Chat session went better yesterday. Enemy did not start any dialogue with that dreaded phrase “I sense…” I was quite happy because I of course never sense anything. I however did take a very tiny old ¼ mg. of Xanax an hour before I left home, which reduced my nervousness a little bit. I didn’t notice any results of the effect of it – usually I feel a little tired, but I didn’t, so perhaps I should toss the bottle and add new ones. I walked around what Boulder calls their tourist district “Pearl Street” and ran into a male dressed as Spider Man who asked for my name and when I did not acknowledge him, he motioned for me to come over to his space. He already was conversing with three guys and I was freaked already with someone talking to me. I just kept walking. I hope it’s normal to fall into a mood where you just want to not be seen by anyone. I watch bees fly and land on flowers for a moment or so and then take off again flying for however long they want to than land again for another brief time and off they go. I equate that to my moods and this world. I need my space so much more now. I’ll land when required, but let me fly and not be touched until I can figure this current predicament out. Something is not quite right – even for me to know – this is unsafe perhaps? I can’t explain something I am not familiar with. I do what is expected of me, go to chat sessions, answer the questions, enjoy talking to friends, keep up with the routine as always, but it feels like something is going on in the back of my mind, freaky is all I can say.
So, I was trying to research information on alters as in colors. I’m special, I know because there is not a damn thing on alters being colors, just names. What can I say? Mine do communicate – one constantly says “Fuck no! Really, are you fucking kidding? Yeah, that won’t happen, hell no”, during chat sessions. It’s always fun trying to keep up with Enemy’s conversation when you are keeping up with this as well. I hopefully am passing my “How interesting, I’ll try to think about that” look. Try not to smile or laugh is getting increasingly difficult.
So, I came across this article on colors and numbers and taste. It’s very interesting if you can get by some of the psychological words which have little to do with the article. I know colors have numbers. I assume most people know this. Initially when I read this article, it said that the color white was #2 – I disagreed. But the article could be just junk science. People can read themselves in a lot of diagnoses in all the DSM IV manuals. We as the human race are all crazy in some form or fashion that is what makes the world’s population so interesting. But the article is fun to read.
syn-es-the-sia n. Physiol. Sensation produced at a point other than
or remote from the point of stimulation, as of a color from hearing a
certain sound (fr. Gk, syn = together + aisthesis = to perceive).
Synesthesia is an involuntary joining in which the real information of one sense is accompanied by a perception in another sense. In addition to being involuntary, this additional perception is regarded by the synesthete as real, often outside the body, instead of imagined in the mind’s eye. It also has some other interesting features that clearly separate it from artistic fancy or purple prose. Its reality and vividness are what make synesthesia so interesting in its violation of conventional perception. Synesthesia is also fascinating because logically it should not be a product of the human brain, where the evolutionary trend has been for increasing separation of function anatomically.
Its phenomenology clearly distinguishes it from metaphor, literary tropes, sound symbolism, and deliberate artistic contrivances that sometimes employ the term “synesthesia” to describe their multisensory joinings. An unexpected demographic and cognitive constellation co-occurs with synesthesia: females and non-right-handers predominate, the trait is familial, and memory is superior while math and spatial navigation suffer. Synesthesia appears to be a left-hemisphere function that is not cortical in the conventional sense. The hippocampus is critical for its experience. Five clinical features comprise its diagnosis. Synesthesia is “abnormal” only in being statistically rare. It is, in fact, a normal brain process that is prematurely displayed to consciousness in a minority of individuals.
The word synesthesia, meaning “joined sensation”, shares a root with anesthesia, meaning “no sensation.” It denotes the rare capacity to hear colors, taste shapes, or experience other equally startling sensory blendings whose quality seems difficult for most of us to imagine. A synesthete might describe the color, shape, and flavor of someone’s voice, or music whose sound looks like “shards of glass,” a scintillation of jagged, colored triangles moving in the visual field. Or, seeing the color red, a synesthete might detect the “scent” of red as well. The experience is frequently projected outside the individual, rather than being an image in the mind’s eye. I currently estimate that 1/25,000 individuals is born to a world where one sensation involuntarily conjures up others, sometimes all five clashing together (Cytowic, 1989, 1993). I suspect this figure is far too low.
Perhaps the most famous family case is that of the Russian novelist Valdimir Nabokov. When, as a toddler, he complained to his mother than the letter colors on his wooden alphabet blocks were “all wrong,” she understood the conflict he experienced between the color of the painted letters and his lexically-induced synesthetic colors. In addition to perceiving letters and words in color, as her son did, Mrs. Nabokov was also affected by music.
Synesthetes are normal in the conventional sense. They appear bright, and hail from all walks of life. The impression that they are inherently “artistic” seems to me a sampling bias, given that famous synesthetes such as Valdimir Nabokov, Olivier Messiaen, David Hockney, and Alexander Scriabin are well-known because of their art rather than their synesthesia. Clinically, synesthetes seem mentally balanced.
Not only do most synesthetes contend that their memories are excellent, but cite their parallel sensations as the cause, saying for example, “I know it’s 2 because it’s white.” Conversation, prose passages, movie dialogue, and verbal instructions are typical subjects of detailed recall. The spatial location of objects is also strikingly remembered, such as the precise location of kitchen utensils, furniture arrangements and floor plans, books on shelves, or text blocks in a specific book. Perhaps related to this observation is a tendency to prefer order, neatness, symmetry, and balance. Work cannot commence until the desk is arranged just so, or everything in the kitchen is put away in its proper place. Synesthetes perform in the superior range of the Wechsler Memory Scale.
Within their overall high intelligence, synesthetes have uneven cognitive skills. While a minority are frankly dyscalculic, the majority may have subtle mathematical deficiencies (such as lexical-to-digit transcoding). Right-left confusion (allochiria), and a poor sense of direction for vector rather than network maps are common.
A first-degree family history of dyslexia, autism, and attention deficit is present in about 15%. Very rarely, the sensual experience is so intense as to interfere with rational thinking (e.g., writing a speech, memorizing formulae).
As a group, synesthetes seem more prone to “unusual experiences” than one might expect (17% in my 1989 study, though if anyone knows what the general-population baseline for unusual experiences is, I should like to know). Qualitatively, one thinks of the personality constellation said to be typical of temporal-limbic epileptics. Deja vu, clairvoyance, precognitive dreams, a sense of portentousness, and the feeling of a presence are encountered often enough. Singular instances in my experience include empathic healing, and an explanans of psychokinesis for what was probably an explanandrum of episodic metamorphopsia. Unparalleled among my collection of other-worldly experiences is that of a woman who claimed to have been abducted by aliens, and to have enjoyed sexual congress aboard their space craft. Having experienced aliens, she confided, human males could no longer satisfy her.
By analogy, the consensual image we see on the screen when watching television is the terminal stage of the broadcast. Someone able to intercept the transmission anywhere between the studio camera and the TV screen would be like a synesthete, sampling the transmission before it reached the screen, fully elaborated. Presumably, their experience would be different from those of us viewing the screen. We can similarly propose and test the concept of synesthesia as the premature display of a normal cognitive process.
This implies that we are all synesthetic, and that only a handful of people are consciously aware of the holistic nature of perception.