On Synesthesia

“Monday Musings” for Monday August 29, 2016
Volume VI, No. 35/295


Carnelian gem imprint representing Socrates,
Rome, 1st century BC-1st century AD.


by Assad Meymandi, MD, PhD, ScD (Hon), DLFAPA*

 We have spoken of synesthesia, a wonderful phenomenon where being exposed to one set of stimuli, like reading or listening to a lecture, ushers in other stimuli or sets of stimuli and sensations such as music or envisioning paintings. Several readers have written and wondered if this is a genetic, inherited and inborn attribute, naturally occurring, or could it be acquired. The answer is probably yes to both. Raising children in a rich environment of words, music, poetry, dance, discourse, reading and even arguing and intellectual disagreement will inculcate a sense of awareness and appreciation in children of the expanse and abundance of life, its possibilities, and what it can offer. To that extent, you can teach a child to use their God given multiple senses as fully as possible. However, to some synesthesia comes naturally,

I was reading or shall I say re-reading (for the umpteenth time) Plato’s Symposium, this is a recording of the dialogue between his teacher Socrates, and in this instance, a young man named Phaedrus, who was a student or interlocutor of the master, Socrates. Reading this conversation brought fresh insight and better understanding of the nature of love. As a result, it brought an exciting and different experience. As I read and re-read the speech, the conversation and the poem, learning about “soul love-agape” and not “body love-eros,” I saw the perfect symmetry, verbal counterpoint of a fugue subject, balancing sophist vs. philosopher, humanist vs. the divine; temporalist vs. eternal, rhetoric vs. dialectic, opinion vs. knowledge, appearance vs. reality, body vs. soul; esse–being, vs. videri–seeming; profligacy vs. progress, parsimony vs. economy; solipsism vs. introspection; secularism vs. eschatology, licentiousness vs. liberty, idolatry vs. idealism; convenience vs. commitment, etc…., and suddenly I saw Socrates as a conductor coming to the podium and all these speech components playing together, producing rich and sumptuous music like Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 3… Oh, what a feast of verbal and musical complexity of counterpoint and beauty. What a perfect fugue subject!

I believe every child ought to be exposed to the work of Plato. Perhaps you might wish to include the collected work of Plato, all of his work, 1810 pages as a part of your child’s birthday or Christmas gift. Also, with the present ought to go the gift of commitment that you will read the book to your child and encourage verbal dialogue and intellectual engagement with your child.

Empty Your Cup

A university professor went to visit a famous Zen master. While the master quietly served tea, the professor talked about Zen. The master poured the visitor’s cup to the brim, and then kept on pouring.

The professor watched the overflowing cup until he could no longer restrain himself. “it is overfull. No more will go in,” the professor blurted. “You are like the cup,” the master replied. “How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup.”

Contributed by Prabhakar N. Vaida, MD

Raleigh Nephrologist.


Love of the Lord

If all oceans, rivers and falls turn in to ink…

And the trees and forests of the world into paper…

And, if I could commission the talents of all poets, artists, philosophers, sages and writers…

It would still be impossible to begin to tell of my love for you, oh, Lord God.
Beloved Persian Poet, Baba Taher Oryan Hamadani (1000-1055), a Muslim,

possibly influenced by the writings of Saint Augustine of Hippo.


*The writer is Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry, University of North Carolina School of Medicine at Chapel Hill, Distinguished Life fellow American Psychiatric Association; Life Member, American Medical Association; Life Member, Southern Medical Association; and Founding Editor and Editor-in-Chief, Wake County Physician Magazine (1995-2012). He is a Raleigh, North Carolina writer and dramaturge.



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