Saturday, February 07, 2004

I have a mild form of synesthesia, a neurological processing "error" (?) that allows me to "see" sounds as patterns, colors and textures. I remember attempting to "draw music" when I was little and wondering why the results were so unsatisfactory. This psychedelic sensual mingling takes many forms, each highly individualized. Some synesthetics can feel tastes; others can hear colors.

Interestingly -- and perhaps a bit sadly -- my own synesthetic ability has waned as I've grown older. I don't know if this is due to an actual change in my brain's system architecture or if my increasing reliance on words to describe experience has simply drowned out the synesthetic signal. William Burroughs lamented that words are virulent place-holders for authentic experience, an artificial shadow of the sensory world. If so, it could be that my subjectivity have been impregnated with the Word Virus.

Few would argue that we live in a world rendered amenable to words for the sake of quick fulfillment. Information needs to travel quickly; written and spoken language, as opposed to the "mystical" non-grammar of synesthesia, is likely analogous to dial-up Net access vs. broadband. A whole subspectrum of meaning is lost in the act of communication, but we tend to rely on it because it's relatively ubiquitous. (Very few contemporary buildings are without telephone jacks. Except for businesses and cybercafes, high-bandwidth access is still fairly novel.)

Due to neurological budget constraints, words are our interpersonal lowest common denominator.