Author: Maureen Seaberg
Publisher: New Page Books
ISBN -13: 978-1-60163-159-6

Click Here To Purchase Tasting the Universe: People Who See Colors in Words and Rainbows in Symphonies

Tasting the Universe is a fascinating introduction to a phenomenon not many people are aware of – synesthesia, a condition loosely defined as a ‘mingling of the senses,’ allowing some people (called synesthetes)  to see colors when hearing music or reading, or literally taste shapes and passages of text. Author Seaberg is a veteran journalist and spokesperson on synesthesia,  having been diagnosed with both higher and lower synesthesia  (her author profile humorously mentions that her K’s are teal and her 8’s aubergine). In this book, she reflects on her own experiences with her remarkable gift as she sets out to interview prominent synesthetes in the arts and sciences, all of whom  cite their extraordinary powers  as the reason for their success. 

For gifted violinist Itzhak Perlman, “..music has not just sound, but color, shape and texture”, making him an extraordinary performer and a sought after teacher. Popular singer Billy Joel frequently dreams his songs in fantastic technicolor sequences ; for prominent 
physicist  Sir Robert Cailliau, his synesthesia helps him remember complex passwords and formulae, and acts as a negative spelling checker as well. Photographer Marcia Smilack credits her synesthesia for her stunning images of reflections in water. Marilyn Monroe’s synesthesia might have made her both an amazing performer and an eccentric cook. A grape sized tumor in author Douglas Coupland’s brain (that he accidentally dislodged with a sneeze) has left him with strange sensory powers that have strongly influenced his craft.  The link between synesthesia and autism is also explored, through the life and work of artist Daniel Tammet. Even the technological phenomenon we now know as the Internet owes some part of its moniker to the preferences of a synesthete developer!  

While only being acknowledged in recent years,  synesthesia  is no new phenomenon; its influence can be traced back to  the  works of symbolist poets  Rimbaud and Baudelaire. Some scientists , like Daphne and Charles Maurer even suggest that all humans may be born synesthetic, that “..the newborn does not keep sensations separate from one another .. (but).. mixes sights, sounds, feelings and smells into a sensual bouillabaisse.” What is indeed heartening is that increased awareness (and the Internet) has allowed synesthetes around the world not only to learn about their condition, seek diagnosis and support, but also open up about their experiences and explore their creative side. 

These stories alone make fascinating reading. But Seaberg ‘s intent with ‘Tasting ..’  is a little more ambitious than mere celebrity profiles -  she goes on to tread that mysterious – and largely uncharted – ground – between the rational (read scientifically proven) and  the mystical. Quoting from her interviews, as well as from sources as diverse as treatises on different religions, scientific studies and  fiction, Seaberg  suggests that their extraordinary sensory awareness  puts synesthetes on a higher plane of consciousness. Already possessed of a higher sensitivity than most other people,  the intense experiences synesthetes have are deeply spiritual, inspiring many among them to believe that they have made “..a divine connection.” Synesthesia, Seaberg concludes, is still a great mystery, but just might be the “perfect looking-glass into the quantum realm.”

‘Tasting..’ is a well-written introduction to what its author dubs a ‘gift of grace’  , and has certainly triggered this reader’s  curiosity to explore its mysteries further.

Click Here To Purchase Tasting the Universe: People Who See Colors in Words and Rainbows in Symphonies