Synesthesia: I has it

Leave it to me to be inspired by  a Cracked article about how certain mental conditions could potentially get a guy laid (hey Cracked, when are you going to start helping ladies to get laid? Just sayin).

Nabokov had it. Tori Amos has it. Yours truly has it, though she’s not nearly as awesome as the other two people mentioned here.

Seasons, months, numbers, days of the week, letters of the alphabet, symbols, mathematical equations – they all have different colours, styles, and attitudes. 11, for example, is very pretty and cold, and a jerk, but also honest somehow. And if you ask me to explain, I can’t. 11 is a complicated number, and we have a complicated relationship, is all. It’s as if all of these things are tarot cards, and I am forever reading them, arranging and rearranging them in my head.

Wednesday is cherry-coloured. Saturday has the sweet, grainy texture of Palestinian knafeh. E = mc2 is like a green scarf unfurling on the wind. The letter A is very forthright, the letter B is like an old relative, and don’t even get me started on the Cyrillic alphabet. These are not even exhaustive definitions, by far. They can go on forever.

It’s a pretty way to think and feel, but it can also get a bit crowded in my head. I think it’s why I like to turn off so much, just stop inhabiting myself for a while. I think it’s why I have such a temper too. The circuits overload.

It is said that synesthesia is associated with high levels of creativity. I certainly believe that. But there is a certain form of discipline that must come when you’re angling for genuine creative output, and sometimes, marshaling these numbers and letters can be tough. They make the margins of things crowded and fuzzy, and they can be distracting. For me, it’s why trips to so-called places of power are necessary. My head is cleared from the flotsam and jetsam when I’m up at the Glastonbury Tor or St. Cyrill’s church in Kiev.

I realized recently that I don’t have a place of power to go to in Amman. The closes I’ve gotten is my friend’s house, up on a hill, looking out toward Israel & Palestine. But I’m rarely up there, so rarely, that mind continues on its merry way, spinning tragic love stories between upper-class 5 and sweetly naive 9, for example. And then I wonder why Amman is even harder on me than it should be.

What is a place of power? I’m not sure. I think it’s something that bends time and space, or at least perception, a little bit. Where the atmosphere begins speaking to you, and it’s like tuning into a whole other wavelength, where everything becomes clear and clean, or as clear and clean as it can be, and a very strong current fizzes along and washes the insides of your mind and the cracks are patched up for a time being by invisible hands. It’s not necessarily a place of worship, but it’s beautiful, harshly or otherwise. You’ll laugh, but the freaking Mall of the Emirates was that for me in Dubai (and who knows? You can argue that malls are their own places of worship).

I don’t know if I didn’t look hard enough in Amman. Or maybe Amman is just a different place altogether, somewhere where my mind can never really come to rest. All I know is that the synesthesia overwhelms me there. Instead of a quirky gift, it becomes a weight I drag around with myself, along with all of the other weights. It becomes meaner too. 11’s jerky tendencies become downright cruel, for example. Saturday is so sweet that it turns into a sugar coma. Sundays become bottomless and desperate, like an enormous bat-cave.

So if you ever run into me in Amman, give me a number of a letter or a vague concept, and who knows what story might emerge?

14 thoughts on “Synesthesia: I has it

  1. The first time I ever heard about synesthesia was when I read Baudelaire’s poem ‘Correspondances’
    “Comme de longs échos qui de loin se confondent
    Dans une ténébreuse et profonde unité,
    Vaste comme la nuit et comme la clarté,
    Les parfums, les couleurs et les sons se répondent.” […]
    Beautiful poetically, but I’ve always wondered what it would feel like in reality. If it felt like like a pleasing symphony or a cacophony. A Babel. I guess both?

    I hope you find more places of power here in Amman, Natalia.

  2. So, I’m really curious about this. Is there any correspondence between Latin letters and Cyrillic letters? Is it based on appearance, or sound? i.e., the Cyrillic letter that looks like B and sounds like V, does it have more in common with Latin B or Latin V?

    Gorgeous piece, by the way.

  3. Thanks. I’m not really qualified to talk about the similarities between the Latin & Cyrillic alphabets. “B” in Russian is certainly pronounced as a “V,” that’s all I can tell you. What does it have in common with Latin? Maybe nothing. Maybe something. I certainly treat them as different entities in my head, I can tell you that much.

    Sesame, I doubt it. 😉

  4. Oh, I meant your response to them … like, does cyrillic B have a similar personality to latin B, or to latin V? Or neither?

  5. At last! Someone who understands me! 😀

    Wednesday has always been orange for me and Saturday is pink. I ‘hear’ colour and ‘see’ sounds too, which can be wonderful and helpful as an artist or really disorientating and anxiety-inducing, depending on the environment.

    I started collected crystals about 10 years ago, and I mainly use them to balance out the ‘noise’ of so much stimulus. If you have a local shop that sells them, spend some time in there and see which ones have the most positive effect on you. Rose Quartz is always a sure-fire ‘tranquillizer’ :).

    If you’re looking for a peaceful or energising geographical location in your area, can I suggest pendulum dowsing? It’s really useful for finding energy lines and place that will either stress you out or calm you down. If you want to, you’re very welcome to email me via my blog and I can talking to you about crystals, dowsing and whatnot :).

    P.S. I looked up ‘Kanafeh’ – yum.

  6. I had this sensation on LSD, and all of my flashbacks are of this kind. I enjoy it, but would not want it all the time.

    Try to find the story “All the colors of the Rainbow” by Theodore Sturgeon. 🙂

  7. Not to be confused with the SF story of same name by Leigh Brackett, which is spelled “colours” .

    Mr Daisy, scifi geek, to the rescue. (He can give you the years they were written too.)

  8. Okay, shoot me for serial commenting! Duh!

    Title typo: All the SOUNDS of the Rainbow. Which makes more sense. He was QUOTING Brackett.

    The story is about a guru who develops severe synesthesia and can “give” it to others via telepathy. The people he “gives” it to get addicted to the altered reality and love it, while the guru himself dislikes it and feels like he is passing on a curse, not a blessing. Awesome story, never forgot it.

    The story is in Spinrad’s short story collection “Star Spangled Future.” (1979) but he wrote it in 1973.

    I’ll stop now! 😀

  9. Since I was a little girl, I associate letters with numbers and colors. I even have images for names, too. But I never thought I’d come across with someone able to make this awesome explanation about this same sensation.
    Receive my best from Lima, Perú. I guess you¿ve got a new reader!

  10. I have synesthesia. I’ve been playing classical piano for more than 20 years and started hearing colours in different key signatures (D major sounds yellow, D minor sounds mustard, E major sounds blue, G minor sounds brown, etc.) from a young age. At the time I kept it to myself because I was afraid people might think I was going crazy. Unfortunately, my synesthesia is limited to the diatonic scale, which is used mostly in Western, classical music writing conventions 😛

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