- Christian Wiman articulates something I think I believe but could never put into words.
(For those of you who haven’t brushed up your Latin lately, “sine qua non” basically means an essential condition or ingredient…)
Over the past few years, I’ve come to find that the way I perceive the world around me is a little different than the way most people perceive things. Growing up I was never aware of the fact that I had (have) what’s called synesthesia. Essentially, my senses uniquely react with each other, creating effects such as seeing sound, or tasting color. It may sound crazy, but up until recently I thought it was completely normal. I would have never questioned my perception of the world had I not tried to convince my husband that M&M’s tasted different from one another based on their color (which was dismissed upon failing a blindfolded taste test). After I tried to explain to him that letters and numbers had genders and personalities, he told me about synesthesia.For awhile, I didn’t think about it much. I joked with my husband about the different tastes I experience when I see, hear, or touch certain things (both the pleasant experiences and the disgusting ones), but I didn’t truly understand what synesthesia was. Recently, however, I’ve become more interested in learning about it, and began looking into the details. As I continued through my research, I became a little frightened and uneasy. I realized that throughout my life, I had been experiencing things that were abnormal.
The most frightening moment was learning that normal people don’t see colors in their peripheral vision upon hearing specific sounds. This lead me to wonder if something is wrong with me. What if this leads to insanity? What if I’m mentally ill? Why am I so crazy? But this morning during our Shabbat worship service, I realized two things which are not only helping me get over these fears, but teaching me to experience worship in a new way.The first revelation, and possibly the most obvious, is that synesthesia, much like intelligence or artistic ability, could be a gift. As I stood in service this morning trying to ignore the colors and tastes I was experiencing, I considered the possibility that this is God’s work. It’s not always comfortable to admit that God has given you such an unusual and weird gift. But once I was able to relax, and let go of the distraction of worry and fear, I began to witness God’s glory in the way I perceived the worship.
I’ve been experiencing ”colorful sound” all my life, and I’ve never really payed it much notice. But now that I’m aware of how unique it is, I’m forced to acknowledge it, study it, and observe it. As the familiar music of worship filled the sanctuary today, I was suddenly in awe. I had never noticed how the instruments worked together, creating not only a wonderful sound, but beautiful colors which flow together. The sound of the recorder creating a light green, the drum a midnight blue (sometimes burgundy depending on the type of drum), the guitar a shade of orange, and the chimes a soft baby blue.
As I marveled at this thing before me, something that has always been so simple, so regular, so ordinary to me, I began to wonder what else we are missing. Not just experiences of synesthesia, but the everyday experiences we don’t take notice of. My husband, who as a child had eye issues, has moments where the observance of normal 3D vision stops him in his tracks. I had always found it odd, and I admit a little silly, but there’s really nothing odd or silly about it. He’s aware of an awesomeness that’s missed by people who have grown so accustom to it, they’ve lost their appreciation.
The fact that color exists at all. The fact that sound exists. The fact that we are mobile creatures. We’re comfortable with and oblivious to the existence of normal everyday things, which render us unaware of the amazing gift God has given us. Whether it’s the beauty in God’s creation through His way of coloring and shaping things, or our ability to create music in his praise, or the opportunity for us to dance before him in worship, they sometimes grow ordinary and usual, often going unnoticed, when in reality, it’s all part of the indescribably amazing works of God.
So as I stood watching the colors, the same colors I’ve been seeing all through my life, I began to wonder what else I’m missing, and what we all are missing. What other gifts from God do we shy away from, whether it’s from confusion, fear, or simple lack of awareness? What other miraculous things do we miss, because it’s an everyday detail we give no thought to? And more mind boggling, what are the things we can’t see at the moment, but are awaiting us in the future?
"As it is written: ‘No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him’—" (1 Corinthians 2:9 NIV)
Lovely thoughts, thank you for posting them.