32: Pillar

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
Jump to: navigation, search
A comic by my brother Doug, redrawn and rewritten by me
Title text: A comic by my brother Doug, redrawn and rewritten by me


Two Cueball-like guys ponder the unanswerable philosophical question of whether all people observe the universe the same, or whether, for example, what one person sees as "red" might be what another see as "green". They muse that no one really knows how anyone else sees the world.

The misdirection and punchline of the comic come when the pole-guy asks if his friend can help him down from this pole where he's been standing for the entire comic. The friend's reply indicates that he does not see a pole, proving that one person can observe the world differently than another, in this case, in a far more extreme and unexpected way than color differences.

Another interpretation of the punchline is that the friend doesn't like pole-guy's idea of questioning all of human existence and mocks that philosophy by pretending not to see that he is standing on a pole.

The concept of a philosopher on a pole is likely a reference to many "stylites" or "pillar-saints" of the late antiquity period, perhaps the first and most famous them being Simeon Stylites.

Unlike most other xkcd comics, the "panels" of this comic are not divided and are drawn within a single frame.

As noted at the title text, this comic is based on a comic drawn by Randall's brother Doug, although Randall apparently redrew and rewrote it.


[At the top of the panel is a black frame with the following text:]
This one is mostly by my little brother, Doug.
[A Cueball-like guy stands on the top of a tall pole and talks to his Cueball-like friend on the ground. The drawing is repeated three time in the same panel, once for each comment by the two guys.]
Pole-guy: The sky is so blue, and all the leaves are green.
Friend: Haven't you ever wondered if we really see the same colors as everyone else? It's all perception.
Pole-guy: Well, you might as well call into question all of human experience. Who really knows what world someone else sees?
Friend: Yeah, I guess.
Pole-guy: Anyway, can you help me down from this pole?
Friend: What pole?


"Oops, I totally forgot to update yesterday afternoon. Well, I haven't slept, so I say it's still Friday. It's been a weird couple days and I was just thinking it was the weekend. Anyway, the first version of this strip was drawn by me and then written by Doug. I redrew/wrote it and now you are reading it! Cool, huh?
Also, all the barrel strips are now here for easy linkage to people you think might like them."
  • The link (now here above directing to a webarchive) used to direct to a collection of all six The Boy and his Barrel comics.
  • It seems Randall had a long Friday back then. So long that he forgot to post this Friday comic before midnight.
  • And although he still had not slept when he posted it, the time-stamp reads 7:55 AM on Saturday.
  • This thus became the first comic to be released on a Saturday.
  • This also happened to him the next Friday/Saturday. And then two times more before he closed LiveJournal. Since then it has not happened.
  • This comic was posted on xkcd when the web site opened on Sunday the 1st of January 2006.
    • It was posted along with all 41 comics posted before that on LiveJournal as well as a few others.
    • The latter explaining why the numbers of these 41 LiveJournal comics ranges from 1-44.
  • One of the original drawings drawn on checkered paper.

comment.png add a comment! ⋅ comment.png add a topic (use sparingly)! ⋅ Icons-mini-action refresh blue.gif refresh comments!


I have oft wondered about the color thing. 21:49, 23 October 2012 (UTC) Bigger problem- how do you know there are other people?

The incessantly thumping bass from your neighbour's "music" is a bit of a clue. :-) BinaryDigit (talk) 09:23, 30 March 2013 (UTC)

Is that Comic Sans (the font) in the top left? Caagr98 (talk) 15:06, 17 April 2013 (UTC)

Augh, it is Comic Sans! 21:00, 5 February 2014 (UTC)

Also, it could be that Righty doesn't see a pole, but a pillar, as suggested by the title of the comic. That's why he asks, "What pole?", implying, "I only see a pillar". (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

The song "Shpadoinkle" from Trey Parker and Matt Stone's "Cannibal! The Musical" begins with the line, "The sky is blue, and all the leaves are green." Trueflint (talk) 17:15, 4 June 2015 (UTC)

Anecdotally, I don't even perceive colors the same between my eyes. When I stare at a white wall, my left eye perceives it as tinted red, and my right eye perceives it as tinted green. 03:18, 15 August 2017 (UTC)

That's really interesting. Was it ever investigated why that is the case? And could that maybe be scientifically relevant? Fabian42 (talk) 09:12, 24 August 2017 (UTC)
Does this mean you don't need special glasses to watch a 3D film ?. Just kidding, I hope you get it fixed if you want to or are happy with it as it is. EditorGonk (talk) 12:34, 20 July 2018 (UTC)

My wife, who's an artist, perceives the sky as purple. We originally thought she was partially colorblind. But after finding out that she sees photographs of the sky inside as the same light blue / cyan as other people, and flowers turn different colors outside, and asking her if a blacklight was the same color as the sky (yes it is), I determined that she sees Ultraviolet Light that the rest of us cannot. Interestingly, this development happened at the same time as she developed a persistent "smear" across her vision, and it's correlated with that time she fell through the ice while skateboarding. Dartania (talk) 10:34, 10 June 2021 (EST)