Sunday, 2 September 2007

STD (Synesthesia, Time And Depression)

There is something few people know about me. I am a synesthete. Sometimes my involuntary prodigious memory freaks people out only because I manage to spatially or temporally associate things via my other senses. I am a very visual person – I need to see things (part of my voracious appetite in travelling is that I must see the places I visit so that I can build a mental map of the world in my mind’s eye). I have a limited degree of a photographic memory, can “see” music and “see” taste (really) but my forte comes with history where I can literally spatially orientate time in a visual sense. For example, a “year” is a three dimensional map in my mind’s eye.

When I hear Mozart, Beethoven, Guns N’Roses or KT Tunstall,…I don’t just “hear” the music, I can “see” the music. For example, Mozart’s first movement of Eine Kleine Nachtmusik is “alive” with broiling reds. And the colour and form changes as the music changes. The recall is further aided by me having some form of audio memory too. When I want to recall a piece of music I “see” it first and then the “audio” memory instantly comes back. This is perhaps one reason why I am more a “movie” person than a “book” person. But even with my own imagined worlds, my creativity in my mind’s eye far exceeds any film I have seen.

Alternatively I can sometimes taste sight. When I say someone looks sweet, there are moments where it’s not just a literary expression. If you are a non-synesthete you won’t get what the hell I am talking about.

It’s like having a natural perfect pitch.

I have known about this “condition” for a long time but I don’t talk about it much….I feel almost like one of those X-men entities. It’s prevalence can be anywhere from 1 in 23 to 1 in 20,000. Apparently it runs strongly in families and I was surprised through my genealogy research that my 5th cousins (who incidentally are artists and musicians) in Australia also have this ability to see music. And we are separated by over 250 years of history.

With the subject of history, for me it is far from a “boring” subject of mere names and dates. If that were the case, then HELL YES, it would be as dull as ditchwater. But no. History, for which the analyses of events is not only in itself incredibly fascinating, to me is not just based in linear time since Time to me is not just linear. Since from my earliest childhood, I had been fascinated with the concept of Time. Hell, my favouritist bestest story back then from the age of five and still now is H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine. In my teens I grasped Einstein’s concept of time slowing relatively for the traveller when speeds approaching that of light is encountered…or the possibility of time going backwards at speeds beyond that of light (which I understand is impossible with objects containing mass….that is why “it” will…disappear…from this world where such things can not exist…and “re-appear” once the “speed” reaches sub-light levels). Paradoxes in Time Travel will happen if Time is viewed simply as linear. As to why we do in fact seem to travel in time in a linear forward fashion I am not entirely sure – perhaps it is the path of least resistance from a mechanistic point of view in an existence with mass and space. I don’t profess to know the nitty gritty physics – however I can juggle concepts easily.

I have also inherently understood that “death” is but a moment…everyone is alive (some “where” or “when” for lack of a better phrase but this is totally separate from a belief in the afterlife). And the study of history to me is most indeed relevant to the “now” as well as the “future” in terms of lessons that could be learned and applied. Plus I believe everything is “pre-determined” (the concept is understood if Time is not viewed as just simply linear from a human perspective) BUT at the same time I am not “fatalistic” for within the human perspective, one has the power to “change” relative to oneself, even though that “change” was already…uhm, “pre-determined” from a more macroscopic God like perspective. Time is relative (and that is an absolute statement…ba dum dum ching).

As a synesthete I view Time in a grand panoramic scale altered spatially in a visual sense. Actual Time is infinite possibilities (“backwards”, “sideways”, “forwards”). Which path we “choose” is up to “us” even though it is “pre-determined” (I am just going to side-step the whole discussion about “Free Will” here but essentially neither is totally wrong). I don’t adhere to the doomed variety of “there-is-no-point-to-it” fatalism and obviously I can’t view the “future” (uhm…actually that is not entirely true too but long story). This weird combination means I inherently have a dislike for fatalistic people or overly optimistic people. Although they are at opposite ends of the same spectrum, both groups are really in massive denial. There are understandable reasons for such individuals to adopt such coping mechanisms, even if such coping mechanisms are inhibiting or even harming them. It is their very denial that allows them to function in their own self-constructed world that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Anyone who has dealt with manic-depressed people will have an inkling of their own logic they function in. They are not entirely “wrong” in their reality construct but I eventually leave them alone if they don’t want to venture outside their own bubble for they have a very limited capacity for growth. Fear and ignorance essentially shackles them to familiarly for change frightens them. Simply put, they are happy being depressed.

The flip side with this though is that whether something happened “20 years ago” or “20 seconds” ago can be totally irrelevant to me – they are both fresh to me since Time is not just linear. Hence I never, ever forget the “colour” of the memory. Hence because of this, I prefer to focus on the positives and not the negatives since I am acutely aware of both.

Makes one think what “Reality” or “Truth” really is.


Moriji said...

The first time I heard about synesthesia was on tribe. There was a guy on there from Sweden who had it.

El Draque said...

I don't think I have come across anyone with synethesia. I have no idea how common or rare it is. Most people just don't have any idea what I am talking about. What do you say to someone who says they can "see" music? Or that music has a visual "form" and "personality" for lack of a better phrase? Yet it's always been normal for me.

helen said...

i'm not alone? there are people like us?

i thought it was a common experience that i put too much thought into because i am generally too bored that i am overly emotional at things of little significance, and just happened to be ocd about chronology. not until yesterday did i realize that there was a name for this (before i had just assumed that synethesia just had do with colors). is there any way i can contact you to ask you more? you have it a lot deeper than i do, and i would like to know more.


Emily said...

How rare is this? I'm pretty certain I've had synesthesia since early childhood. I remember seeing foods and vegetables to different sounds and voices. I can't say I have experienced anything with history or calendars, but I definitely feel something probably not completely "normal" when I listen to classical music. I feel things especially when I dance or do art while listening to classical music. I remember telling a friend how I see and taste carrots when another friend talks, and she obviously thought it was strange. Then one day I heard about synesthesia, and things started making sense. It's nice to finally read stuff from another person with synesthesia. Thanks. :)

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