I have synesthesia, and more specifically color-grapheme synesthesia. I recommend you read about it if you are unfamiliar. Here’s a video on it i watched recently that does well to address the scope of what it can entail and the need for more reliable studies on it.

In any case, color-grapheme synesthesia is where letters and numbers are perceived as being inherently colored. The perception is purely mental, in that it doesn’t extend into the visual perception of the external environment. I see that all of these words are black, but i can look at them at the more subtle level of my mind’s perception and see vibrant colors. Recently i got the idea of attempting to illustrate this phenomenon in a way that others can understand, whether you have synesthesia or not.

So here is the alphabet, poorly rendered in MSPaint:

Synesthesia Alphabet

 

Note that the letter “l” is usually light gray, but in certain situations can be black. Also, the letters “z” and “i” are light gray and white respectively. The presence of the black border was simply to delineate them more easily. And note that there is no significant difference whether upper or lower case or cursive vs. print.

Here are numerals:

Synesthesia Numerals

I figured i would do a little more to show you what this is like for me. Here is the color-alphabet for me in abstract color form, which is for me, nearly equally as obvious as the actual letters themselves:

Synesthesia Alphabet Colors only

Weird, i know. You just see a seemingly random series of colors, when i see the alphabet. It’s crazy stuff. And there exists a dire need for continued research in the phenomenon for its implications in the nature of cognition itself and the philosophical implications for epistemology. I hope to see more research done in the future, but this article on the APA website does well to detail what we know about synesthesia and what its implications can be.

I thought i would continue to explore the representation of my synesthesia for those who are interested and for other synesthetes to attempt to do the same. So here’s my name. First showing my name with the letters, and then showing just the abstract of the colors:

 

Synesthesia Name

Here’s some simple long division:

Synesthesia Long-Division

And to take it to the farthest level i can conceive of right now, i used OpenOffice (screw MSOffice!) to make this simple coloring-book-like image of some trees and bushes by the sea with the sun shining. Instead of filling it with colors, though, i used letters. For me this isn’t a problem to be “figured out” or compared with the original key, as you’ll have to do. For me, and me alone, this image has color, but it’s at a more subtle level than ordinary visual perception. And i think that’s pretty fucking cool.

Painting with letters

I also of course love to study languages. I’ve been studying Arabic for quite some time and i was wondering if this might happen for the foreign alphabet as well. I will do a new post in the future as my Arabic becomes more fluent and these letters become more deeply ingrained in my subconscious, but for now i am noticing that letters representing the same sounds as in English like the Arabic letter fa (ف) are differing slightly in the shade or the vividness. Vowels (alif (ا), ya (ي), and waw (و)) are the most vivid and differ from their Latin equivalents somewhat. Alif is red like “A” but is darker when making the long “ah” sound as in “father”, and lighter/more fiery when making the sound of the a in “apple.” Ya is a golden yellow-orange (obviously related to E and Y), and waw is seeming indigo-violet (similar to the letter O, but darker and more purple). But Arabic also has letters that don’t exist in English or the Latin alphabet in general. ‘Ayin (ع) is a very deep, blood-orange, while ghayn (غ) is like a dark gray-brown.

Synesthesia Arabic

I will write more on some of the other letters as their colors become more obvious to me. It’s especially interesting to me that there are connections between the new letters and the concept they represent, like as if fa is just an “f” in a weird form, meaning that it still maintains the overall orangeness. What this says about my cognitive processes i’m not sure yet, but i’m excited at the mere prospect of uncovering the meaning.

Jacob Ibrahim Abuhamada

5/15/14