character?"
"True—true!" said the great van Manderpootz, mollified.
"Had such an affront been committed against a lesser man than
myself, he would doubtless have entered a bitter complaint against
the judges. But not I. Anyway, I know from experience that
it wouldn't do any good. And besides, despite his greatness, van
Manderpootz is as modest and shrinking as a violet." At this
point he paused, and his broad red face tried to look violet-like.
I suppressed a smile. I knew the eccentric genius of old,
from the days when I had been Dixon Wells, undergraduate student
of engineering, and had taken a course in Newer Physics
(that is, in Relativity) under the famous professor. For some
unguessable reason, he had taken a fancy to me, and as a result,
I had been involved in several of his experiments since graduation.
There was the affair of the subjunctivisor, for instance,
and also that of the idealizator; in the first of these episodes I had
suffered the indignity of falling in love with a girl two weeks after
she was apparently dead, and in the second, the equal or greater
indignity of falling in love with a girl who didn't exist, never had
existed, and never would exist—in other words, with an ideal.
Perhaps I'm a little susceptible to feminine charms, or rather,
perhaps I used to be, for since the disaster of the idealizator, I
have grimly relegated such follies to the past, much to the disgust
of various 'vision entertainers, singers, dancers, and the like.
So of late I had been spending my days very seriously, trying
wholeheartedly to get to the office on time just once, so that I
could refer to it next time my father accused me of never getting
anywhere on time. I hadn't succeeded yet, but fortunately the
N. J. Wells Corporation was wealthy enough to survive even
without the full-time services of Dixon Wells, or should I say
even with them? Anyway, I'm sure my father preferred to have
me late in the morning after an evening with van Manderpootz
than after one with Tips Alva or Whimsy White, or one of the
numerous others of the ladies of the 'vision screen. Even in the
twenty-first century, he retained a lot of old-fashioned ideas.
Van Manderpootz had ceased to remember that he was as
modest and shrinking as a violet. "It has just occurred to me,"
he announced impressively, "that years have character much as
humans have. This year, 2015, will be remembered in history
as a very stupid year, in which the Morell prize was given to a
nincompoop. Last year, on the other hand, was a very intelligent
year, a jewel in the crown of civilization. Not only was the Morell
prize given to van Manderpootz, but I announced my discrete
field theory in that year, and the University unveiled Gogli's
statue of me as well." He sighed. "Yes, a very intelligent year!
What do you think?"
"It depends on how you look at it," I responded glumly. "I
didn't enjoy it so much, what with Joanna Caldwell and Denise
d'Agrion, and your infernal experiments. It's all in the point
The professor snorted. "Infernal experiments, eh! Point of
view! Of course it's all in the point of view. Even Einstein's
simple little synthesis was enough to prove that. If the whole
world could adopt an intelligent and admirable point of view—that
of van Manderpootz, for instance—all troubles would be over.
If it were possible—" He paused, and an expression of amazed
wonder spread over his ruddy face.
"What's the matter?" I asked.
"Matter? I am astonished! The astounding depths of genius
awe me. I am overwhelmed with admiration at the incalculable
mysteries of a great mind."
"I don't get the drift."
"Dixon," he said impressively, "you have been privileged to
look upon an example of the workings of a genius. More than
that, you have planted the seed from which perhaps shall grow
the towering tree of thought. Incredible as it seems, you, Dixon
Wells, have given van Manderpootz an idea! It is thus that genius
seizes upon the small, the unimportant, the negligible, and turns
it to its own grand purposes. I stand awe-struck!"
"Wait," said van Manderpootz, still in rapt admiration of
the majesty of his own mind. "When the tree bears fruit, you
shall see it. Until then, be satisfied that you have played a part
in its planting."
It was perhaps a month before I saw van Manderpootz again,
but one bright spring evening his broad, rubicund face looked out
of the phone-screen at me.
"It's ready," he announced impressively.
The professor looked pained at the thought that I could
have forgotten. "The tree has borne fruit," he explained. "If
you wish to drop over to my quarters, we'll proceed to the laboratory
and try it out. I do not set a time, so that it will be utterly
impossible for you to be late."
I ignored that last dig, but had a time been set, I would
doubtless have been even later than usual, for it was with some
misgivings that I induced myself to go at all. I still remembered
the unpleasantness of my last two experiences with the inventions
of van Manderpootz. However, at last we were seated in the
small laboratory, while out in the larger one the professor's technical
assistant, Carter, puttered over some device, and in the far
corner his secretary, the plain and unattractive Miss Fitch, transcribed
lecture notes, for van Manderpootz abhorred the thought
that his golden utterances might be lost to posterity. On the
table between the professor and myself lay a curious device, something
that looked like a cross between a pair of nose-glasses and
a miner's lamp.
"There it is," said van Manderpootz proudly. "There lies my
attitudinizor, which may well become an epoch-making device."
"How? What does it do?"
"I will explain. The germ of the idea traces back to that
remark of yours about everything depending on the point of view.
A very obvious statement, of course, but genius seizes on the obvious
and draws from it the obscure. Thus the thoughts of even
the simplest mind can suggest to the man of genius his sublime
conceptions, as is evident from the fact that I got this idea from
"Be patient. There is much you must understand first. You
must realize just how true is the statement that everything depends
on the point of view. Einstein proved that motion, space,
and time depend on the particular point of view of the observer,
or as he expressed it, on the scale of reference used. I go farther
than that, infinitely farther. I propound the theory that the observer
is the point of view. I go even beyond that, I maintain
that the world itself is merely the point of view!"
"Look here," proceeded van Manderpootz. "It is obvious
that the world I see is entirely different from the one in which
you live. It is equally obvious that a strictly religious man occupies
a different world than that of a materialist. The fortunate
man lives in a happy world; the unfortunate man sees a world
of misery. One man is happy with little, another is miserable with
much. Each sees the world from his own point of view, which is
the same as saying that each lives in his own world. Therefore
there are as many worlds as there are points of view."
"But," I objected, "that theory is to disregard reality. Out of
all the different points of view, there must be one that is right,
and all the rest are wrong."
"One would think so," agreed the professor. "One would
think that between the point of view of you, for instance, as contrasted
with that of, say van Manderpootz, there would be small
doubt as to which was correct. However, early in the twentieth
century, Heisenberg enunciated his Principle of Uncertainty,
which proved beyond argument that a completely accurate scientific
picture of the world is quite impossible, that the law of
cause and effect is merely a phase of the law of chance, that no
infallible predictions can ever be made, and that what science
used to call natural laws are really only descriptions of the way in
which the human mind perceives nature. In other words, the
character of the world depends entirely on the mind observing it,
or, to return to my earlier statement, the point of view."
"But no one can ever really understand another person's point
of view," I said. "It isn't fair to undermine the whole basis of
science because you can't be sure that the color we both call red
wouldn't look green to you if you could see it through my eyes."
"Ah!" said van Manderpootz triumphantly. "So we come
now to my attitudinizor. Suppose that it were possible for me
to see through your eyes, or you through mine. Do you see what
a boon such an ability would be to humanity? Not only from the
standpoint of science, but also because it would obviate all
troubles due to misunderstandings. And even more." Shaking
his finger, the professor recited oracularly, "'Oh, wad some pow'r
the giftie gie us to see oursel's as ithers see us.' Van Manderpootz
is that power, Dixon. Through my attitudinizor, one may at last
adopt the viewpoint of another. The poet's plaint of more than
two centuries ago is answered at last."
"How the devil do you see through somebody else's eyes?"
"Very simply. You will recall the idealizator. Now it is obvious
that when I peered over your shoulder and perceived in the
mirror your conception of the ideal woman, I was, to a certain
extent, adopting your point of view. In that case the psychons
given off by your mind were converted into quanta of visible light,
which could be seen. In the case of my attitudinizor, the process
is exactly reversed. One flashes the beam of this light on the subject
whose point of view is desired; the visible light is reflected
back with a certain accompaniment of psychons, which are here
intensified to a degree which will permit them to be, so to speak,
"Have you already forgotten my discovery of the unit particle
of thought? Must I explain again how the cosmons, chronons, spations,
psychons, and all other particles are interchangeable? And
that," he continued abstractedly, "leads to certain interesting
speculations. Suppose I were to convert, say, a ton of material
protons and electrons into spations—that is, convert matter into
space. I calculate that a ton of matter will produce approximately
a cubic mile of space. Now the question is, where would we put
it, since all the space we have is already occupied by space? Or
if I manufactured an hour or two of time? It is obvious that we
have no time to fit in an extra couple of hours, since all our time
is already accounted for. Doubtless it will take a certain amount
of thought for even van Manderpootz to solve these problems,
but at the moment I am curious to watch the workings of the
attitudinizor. Suppose you put it on, Dixon."
"I? Haven't you tried it out yet?"
"Of course not. In the first place, what has van Manderpootz
to gain by studying the viewpoints of other people? The
object of the device is to permit people to study nobler viewpoints
than their own. And in the second place, I have asked myself
whether it is fair to the world for van Manderpootz to be the
first to try out a new and possibly untrustworthy device, and I
"But I should try it out, eh? Well, everytime I try out any
of your inventions I find myself in some kind of trouble. I'd be
a fool to go around looking for more difficulty, wouldn't I?"
"I assure you that my viewpoint will be much less apt to get
you into trouble than your own," said van Manderpootz with
dignity. "There will be no question of your becoming involved in
some impossible love affair as long as you stick to that."
Nevertheless, despite the assurance of the great scientist, I
was more than a little reluctant to don the device. Yet I was
curious, as well; it seemed a fascinating prospect to be able to
look at the world through other eyes, as fascinating as visiting
a new world—which it was, according to the professor. So after
a few moments of hesitation, I picked up the instrument, slipped
it over my head so that the eyeglasses were in the proper position,
and looked inquiringly at van Manderpootz.
"You must turn it on," he said, reaching over and clicking a
switch on the frame. "Now flash the light to my face. That's
the way; just center the circle of light on my face. And now
what do you see?"
I didn't answer; what I saw was, for the moment, quite indescribable.
I was completely dazed and bewildered, and it was
only when some involuntary movement of my head at last flashed
the light from the professor's face to the table top that a measure
of sanity returned, which proves at least that tables do not possess
any point of view.
"O-o-o-h!" I gasped.
Van Manderpootz beamed. "Of course you are overwhelmed.
One could hardly expect to adopt the view of van Manderpootz
without some difficulties of adjustment. A second time will be
I reached up and switched off the light. "A second time will
not only be easier, but also impossible," I said crossly. "I'm not
going to experience another dizzy spell like that for anybody."
"But of course you will, Dixon. I am certain that the dizziness
will be negligible on the second trial. Naturally the unexpected
heights affected you, much as if you were to come without
warning to the brink of a colossal precipice. But this time you
will be prepared, and the effect will be much less."
Well, it was. After a few moments I was able to give my
full attention to the phenomena of the attitudinizor, and queer
phenomena they were, too. I scarcely know how to describe the
sensation of looking at the world through the filter of another's
mind. It is almost an indescribable experience, but so, in the
ultimate analysis, is any other experience.
What I saw first was a kaleidoscopic array of colors and
shapes, but the amazing, astounding, inconceivable thing about
the scene was that there was no single color I could recognize!
The eyes of van Manderpootz, or perhaps his brain, interpreted
color in a fashion utterly alien to the way in which my own functioned,
and the resultant spectrum was so bizarre that there is
simply no way of describing any single tint in words. To say, as
I did to the professor, that his conception of red looked to me
like a shade between purple and green conveys absolutely no
meaning, and the only way a third person could appreciate the
meaning would be to examine my point of view through an attitudinizor
while I was examining that of van Manderpootz. Thus
he could apprehend my conception of van Manderpootz's reaction
to the color red.
And shapes! It took me several minutes to identify the weird,
angular, twisted, distorted appearance in the center of the room
as the plain laboratory table. The room itself, aside from its queer
form, looked smaller, perhaps because van Manderpootz is somewhat
larger than I.
But by far the strangest part of his point of view had nothing
to do with the outlook upon the physical world, but with the
more fundamental elements—with his attitudes. Most of his
thoughts, on that first occasion, were beyond me, because I had
not yet learned to interpret the personal symbolism in which he
thought. But I did understand his attitudes. There was Carter,
for instance, toiling away out in the large laboratory; I saw at
once what a plodding, unintelligent drudge he seemed to van
Manderpootz. And there was Miss Fitch; I confess that she had
always seemed unattractive to me, but my impression of her was
Venus herself beside that of the professor! She hardly seemed
human to him and I am sure that he never thought of her as a
woman, but merely as a piece of convenient but unimportant
At this point I caught a glimpse of myself through the eyes
of van Manderpootz. Ouch! Perhaps I'm not a genius, but I'm
dead certain that I'm not the grinning ape I appeared to be in
his eyes. And perhaps I'm not exactly the handsomest man in
the world either, but if I thought I looked like that—! And then,
to cap the climax, I apprehended van Manderpootz's conception
"That's enough!" I yelled. "I won't stay around here just
to be insulted. I'm through!"
I tore the attitudinizor from my head and tossed it to the
table, feeling suddenly a little foolish at the sight of the grin on
the face of the professor.
"That is hardly the spirit which has led science to its great
achievements, Dixon," he observed amiably. "Suppose you describe
the nature of the insults, and if possible, something about
the workings of the attitudinizor as well. After all, that is what
you were supposed to be observing."
I flushed, grumbled a little, and complied. Van Manderpootz
listened with great interest to my description of the difference in
our physical worlds, especially the variations in our perceptions
of form and color.
"What a field for an artist!" he ejaculated at last. "Unfortunately,
it is a field that must remain forever untapped, because
even though an artist examined a thousand viewpoints and learned
innumerable new colors, his pigments would continue to impress
his audience with the same old colors each of them had always
known." He sighed thoughtfully, and then proceeded. "However,
the device is apparently quite safe to use. I shall therefore try it
briefly, bringing to the investigation a calm, scientific mind which
refuses to be troubled by the trifles that seem to bother you."
He donned the attitudinizor, and I must confess that he
stood the shock of the first trial somewhat better than I did. After
a surprised "Oof!" he settled down to a complacent analysis of
my point of view, while I sat somewhat self-consciously under his
calm appraisal. Calm, that is, for about three minutes.
Suddenly he leaped to his feet, tearing the device from a face
whose normal ruddiness had deepened to a choleric angry color.
"Get out!" he roared. "So that's the way van Manderpootz looks
to you! Moron! Idiot! Imbecile! Get out!"
It was a week or ten days later that I happened to be passing
the University on my way from somewhere to somewhere
else, and I fell to wondering whether the professor had yet forgiven
me. There was a light in the window of his laboratory over
in the Physics Building, so I dropped in, making my way past the
desk where Carter labored, and the corner where Miss Fitch sat
in dull primness at her endless task of transcribing lecture notes.
Van Manderpootz greeted me cordially enough, but with a
curious assumption of melancholy in his manner. "Ah, Dixon,"
he began, "I am glad to see you. Since our last meeting, I have
learned much of the stupidity of the world, and it appears to me
now that you are actually one of the more intelligent contemporary
This from van Manderpootz! "Why—thank you," I said.
"It is true. For some days I have sat at the window overlooking
the street there, and have observed the viewpoints of the passers-by.
Would you believe"—his voice lowered—"would you believe
that only seven and four-tenths percent are even aware of the
existence of van Manderpootz? And doubtless many of the few
that are, come from among the students in the neighborhood. I
knew that the average level of intelligence was low, but it had
not occurred to me that it was as low as that."
"After all," I said consolingly, "you must remember that the
achievements of van Manderpootz are such as to attract the attention
of the intelligent few rather than of the many."
"A very silly paradox!" he snapped. "On the basis of that
theory, since the higher one goes in the scale of intelligence, the
fewer individuals one finds, the greatest achievement of all is one
that nobody has heard of. By that test you would be greater than
van Manderpootz, an obvious reductio ad absurdum."
He glared his reproof that I should even have thought of the
point, then something in the outer laboratory caught his ever-observant
"Carter!" he roared. "Is that a synobasical interphasometer
in the positronic flow? Fool! What sort of measurements do you
expect to make when your measuring instrument itself is part of
the experiment? Take it out and start over!"
He rushed away toward the unfortunate technician. I settled
idly back in my chair and stared about the small laboratory,
whose walls had seen so many marvels. The latest, the attitudinizor,
lay carelessly on the table, dropped there by the professor
after his analysis of the mass viewpoint of the pedestrians in the
I picked up the device and fell to examining its construction.
Of course this was utterly beyond me, for no ordinary engineer
can hope to grasp the intricacies of a van Manderpootz concept.
So, after a puzzled but admiring survey of its infinitely delicate
wires and grids and lenses, I made the obvious move. I put it on.
My first thought was the street, but since the evening was
well along, the walk below the window was deserted. Back in
my chair again, I sat musing idly when a faint sound that was
not the rumbling of the professor's voice attracted my attention.
I identified it shortly as the buzzing of a heavy fly, butting its
head stupidly against the pane of glass that separated the small
laboratory from the large room beyond. I wondered casually
what the viewpoint of a fly was like, and ended by flashing the
light on the creature.
For some moments I saw nothing other than I had been
seeing right along from my own personal point of view, because,
as van Manderpootz explained later, the psychons from the miserable
brain of a fly are too few to produce any but the vaguest
of impressions. But gradually I became aware of a picture, a
queer and indescribable scene.
Flies are color-blind. That was my first impression, for the
world was a dull panorama of greys and whites and blacks. Flies
are extremely nearsighted; when I had finally identified the scene
as the interior of the familiar room, I discovered that it seemed
enormous to the insect, whose vision did not extend more than
six feet, though it did take in almost a complete sphere, so that
the creature could see practically in all directions at once. But
perhaps the most astonishing thing, though I did not think of it
until later, was that the compound eye of the insect, did not
convey to it the impression of a vast number of separate pictures,
such as the eye produces when a microphotograph is taken
through it. The fly sees one picture just as we do; in the same
way as our brain rights the upside-down image cast on our retina,
the fly's brain reduces the compound image to one. And beyond
these impressions were a wild hodge-podge of smell-sensations, and
a strange desire to burst through the invisible glass barrier into
the brighter light beyond. But I had no time to analyze these
sensations, for suddenly there was a flash of something infinitely
clearer than the dim cerebrations of a fly.
For half a minute or longer I was unable to guess what that
momentary flash had been. I knew that I had seen something incredibly
lovely, that I had tapped a viewpoint that looked upon
something whose very presence caused ecstasy, but whose viewpoint
it was, or what that flicker of beauty had been, were questions
beyond my ability to answer.
I slipped off the attitudinizor and sat staring perplexedly at
the buzzing fly on the pane of glass. Out in the other room van
Manderpootz continued his harangue to the repentant Carter, and
off in a corner invisible from my position I could hear the rustle
of papers as Miss Fitch transcribed endless notes. I puzzled vainly
over the problem of what had happened, and then the solution
dawned on me.
The fly must have buzzed between me and one of the occupants
of the outer laboratory. I had been following its flight with
the faintly visible beam of the attitudinizor's light, and that beam
must have flickered momentarily on the head of one of the three
beyond the glass. But which? Van Manderpootz himself? It must
have been either the professor or Carter, since the secretary was
quite beyond range of the light.
It seemed improbable that the cold and brilliant mind of
van Manderpootz could be the agency of the sort of emotional
ecstasy I had sensed. It must therefore, have been the head of
the mild and inoffensive little Carter that the beam had tapped.
With a feeling of curiosity I slipped the device back on my own
head and sent the beam sweeping dimly into the larger room.
It did not at the time occur to me that such a procedure was
quite as discreditable as eavesdropping, or even more dishonorable,
if you come right down to it, because it meant the theft of
far more personal information than one could ever convey by the
spoken word. But all I considered at the moment was my own
curiosity; I wanted to learn what sort of viewpoint could produce
that strange, instantaneous flash of beauty. If the proceeding was
unethical—well, Heaven knows I was punished for it.
So I turned the attitudinizor on Carter. At the moment, he
was listening respectfully to van Manderpootz, and I sensed
clearly his respect for the great man, a respect that had in it a
distinct element of fear. I could hear Carter's impression of the
booming voice of the professor, sounding somewhat like the modulated
thunder of a god, which was not far from the little man's
actual opinion of his master. I perceived Carter's opinion of himself,
and his self-picture was an even more mouselike portrayal
than my own impression of him. When, for an instant, he glanced
my way, I sensed his impression of me, and while I'm sure that
Dixon Wells is not the imbecile he appears to van Manderpootz,
I'm equally sure that he's not the debonair man of the world he
seemed to Carter. All in all, Carter's point of view seemed that
of a timid, inoffensive, retiring, servile little man, and I wondered
all the more what could have caused that vanished flash of beauty
in a mind like his.
There was no trace of it now. His attention was completely
taken up by the voice of van Manderpootz, who had passed from
a personal appraisal of Carter's stupidity to a general lecture on
the fallacies of the unified field theory as presented by his rivals
Corveille and Shrimski. Carter was listening with an almost
worshipful regard, and I could feel his surges of indignation
against the villains who dared to disagree with the authority of
I sat there intent on the strange double vision of the attitudinizor,
which was in some respects like a Horsten psychomat—that
is, one is able to see both through his own eyes and through
the eyes of his subject. Thus I could see van Manderpootz and
Carter quite clearly, but at the same time I could see or sense
what Carter saw and sensed. Thus I perceived suddenly through
my own eyes that the professor had ceased talking to Carter, and
had turned at the approach of somebody as yet invisible to me,
while at the same time, through Carter's eyes, I saw that vision of
ecstasy which had flashed for a moment in his mind. I saw—description
is utterly impossible, but I saw a woman who, except
possibly for the woman of the idealizator screen, was the most
beautiful creature I had ever seen!
I say description is impossible. That is the literal truth,
for her coloring, her expression, her figure, as seen through Carter's
eyes, were completely unlike anything expressible by words. I
was fascinated, I could do nothing but watch, and I felt a wild
surge of jealousy as I caught the adoration in the attitude of the
humble Carter. She was glorious, magnificent, indescribable.
It was with an effort that I untangled myself from the web of
fascination enough to catch Carter's thought of her name. "Lisa,"
he was thinking. "Lisa."
What she said to van Manderpootz was in tones too low
for me to hear, and apparently too low for Carter's ears as well,
else I should have heard her words through the attitudinizor.
But both of us heard van Manderpootz's bellow in answer.
"I don't care how the dictionary pronounces the word!"
he roared. "The way van Manderpootz pronounces a word is
The glorious Lisa turned silently and vanished. For a few
moments I watched her through Carter's eyes, but as she neared
the laboratory door, he turned his attention again to van Manderpootz,
and she was lost to my view.
And as I saw the professor close his dissertation and approach
me, I slipped the attitudinizor from my head and forced myself
to a measure of calm.
"Who is she?" I demanded. "I've got to meet her!"
He looked blankly at me. "Who's who?"
"Lisa! Who's Lisa?"
There was not a flicker in the cool blue eyes of van Manderpootz.
"I don't know any Lisa," he said indifferently.
"But you were just talking to her! Right out there!"
Van Manderpootz stared curiously at me; then little by
little a shrewd suspicion seemed to dawn in his broad, intelligent
features. "Hah!" he said. "Have you, by any chance, been
using the attitudinizor?"
I nodded, chill apprehension gripping me.
"And is it also true that you chose to investigate the viewpoint
of Carter out there?" At my nod, he stepped to the door
that joined the two rooms, and closed it. When he faced me
again, it was with features working into lines of amusement
that suddenly found utterance in booming laughter. "Haw!"
he roared. "Do you know who beautiful Lisa is? She's Fitch!"
"Fitch? You're mad! She's glorious, and Fitch is plain
and scrawny and ugly. Do you think I'm a fool?"
"You ask an embarrassing question," chuckled the professor.
"Listen to me, Dixon. The woman you saw was my secretary,
Miss Fitch, seen through the eyes of Carter. Don't you understand?
The idiot Carter's in love with her!"
I suppose I walked the upper levels half the night, oblivious
alike of the narrow strip of stars that showed between the towering
walls of twenty-first century New York, and the intermittent
roar of traffic from the freight levels. Certainly this was the
worst predicament of all those into which the fiendish contraptions
of the great van Manderpootz had thrust me.
In love with a point of view! In love with a woman who
had no existence apart from the beglamoured eyes of Carter.
It wasn't Lisa Fitch I loved; indeed, I rather hated her angular
ugliness. What I had fallen in love with was the way she looked
to Carter, for there is nothing in the world quite as beautiful
as a lover's conception of his sweetheart.
This predicament was far worse than my former ones. When
I had fallen in love with a girl already dead, I could console myself
with the thought of what might have been. When I had
fallen in love with my own ideal—well, at least she was mine,
even if I couldn't have her. But to fall in love with another
man's conception! The only way that conception could even
continue to exist was for Carter to remain in love with Lisa
Fitch, which rather effectually left me outside the picture altogether.
She was absolutely unattainable to me, for Heaven
knows I didn't want the real Lisa Fitch—"real" meaning, of
course, the one who was real to me. I suppose in the end Carter's
Lisa Fitch was as real as the skinny scarecrow my eyes saw.
She was unattainable—or was she? Suddenly an echo of
a long-forgotten psychology course recurred to me. Attitudes
are habits. Viewpoints are attitudes. Therefore viewpoints are
habits. And habits can be learned!
There was the solution! All I had to do was to learn, or
to acquire by practice, the viewpoint of Carter. What I had
to do was literally to put myself in his place, to look at things
in his way, to see his viewpoint. For once I learned to do that,
I could see in Lisa Fitch the very things he saw, and the vision
would become reality to me as well as to him.
I planned carefully. I did not care to face the sarcasm of
the great van Manderpootz; therefore I would work in secret.
I would visit his laboratory at such times as he had classes or
lectures, and I would use the attitudinizor to study the viewpoint
of Carter, and to, as it were, practice that viewpoint. Thus
I would have the means at hand of testing my progress, for all
I had to do was glance at Miss Fitch without the attitudinizor.
As soon as I began to perceive in her what Carter saw, I would
know that success was imminent.
Those next two weeks were a strange interval of time. I
haunted the laboratory of van Manderpootz at odd hours, having
learned from the University office what periods he devoted to
his courses. When one day I found the attitudinizor missing,
I prevailed on Carter to show me where it was kept, and he,
influenced doubtless by my friendship for the man he practically
worshipped, indicated the place without question. But later
I suspect that he began to doubt his wisdom in this, for I know
he thought it very strange for me to sit for long periods staring
at him; I caught all sorts of puzzled questions in his mind,
though as I have said, these were hard for me to decipher until
I began to learn Carter's personal system of symbolism by which
he thought. But at least one man was pleased—my father, who
took my absences from the office and neglect of business as
signs of good health and spirits, and congratulated me warmly
on the improvement.
But the experiment was beginning to work, I found myself
sympathizing with Carter's viewpoint, and little by little the
mad world in which he lived was becoming as logical as my
own. I learned to recognize colors through his eyes; I learned
to understand form and shape; most fundamental of all, I learned
his values, his attitudes, his tastes. And these last were a little
inconvenient at times, for on the several occasions when I supplemented
my daily calls with visits to van Manderpootz in
the evening, I found some difficulty in separating my own respectful
regard for the great man from Carter's unreasoning
worship, with the result that I was on the verge of blurting out
the whole thing to him several times. And perhaps it was a
guilty conscience, but I kept thinking that the shrewd blue eyes
of the professor rested on me with a curiously suspicious expression
The thing was approaching its culmination. Now and
then, when I looked at the angular ugliness of Miss Fitch, I began
to catch glimpses of the same miraculous beauty that Carter
found in her—glimpses only, but harbingers of success. Each
day I arrived at the laboratory with increasing eagerness, for each
day brought me nearer to the achievement I sought. That is, my
eagerness increased until one day I arrived to find neither Carter
nor Miss Fitch present, but van Manderpootz, who should have
been delivering a lecture on indeterminism, very much in evidence.
"Uh—hello," I said weakly.
"Umph!" he responded, glaring at me. "So Carter was
right, I see. Dixon, the abysmal stupidity of the human race
continually astounds me with new evidence of its astronomical
depths, but I believe this escapade of yours plumbs the uttermost
regions of imbecility."
"Do you think you can escape the piercing eye of van Manderpootz?
As soon as Carter told me you had been here in my
absence, my mind leaped nimbly to the truth. But Carter's information
was not even necessary, for half an eye was enough to detect
the change in your attitude on these last few evening visits.
So you've been trying to adopt Carter's viewpoint, eh? No doubt
with the idea of ultimately depriving him of the charming Miss
"Listen to me, Dixon. We will disregard the ethics of the
thing and look at it from a purely rational viewpoint, if a rational
viewpoint is possible to anybody but van Manderpootz.
Don't you realize that in order to attain Carter's attitude toward
Fitch, you would have to adopt his entire viewpoint? Not,"
he added tersely, "that I think his point of view is greatly inferior
to yours, but I happen to prefer the viewpoint of a donkey
to that of a mouse. Your particular brand of stupidity is more
agreeable to me than Carter's timid, weak, and subservient nature,
and some day you will thank me for this. Was his impression
of Fitch worth the sacrifice of your own personality?"
"I—I don't know."
"Well, whether it was or not, van Manderpootz has decided
the matter in the wisest way. For it's too late now, Dixon. I
have given them both a month's leave and sent them away—on
a honeymoon. They left this morning."
This etext was produced from A Martian Odyssey and Others
published in 1949. Extensive research did not uncover
any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication