My world is white. Thursday is a dark shade of green. December is behind my right shoulder, and that chapter I
read yesterday about Liesel Meminger in “The Book Thief” will forever be a mahogany brown. From a young
age I’ve had an unexplained association between words and colours, sounds and colours, days of the week
and months of the year. They were all placed on a visible timeline around me like a clock face. Objects,
shapes, and sounds around me had personalities and relationships. It was my life, and it was strange and
beautiful. However, I never imagined that the colourful way I see the world was unique; everyone thinks the
letter Z is green, right?
Upon entering my undergrad and finding one of my passions to be psychology, I learned, upon stumbling into
the depths of Youtube videos about “neurological mutations”, a shocking and disappointing fact: the unseen
world does not, in fact, come in colour for everyone. Nor do objects have personalities or secret lives behind
closed doors. The world, for most people, is actually very much an ordinary place where sound is sound,
colour is colour, and that’s that. The bright side? I learned my trippy life companion had a name:
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary describes synesthesia as “a subjective sensation or image of a sense other
than the one being stimulated.” In simpler terms, synesthesia can be explained as a connection of two or more
senses when only one is being stimulated; joined perception. An example of synesthesia would be tasting
vanilla ice cream when hearing a certain song by The Lumineers, or feeling a touch on your shoulder when you
see someone you know brushing the upper arm of someone else. People who experience this mysterious
phenomenon are called synesthetes, and they comprise about 4% of the population. Similarly to other mind
phenomena, synesthesia has a spectrum: it can vary in anything from double-sense perception in any
combination, to the connection of all the senses (in rare cases). The most common form of synesthesia is
called grapheme-colour synesthesia, and is manifested in perceiving letters, numbers, and words in inherent
colours. The word “synesthesia” is light blue and canary yellow in my world, and the number four has been red
to me since I can remember.
I will never be able to explain why my brain gave each letter and number a colour, but finding an answer to the
nagging question would, no doubt, give me a new perspective on the cacophony inside my head. That being
said, I am but a star in the galaxy of people that want to find the reason behind joint perception. This
neurological phenomenon has, in fact, been a topic of interest in the scientific and academic world for
centuries. Isaac Newton proposed that colours and sounds have similar frequencies. Gustav Fetcher
conducted the first empirical survey in this field with 73 synesthetes back in 1876. Ever since the uncanny
phenomenon gained its status of “undeniable”, it has become a gold mine for psychophysicists and
neuroscientists who have been trying to find their way through the great labyrinth that is the human brain.
After numerous experiments and studies, synesthesia is finally becoming less of a mystery. This lifelong
sensory experience is reportedly hereditary, as families have been seen to possess a lineage of synesthetes.
Also, there seem to be a correlation between having synesthesia and being left-handed. The latter put the
odds in my favour; I am the only left-handed person in my family. With more facts yet to be discovered about
this phenomenon, it would only benefit me to draw the attention of intelligent and contemporarily conscious
readers that may someday crack the Case of the Blended Senses. Not that I mind, really; synesthesia was
never a handicap for me, but rather, somewhat of a superpower. Maybe someday I will at least get the answer
to why my Mondays are always so blue. Literally.