I’m currently reading a fascinating book titled Musicophilia by Dr. Oliver Sacks (author of the book Awakenings, which spawned a very popular movie). I won’t bog you down with details in a blog, but the book discusses two things that are very near to my heart- music, and the brain’s processes.
There is a chapter in the book dedicated to synesthesia, the phenomenon of one sense (in this case the sound of music or musical notes) also stimulating another sense, such as vision or taste. Basically, there are folks out there who, because of the way their brain is wired, can “taste” music, or see colors when they listen to music.
More common forms of synesthesia can be found. Some folks, for example, see colors when they think of numbers. These folks may always think of the number three as being green, for example. They may favor certain numbers over others because of color preferences. I was mentioning this to my wife the other night while reading and she said, “Wait- you mean you DON’T think of numbers as colors???? Really???”
Turns out that I am married to someone who experiences synesthesia and who had NO idea that other folks may NOT view the world of numbers and dates in the same way.
So, the other day, over lunch, I casually asked my daughter what color five was. I expected she’d look at me weird or laugh. Instead she said, very matter of factly, “Five is brown”.
So I asked what color one is.
And so on.
And she’s stuck with it! At least through the 10 numbers she knows well she appears to have a color for each one. Will this last? I have no idea. I’m not concerned about this at all- in fact, if my daughter shares the propensity for numbers that my wife has I am excited for her.
But, this lead to me thinking about how each of us perceives the world. If, within my own family and the walls of our home we can’t even think of numbers the same way, no wonder folks seem to rarely see eye to eye on more complex matters and concepts. There really may be a biological truth to the idea that we should walk a mile in another person’s shoes before judging her too harshly.
So, I ask - what color is five to you?