Is syn sin?

In the Reith Lectures 2003, Vilayanur Ramachandran suggests that synaesthesia is the product of a “defective” gene, the details of which he goes into here. Now, certain as I am that he doesn’t intend to be insulting, the idea remains: that synaesthesia is the aberration, and a colourless world is the norm.

It certainly ain’t as far as I’m concerned. AdinaJ gives an account here on the PFFA thread of what it’s like to be a projector, to live with real colours all around her. While my colours don’t project themselves onto the world around me, I wouldn’t want to give them up either, especially now that they are fading, as all senses fade as you get older. (This makes me sound as though I’m old — I’m only old enough to have bought my first pair of progressive lenses, OK??) When I was a child, everything was crystal clear, and my letters and numbers were friends. I have read elsewhere about things having personalities; when I was a child, most inanimate objects, including numbers and letters had personalities. I have since outgrown that; my conscious brain rejected the personalities as a childish fantasy. But the colours and feelings and placement in space of my letters and numbers and hours and days and months and years have remained.

It would seem to me now, given the various scholarly considerations of the subject, that being an associator, while more common among synaesthetes, is actually more unusual in the scholarly literature than being a projector. Those of us who “associate” rather than project our colours, etc, are harder to study, more difficult to explain with reference to cross-wiring and so on. It doesn’t worry me; I know it is easy for scientists to dismiss our sensations as imaginary, created, etc. However, the involuntary nature of my associations is as real as Adina’s, and it doesn’t change over time. But my associations, as I get older, are sometimes like remembering a dream. I know what they are, but translating them into consciousness is difficult, and finding the words to explain them is even more difficult.

Bringing them into consciousness, however, is important, though, and I’m going to try.


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