Recovering lost synesthesia

In his "Jacques et son maître", Milan Kundera explains the difference between a "rewriting" and a "variation". And the excellent François Ricard goes on to add in the postscript how some artwork is an outwards epopee while "variations" are an inward meddling. Kundera, in effect, single-handedly introduced in literature what Mozart presented to the musical world when he created his "variation" of Beethoven's work. A variation is a reflection on the artwork itself through another artwork. You need to think of a tasteful hairdresser re-designing a beauty's hair and looking at it in the mirror as if he re-created the creature itself. It is his now. That is a variation.


Then, in parallel, Brain pickings adds its review of Alexandra Horowitz's "On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes". And this terrific passage where Horowitz re-explores the city with artist Maria Kalman:

The artist seems to retain something of the child’s visual strategy: how to look at the world before knowing (or without thinking about) the name or function of everything that catches the eye. An infant treats objects with an unprejudiced equivalence: the plastic truck is of no more intrinsic worth to the child than an empty box is, until the former is called a toy and the latter is called garbage

A friend mentioned during a discussion yesterday how kids don't box things. And it's true. Stuff don't have words yet and the brain hasn't organised everything into lattices for easier latter access:

The perceptions of infants are remarkable. That infants reliably develop into adults, who for all their wisdom or kindness are often unremarkable, blinds us to this fact. The infant’s world is a case study in confused attention. … The world is not yet organised into discrete objects for these new eyes: it is all light and dark, shadow and brightness.

Children see things as blocks of brightness and shadow with no frontiers. And in many ways, that is reminiscent of a neurological condition, Synesthesia:

Infants, in fact, seem to experience synesthesia as a baseline sensory given. (Perhaps MoMA's Juliet Kinchin touched on a bigger cognitive truth when she reflected that "children help us to mediate between the ideal and the real.") But, eventually, they grow out of this wondrous multidimensional awareness, which William James called "aboriginal sensible muchness," and we, the sensible and selectively attentive adults, emerge

And the question is how to revive this condition, once one reaches adulthood. For in many ways, it is a lens to look at the world without ever being bored of it again. “If you don't like something, change it; if you can't change it, change the way you think about it. ” says Mary Engelbreit. And "variations" in many ways are a lens. A remix of the world around us. A way to revisit, with one's own taste and mind another's idea or a given idea, only through different lightings.


And it's no mystery, like everything else, industry is key. One has to put the time into it. No lens is innate and one needs to develop it time after time, after time ...