Tuesday, August 25

A riot of perfumes

In our culture of rational thinking, we tend to trust our sensory experiences more than anything else for how we understand the world around us. For most, the response to tasting a cupcake would be "sweet," to seeing the color of the sky would be "blue." Although we receive sensory information through distinct sensory organs, they become intimately intertwined once they enter the brain. Syn­aes­the­sia is a condition in which senses mingle, causing the synaesthete to taste colors, hear smells, etc. In Huysman's Á Rebours, Des Esseintes "indulges himself by playing a 'mouth organ' on which he can perform 'silent melodies and mute funeral marches' by releasing carefully calibrated amounts of various liqueurs on to his tongue, with 'each and every liqueur ... correspond[ing] in taste with the sound of a particular instrument.'" The painter Wassily Kandinsky believed that his paintings could be aurally as well as visually experienced, and he may not have been wrong.

Some instances extend beyond basic sensory perceptions. "A stu­dy in the Aug. 22 is­sue of the re­search jour­nal Con­scious­ness and Cog­ni­tion, for ex­am­ple, found that some peo­ple link time and space. One de­s­cribed De­cem­ber as a red ar­e­a lo­cat­ed at arm’s length to the left of their bod­y."
Lexical → gustatory synesthesia occurs when a phoneme of a word elicits a taste memory for the synaesthete. They literally taste words. A strange web of interconnectedness between senses and memories, as paths to experiences cross in the mind.

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