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Lesson Plans


Re: Fwd: All the Letters of the Rainbow (Right Brain?)

[ Thread ][ Subject ][ Author ][ Date ]
anne roberts (aroberts)
Sun, 24 Jan 1999 18:28:51 -0500


My question is: do all people who have this special perception see Thursday as
the same color, or cats as being a blue word? That is an interesting thought.

Larry Cox wrote:

> from an article in the Herald dated 11-6-97: (Right Brain Again?)
>
> Pat Duffy
>
> All the Letters of the Rainbow
>
> I was 16 when I found out. My father and I were reminiscing about when I
> was a little girl, learning to write the letters of the alphabet. We
> remembered that I'd learned to write all of the letters quickly except for
> the letter R.
>
> "Until one day, " I said to my father, "I realized that to make an 'R' all
> I had to do was first make a 'P' and then draw a line down from the 'P'
> loop. And I was so surprised that I could turn a yellow letter into an
> orange letter just by adding a line."
>
> "Yellow letter? Orange letter?" my father said. "What do you mean?"
>
> "Well, you know," I said. "P is a yellow letter, but R is an orange letter.
> You know - the colors of the letters."
>
> "The colors of the letters?" my father said.
>
> For as long as I could remember, each letter of the alphabet had had a
> color. Each word had a color too, and so did each number. The colors of
> letters, words and numbers were intrinsic to them as their shapes, and like
> the shapes, the colors never changed.
>
> I had taken it for granted that everyone shared these perceptions. My
> father's perplexed reaction was totally unexpected. I felt as if I'd said
> something as ordinary as "apples are red" and had elicited a bewildered
> response. I didn't know that seeing such things as pale yellow P's,
> turquoise Thursdays, and wine-colored V's was unique to the one in 2,000
> people like myself who had "synesthesia," an unusual patterning of neurons
> in our brains that makes us experience such peculiarly blended perceptions
> as words or other sounds having colors.
>
> That conversation propelled my father to search for information to explain
> my peculiar perceptions. His search led to "synesthesia," the magic word
> that put my perceptions on the map of recognized human experience. we found
> other "synesthetes." such as the poet Rimbaud, who wrote "Voyelles, " a
> sonnet about the colored vowels he saw; the novelist Nobokov, who described
> his colored alphabet in his autobiography, "Speak, Memory"; the painter
> David Hockney, who described how hearing "colored music" helped him design
> stage sets for the Metropolitan Opera.
>
> Minds far less awesome have experienced the world that way, but people tend
> to keep silent about it because they feel inhibited by the 99.95 percent of
> people who have never experienced nor heard of synesthesia.
>
> At the first meeting of the American Synesthesia Association in Manhattan
> last spring, synesthetes and researchers from Yale University and the
> National Institutes of Health gathered. We described what we saw, and
> researchers offered their theories of why we saw it. The researchers seemed
> as intrigued by our perceptions as we were to have them clothed in the
> dignified garb of science. We knew that by opening to one another's worlds,
> a new and wider one was being formed.
>
> Nature, so endlessly creative, has arranged things so that each of us sees a
> slightly different world. Each time anybody looks at the world, a new world
> is created, a world colored by our one-of-a-kind pattern or neurons, culled
> from our one-of-a-kind collection of genes and experiences.
>
> My father could appreciate the way I colored my world. Long before
> universities dignified the study of synesthesia with conferences and Web
> sites, my father, all by himself, validated what I saw. Because he was
> convinced of the logic of my unusual perceptions, he was able to engage in
> that suspension of disbelief needed for one vision to open to another.
>
> Some months ago I was going through some drawers in the room where my father
> and I had our conversation about my colored alphabet so many years before.
> I came across a drawing I had done at the age of 7 titled "50 Blue Cats for
> Dad." On the back of it, in an added note dated May 1968, my father had
> written: "Update on Patty's artwork: She just told me today that 'cat' is a
> blue word. Now I understand why these cats are blue."