Thursday, August 6, 2009

In Living Color

That used to be a TV comedy sketch show in early 1990s. It helped propelled several actors to fame.

But my post isn't about that. No, it is about the way I think.

Once upon a time I was looking at the Wikipedia article on the movie Stranger Than Fiction. At the bottom, it has some interesting trivia on a few things, including the probable reason for why the character Harold is always visualizing routes, lengths, and amounts of things (remember that in the movie?). The article attributed his visualizations to the mental condition of synesthesia.

Bam! That really got my attention. After clicking on the hyperlink, and reading on about it, I realized with great excitement that I exhibit that mental phenomenon!

It was pretty cool for me to find out that the way I thought and saw things in my mind was totally different than most people's. Whenever I hear anything, for instance, it produces a color in my head as well as an abstract shape or form which takes on that color. The sound of my typing, right now, is producing white and silver ring-like forms in my head. That is nowhere near a good explanation though, because those shapes are always slightly different all the time and always changing.

Ultimately it has answered many questions for me and explained a lot. It helps to explain my highly descriptive and long-lasting memory, because I remember events and sounds and details in these colors.

I would constantly listen to a particular part of the Madness song "In the City" because that part promoted a lot of good visualizations in my head. But what was even bigger was the face that also appeared. It was the face of a girl I knew, and there was a really detailed reason for that.

Eventually, excited and nervous at the same time, I would attempt to tell her this. The problem was that it wasn't easy explaining a whole concept to someone I sort of liked and introducing this whole terminology and thought process. Basically I started off by saying that I had this 'mental condition,' complete with stuttering and shuffling and looking the other way. You know, I hope she comes across this and reads this, because this is a much much better explanation!

Really, the whole thing behind her face appearing alongside the colors and forms and other images and textures was this: I attributed a personality to the whacky keyboard that was fun and happy and bubbly, and this seemed to match the personality of this girl, and the two come together perfectly, forming an image of her smiling face in my mind. It also formed a storyline as well, because then the keyboard shapes/colors went great with the green textured line that was the guitar keying in. I personalized that as my old friend Tyler, and they again went perfectly well together, so it was like he and that girl were together and I, personalized as the bass guitar, was a good friend. Always out and about, moving along I was (as the bass). That's why it made me think of me.

It gets really complicated dwelling into it, but that's the best explanation I can say. Any bubbly keyboard reminds me of her. And it's that as well as that guitar keying in that I constantly play that part of the song, particularly the first time it happens in the beginning. I'll slow it down to listen to it easier and longer, and make the pitch go lower or higher to darken or brighten the colors, simultaneously making the girl and Tyler older or younger, in my mind. Again, it gets extremely complicated.

Here's some easy facts about what I see:

-I see genders and personalities in numbers and letters and words (i.e. 'I' is a guy, 'B' is a girl, 'L' is both in some ways).

-The higher the pitch, the brighter the color

-I see images and textures as well as colors and shapes

-If I like a song it is very likely because of what I see in terms of the colors and images the music produces for me, specifically the bass, and rarely has anything to do with the lyrics (yet even spoken words evoke shapes, textures and colors in my head). Altogether the whole nature of the sound also helps.

-I attribute personalities to sounds as well, particularly music. Normally this includes a person for whom the personality matches, so I think of them primarily when that sound occurs (like my old friend Tyler of the guitar and that girl (I never name them do I?) of the keyboard.

-With this I've been able to hear something on TV I saw once and immediately determine what program is on and what part of it is on. One time, while in the computer room before the walls were taken down, I heard some laughing on the TV in the next room. Immediately I recognized that as the man laughing on the train in an old Mr. Bean episode. The textures and color that appeared in my head gave it away because that's what I remembered. Coming 'round and looking at the screen I was right. Just the other night I heard something on the TV upstairs and immediately knew it was one of the musical numbers of the movie Hairspray. I'd never seen the film - I'd just heard the same song once in a trailer for it and the pink and purple forms came to mind.
One cool example was a few years ago. I was, again, on the computer, and I heard these drums start up on TV. A movie was playing. Right away I recognized those simple drums as the beginning of the Madness song "Wings of a Dove." And at the time I'd only heard that song once and hadn't really taken to it by then. It turned out to be one of the songs on the movie 10 Things I Hate About You.

You might think that I recognized the beat of the drums or the song in the Hairspray film to remember it. But no. The exact sound of the snare drum and the colors the individual voices in harmony took in my head are what made me realize what they were. I didn't remember the beat of the song, as again I'd heard it only once. I just heard what they sounded like and there it was, because of the shapes and colors they formed.
It's kind of crazy. I hear a kid choking and recognize it as the scene in Mr. Deeds in which he (Deeds) takes his girlfriend to the house in which he thinks she grew up, and finds a bunch of kids living there instead. One of which happens to choke while meeting them.

So you can see that this way of seeing things, of thinking, of thought process, can be a highly helpful and pleasant way of how one percieves the world. I laugh in giddiness when that keyboard becomes prominent and that girl appears, and I laugh because that's what I love about her, that ebullient personality that just makes me feel elated and happy and humerous, makes me laugh and love and feel good. If something like that, a keyboard and other sounds, can have such effectiveness for me - hurray for synesthesia!! It's great! It's how I comprehend things for heaven's sake! It's what helps me remind me of people I liked and love and want to love and have great affection for. It's what drives my view of the world.
It is what makes me me.

-Justin C.

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