Another far-too-frequent synethesia post brought you by Beethoven Awareness Month on WQXR and ridiculously long commutes.
Briefly for those who are not used to my obsession, synesthesia is the involuntary translation of one sense into another. The experiences are different for every synesthete. Grapheme synesthesia is one of many types where printed characters become associated with something else, typically colours, sometimes sounds, tastes etc etc.
As I was driving along Route 10 today, I was thinking about how I’d been explaining the realization that the last 7 letters of my alphabet were metallic. The only way to describe it was that one day the “light came on” and they were suddenly shiny. Prior to that, they could only be described as having some sort of dim 3-dimensional property, but it didn’t contain a definite colour, personality, or any of the other attributes that the other letters had (i.e. Q is deep purple, related to 6 and 9, queenly, smells of spices and vanilla).
The interesting factor in the realization is light. Only once I became conscious of the role of light was I able to determine what the other letters had always been subconsciously. Once this idea is expanded outward, it implies that perhaps all of the other attributes are also dependent upon how the perceived light interacts with them.
This would might explain the shape continuity that many grapheme synesthetes seem to experience where characters of similar shape such as 8 and S (blue), or 7 and L (gold/lavender) correspond with one another. Because the light interacts with each of them, the colours are sort of carved out or pooled up in the white space between the lines. Additionally, because every synesthete has a different relationship of the characters to the light source, the variation in how each letter is perceived (so where my S is blue, another synesthete might see yellow) might be explained.
Using some related letters as examples.
Y and U: Y has a golden quality for me since the light pools into the top like a cup, but stays close to the light source which comes from above and slightly to the right. U, on the other hand, is much deeper, so the light that pools down has shadow cast across it turning it an amber/bronzy colour. Related to these are V, X, & W.
E and D: E is entirely different from Y and U since the light cannot pool inside. Only what can creep into the open right side can create a colour illusion, which in this case for me is medium green. It’s not too dissimilar from a cave in a forest. The light filters through a sort of crisp green. D (medium blue) on the other hand, is closed off entirely on the right side, which means that it cannot be as light as E. However, since the left side is straight, light is still able to create definition in its surface. Imagine the shadow cast by a rock onto snow when the sun is setting. The same blue that you see is similar.
O and I: O, unlike D, has nothing for the light to catch, but has a large surface area. Because of this, it absorbs the most light and is black. I is the opposite. With the least surface area, it reflects everything and is white.
This seems to be consistent with the rest of the letters as well. B and R and both red (so is 5) and they all share being partially open and partially closed on the right side. Those open on the bottom or turned around (G, 6, Q, 9) are light purple and dark purple respectively.
These are the thoughts for now. How the light source comes about I have no idea. I suspect that mine might be related to the massive amount of time that I’ve spent in the woods since I was a small child. It also makes me wonder if some people have strobe lights or disco balls.