Category Archives: General

Aphantasia: Do You See What I See?

People who have aphantasia do not think, or remember, using visualizations. For some of you, this sounds absurd (for more information on aphantasia, various writers have published a plethora of good primers for you). Let me remind you that other people have differences, uniquenesses, that you cannot see. My father discovered that he had red-green colorblindness when he was 45 years old. Workers had laid an outline in the lawn, orange paint on green grass, and he didn’t see it. He fumed over their mistake – “Who just forgets to paint a line?” We’ve come to terms with it since then; colorblindness and its genetics are well known to our extended family now.

A recent article on The Establishment mentions this marvelous pulling away of the curtain. To some with aphantasia, learning that a friend can think and experience a remembered image feels like learning that they have telekinetic powers. So maybe more openness about people’s unique mental experiences can find a place in the world.

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View from Bob’s Bayou

Come on, and join me in the muck. Here I’ll be sharing my introspective, reflective writing. Why the muck? For me, it’s about perspective. The realm of human thought (writing/language/experience) is vast, so vast that each of us will walk through practically none of it before we are finished. Imagine it as a wilderness; fully embrace the analogies of exploration, settlement, colonization that follow. A writer takes her own journey through this land, and attempts to convey in some way how you can see what she sees, walk where she walks, whether for a whole journey or just to an interesting sight. Some writers will take you up a mountain path, each step carefully laid out, and pause every so often to present a breathtaking vista.

(I hesitate at such ledges. I know that every so often I have tripped and fallen on my face, and would not like to do so while perched over a sheer drop. When others feel out their poses on the earth’s jutting lip, I worry for them as I scoot back towards a rock or wall, which is briefly my stake; I tether myself to it.)

A dishonest mountain guide will remark to you during such a respite that you now see all there is: the earth is rolled out before you like a map, and like a map reader, you can point to each feature and discern its importance, its scale, its soul, without budging from your perch. The mountain view is all you need to understand the earth as a whole, they say, and those who cannot ascend to such lofty heights know nothing, not even the shape of their own plots. You see at once the well-settled cities, the narrow paths, and are comfortable, exhilarated, in your position.

An honest guide will tell you that while you see far, and the air is clear, and the sight is beautiful, each place has its secrets, even, especially, from you. Those valleys and ravines turn away from you at times and hide their depths, and you will never see the bugs and leaves of a nearby hillock without going there yourself. Even your own mountain hides worms beneath your feet. Perhaps caverns twist throughout the foundation, carving hidden ways through what some would think a monolith. The honest guide, when you ask about a distant place, will recommend a different path to know more about it.

But like I said, I’m not on that mountain path. I’m going along the bayou, walking, wading, at times, and at other times floating or paddling. I can’t see forever and don’t claim to. But the windings of the water might take me anywhere I would have seen from higher up. I skirt the edges of civilization, and drift with its refuse.

So float along with me for a while, or walk beside me on the bank. We’ll search out some delicious crawdads, and hopefully see (but not touch!) an alligator or two. The view down here is narrow; each bend in the bayou will tease then surprise, and the things we draw up from the muck will take some elbow grease to be presentable. If you get tired of the pace, please take a side trip up a mountain path, and once you’ve seen more of the infinite floodplain come back down and let me catch up. You know where to find me: in a land of far-seers I’ll be stuck in some weeds; in a land of dam-builders I’ll be with the dammed. To those who dredge and survey, pollute and condemn, I’ll nod to their aims and still go along, one with the driftwood.