Although Robert Smith was probably being metaphorical when he sang, “I don’t care if Monday’s blue”, for some people Monday is quite literally blue.
It’s explained beautifully in this absolutely fascinating film from Boing Boing Video: a remix of “Synesthesia,” a documentary directed by Jonathan Fowler, about people whose senses blend, or mix. Synaesthetes experience this in different ways: for some letters or numbers are perceived as inherently colored; for some numbers, days of the week and months of the year evoke personalities; some perceive certain sounds as coloured, while others find different words or sounds taste of different flavours.
Synaesthesia was once thought of as a disease or disorder, but many synaesthetes consider this alternate form of perception as a distinct advantage. Liszt and Rimsky-Korsakov famously disagreed on the colours of music keys, whilst Kandinsky’s synaesthesia was central to his work – he observed that his work combined the four senses of colour, hearing, touch, and smell.
For many it’s simply what’s normal – my friend Naomi has grapheme–colour synaesthesia, and she observed that it was a big shock to realise that not everyone else saw letters and numbers the way she did. Writer Patricia Lynne Duffy vividly recalls:
“‘One day,’ I said to my father, ‘I realized that to make an ‘R’ all I had to do was first write a ‘P’ and then draw a line down from its loop. And I was so surprised that I could turn a yellow letter into an orange letter just by adding a line.’”
Save for the possible influence of psychedelic drugs, it’s something that non-synaesthetes like myself will never truly understand, which is probably why I find it so very fascinating.
In this film, Dr. David Eagleman of the Baylor College of Medicine explains the condition, and four synaesthetes explain how they perceive the world. Amazing stuff.