You probably know that there are some people who see colors when they see specific letters or numbers. Or hear certain sounds. This is a condition known as synesthesia, and I read an article about it a couple of months ago in an old issue of the Smithsonian. (I think this was the article I read, but I'm not sure, because the link is just to an abstract.)
It was a fascinating article, but it became personal when they noted, off-handedly, that some synesthetes perceived time in a concrete fashion. They had a picture for the way years looked, or weeks or days. An idiosyncratic chart of time.
That pulled me up short. I thought, Well, I have that. And I thought it was strange that they should mention it. So I asked my husband if he had a specific picture when he thought about time. And he said no. And after that, I asked around some more.
Turns out most people don't see time when they think about time. But I do. I always have. As far back as I can remember knowing about years and months and days and weeks, I can remember seeing them. From what I've read, that's part of what makes it true synesthesia: you've always seen it that way. Apparently it's really common to spend years not knowing you have synesthesia for the simple reason that it never occurs to you that other people don't see the same thing you see. Now, I never thought people saw the same chart I saw, but I assumed they saw something. It's still very weird to me that that's not true.
What do I see? Well, years hang like an ovoid loop, suspended from December 31 and January 1. Sort of a teardrop shape. Right now we're going down the loop of the year. By about September, we'll start going up. Years string together in a sort-of L-shape scroll, from as far back as history goes, extending out towards the future. Out and up. At a specific angle. Weeks look like telephone lines, suspended by Sundays and dipping lowest around Wednesdays. I can view it from the side, or I can sit on top of it and swoop up and down the curve of it. Days themselves are a loop, very similar to the loop of the year. And I can zoom in or out along this picture, down to the minute and out to the century. It all strings together.
Apparently this isn't normal.
But, I'm curious, do any of you reading see time when you think of time? I guess it's called number-form synesthesia or spacial-sequence synesthesia. I get now that not most people see things when they think of time, but I always have, and I can't imagine how you would think about it if you couldn't see it. I see numbers along a specifically-shaped line too, come to think of it. They head straight up to 100, and then veer off sharply to the left. Negative numbers are down. I do better thinking of them if I look at them from the left instead of from the right. Like tilting your paper a bit so your handwriting slants the right way; it just makes things easier.
Again, I now get that this isn't normal. Most people don't shift their position in regard to the numbers they're studying in their head so that they can see and understand them better. But I do. Always have. (Okay, now that I think of it, I have to shift to look at them from the left, because then I can read them forwards instead of backwards, because after zero, the numbers start to go from left to right instead of up and down. Well, they go down, but they are next to each other rather than on top of each other like the positive numbers are. Huh. Never realized that's why I did that.)
If you don't see a picture when you think of time, how do you conceptualize it? Do you conceptualize it? Or is it just something that exists, without needing to exist in any tangible form?
Truly, the brain is an odd organ. But if I have to have an odd twist to my brain, I think I'm glad I have this one. It's not a hindrance to me, I don't think - though it may explain some of the trouble I had when I hit the higher maths. I couldn't ever fold my number line in a way that made calculus make sense. But there you are. I'm not sorry for it. Like I said: I can't imagine seeing time and numbers any other way.
But I'm still curious how others see it, if they see it at all.
peace of Christ to you,