25. The Principle of Beauty

Daniel Tammet is a twenty-six year old Englishman whose unusually strong cognitive powers make him one of today’s most impressive savants. In a New York Times article published Wednesday, February 23, 2004, Tammet is described as a boy whose childhood seizures somehow changed his way of thinking. ‘I’m seeing things in my head like little sparks firing off,’ says Mr. Tammet.


When asked about his awesome ability to calculate, Mr. Tammet says, ‘I’m seeing the numbers. But I’m not seeing them. It’s strange. I’m seeing pictures, shapes and patterns. Almost like a square, like a texture of water. Drops – ripples, almost.’


The writer of the article goes on to say this about a documentary on Tammet called Brainman that aired on the Science Channel that same night:


For Mr. Tammet, beauty is a significant component of thinking. In the most affecting scene in the documentary, he dreamily describes the aesthetic merits of numerals.


The number 1 he’s drawn to for its brightness. ‘Two is kind of like a movement, right to left, kind of like a drifting,’ he says. Five is a clap of thunder or the sound of a wave hitting a rock, Six ‘is actually the number I find hardest to experience,’ he says. ‘It’s like a hole, or a chasm. Number 9 is the biggest number. It’s very tall.’ He seems frightened for an instant. ‘It can be intimidating.’




The unusual capacity of the brain to sense in things certain qualities that are outside the realm of their objective identity is called synaesthesia. Seeing numbers as sounds or colors, as does Mr. Tammet, is an example of synaesthesia.


I believe that the highly creative mind pushes the limits of thinking to break down the walls of objective identity, creating for itself a virtual, multi-sensorial reality. The singer/songwriter Gloria Estefan reports that she often experiences sounds as shapes. Essentially, she sees the music. That’s awesome!


What does this mean for you and me? I believe that the mind intent on seeking beauty often times finds it in the various patterns of life and nature. The entire collection of sounds, shapes, smells, and light can evoke in the seeker a sense of beauty, a feeling of power beyond the normal state of mind. It’s an integrated feeling – one that is simple yet expansive and includes everything essential.

(To learn more about synaesthesia Click Here)


Days 25-27 Guide


Today, use all of your senses to draw from your surroundings a feeling of beauty. Write about memories or images that are evoked when you sense the various things in your surroundings. Try to push the limits of normal cognition.


© 2005, Levi Hill

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