Quantum Hand Through My Eyes by Jason Padgett, 2006. Image courtesy of Fine Art America.
“I see shapes and angles everywhere in real life — from the geometry of a rainbow, to the fractals in water spiraling down a drain.”
Photon Double Slit Test by Jason Padgett, 2006. Image courtesy of Fine Art America.
He also started drawing everything he saw. Doctors later concluded that Padgett developed savant syndrome from the injury. Savant syndrome is a rare but extraordinary condition in which persons that were either born with serious mental disabilities (including autism), or those who suffered a traumatic injury, have access to an “island of genius”. This means that those with savant syndrome can read, interpret, remember, and create an enormous amount of data. Padgett sees equations and complex geometry in the world around him, and can draw them effortlessly.
Savant skills typically occur in an intriguingly narrow range of special abilities, mostly: music, art, calendar calculating, or math
The special skills are always accompanied by prodigious memory
Savant skills characteristically continue, rather than disappear, and with continued use, the special abilities either persist at the same level or actually increase
Spiral Scalar by Jason Padgett, 2008. Image courtesy of Fine Art America
In addition to developing savant syndrome, Padgett also developed a type of synesthesia that “allows him to perceive mathematical formulas as geometric figures”. (New to my site? You should read my previous posts on synesthesia.) A team of researchers at the University of Miami scanned Padgett’s brain to understand how these savant and synesthetic qualities emerged after the accident. Why is this significant? Padgett’s case suggests that these amazing abilities lie dormant in every human brain. Understanding how the severe trauma altered his brain could lead the way to furthering human creativity. Padgett developed this new way of seeing and experiencing reality. What if it could be developed without trauma? I’m certain that it can be developed, and look forward to see what science can discover in the near future.
- Sudden Artistic Output: This is an extremely rare neurological condition that affects the brain’s breaking system. So what does this mean? It means that the brain can no longer inhibit certain behaviors. In the case of sudden artistic output, people who have this condition has a compulsion to create works of art.
- Puzzles of the Brain: Artist Lonni Sue Anderson contracted encephalitis. She had such an acute case of encephalitis that she had permanent brain damage in the hypocampus. This is the region of the brain that stores memory. Lonni Sue short and long-term memory were affected. She had to relearn how to walk, talk, and eat. She has to relearn how to create art again, with interesting results.
- Teaching Synesthesia as a Gateway to Creativity: My peer-reviewed article for the University of Warwick that chronicles my results in teaching about synesthesia, lending students a new frame work for creative expression. The Warwick Research Journal Murgia Article
“A human being is part of a whole, called by us the ‘Universe’ —a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts, and feelings, as something separated from the rest—a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” – Albert Einstein
“The momentousness of the migration as an event does not alter the fact that the migrants were ordinary people. Like colonial settlers or western pioneers of an earlier day, they were not looking to change the world, only their own status. A mixture of farmers, domestic servants, day laborers, and industrial workers, they came from all parts of the South, hoping for a chance to improve their own station or at least that of their children.“
Julia: I think I learned about synesthesia in college. Honestly, I wonder if I really have much of it at all. I always associated numbers and letters with colors, but just in my head. Until I learned about synesthesia, I thought everyone did that. I don’t see colors when I look at text on a page, it’s more like in my mind the letter D has to be green, 8 is a cool, dark color, etc. That said, becoming aware of it and learning how our senses can be connected has certainly changed how I see the world. I like what you said in your article “The ability to successfully link apparently unrelated ideas and concepts is the very definition of creativity.” I think I’ve subconsciously explored that in both my collage and floral work— grouping unexpected things together based on color and using repetitive “rhythmic lines and shapes.” The collages I’ve been making started off more as a design exercise before turning into their own obsession…
Monica: Do you have any images of your work for collages and floral arrangements that you think best illustrate the ideas of repetitive rhythmic lines and shapes,and also your exploration of linking unrelated ideas and concepts? For me, my paintings are illustrations of both of these concepts. I find that picking out the paints and materials is one big meditation. I stand in front of cans and tubes of paint silently. Then, a particular color will grab my attention and a sort of creative, ecstatic energy guides me. I’m very absorbed by the process of picking out colors; they each seem to have this emotional language that captures my attention. It’s an experience that is really outside of words and letters, so it can be difficult to explain . . . but I feel a variety of emotions and states of being when I look at different hues and colors. This is one of the types of synesthesia, and Joan Mitchell talked a lot about the emotional states of her paintings this when describing her creative process.
- I no longer have to focus on the misfortunes of the past or on judging myself.
- Each moment, I can direct my focus towards the pursuit of happiness instead of tearing myself down.
- It takes courage to be the person what I want to be, but I believe in myself.
- In finding the courage to believe, anything is possible.
As the photo shoot progressed, I felt like I was living a major moment in art history. All of those books I read about my favorite movements, like Impressionism and Pre-Raphaelite art, were swirling around me. I was living art. Finally, I was proud of who I was. Everyone around me was living art, too. It was so liberating to see each person as who they really were – a beautiful soul in the artwork of their own body. There was no shame or judgement. There was only appreciation and joy. And that is the only way I choose to live.
“Dare to love yourself as if you were a rainbow with gold at both ends.” ― Aberjhani
“Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.’
‘Does it hurt?’ asked the Rabbit.
‘Sometimes,’ said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. ‘When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.’
‘Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,’ he asked, ‘or bit by bit?’
‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
– Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit
“Continue until you see yourself in the cruelest person on Earth, in the child starving, in the political prisoner. Practice until you recognize yourself in everyone in the supermarket, on the street corner, in a concentration camp, on a leaf, in a dewdrop. Meditate until you see yourself in a speck of dust in a distant galaxy. See and listen with the whole of your being. If you are fully present, the rain of Dharma will water the deepest seeds in your store consciousness, and tomorrow, while you are washing the dishes or looking at the blue sky, that seed will spring forth, and love and understanding will appear as a beautiful flower.”
The many stories I sorted through painted a picture of fear and blame. None of them seemed to express any truth. I looked and looked for something that made sense to me. I decided to pay attention to the photographs surrounding the matter. I saw people that were frustrated; people that wanted to be heard and appreciated, not be turned into a villain that would be hunted and killed. I saw parents desperately worried about the safety of their children. I saw people working to promote peace by shaking hands. I saw groups congregate bravely and open-heartedly ask for compassion and understanding of their experience.
Yes, there may have been hot-headed people rioting out of frustration. Those people may not have been able to express their emotions in a healthy, constructive way. Yet there were countless people seeking understanding in a peaceful way. Let us not ignore that message: We are all souls in human form. Each of us wants the liberty that is only available through compassion and equality. We all want a fair chance to be understood and make our own unique path in this life. This is a birthright for all human beings regardless of age, gender, race, or religion.
Let these images remind us that we are all capable of compassion, understanding, and creating solutions when we ditch our fear and blame. Let us work together, bravely, and create a real solution.
Many thanks to the artists, writers, and photographers that captured and shared these moments of truth. Your vision and bravery are appreciated.
A stunningly beautiful girl, Psyche, is born after two older sisters. People throughout the land worship her beauty so deeply that they forget about the goddess Venus. Venus becomes angry that her temples are falling to ruin, so she plots to ruin Psyche. She instructs her son, Cupid, to pierce the girl with an arrow and make her fall in love with the most vile, hideous man alive. But when Cupid sees Psyche in her radiant glory, he shoots himself with the arrow instead.
Meanwhile, Psyche and her family become worried that she will never find a husband, for although men admire her beauty, they always seem content to marry someone else. Psyche’s father prays to Apollo for help, and Apollo instructs her to go to the top of a hill, where she will marry not a man but a serpent. Psyche bravely follows the instructions and falls asleep on the hill. When she wakes up, she discovers a stunning mansion. Going inside, she relaxes and enjoys fine food and luxurious treatment. At night, in the dark, she meets and falls in love with her husband.
She lives happily with him, never seeing him, until one day he tells her that her sisters have been crying for her. She begs to see them, but her husband replies that it would not be wise to do so. Psyche insists that they visit, and when they do, they become extremely jealous of Psyche’s beautiful mansion and lush quarters. They deduce that Psyche has never seen her husband, and they convince her that she must sneak a look. Confused and conflicted, Psyche turns on a lamp one night as her husband lies next to her. When she sees the beautiful Cupid asleep on her bed, she weeps for her lack of faith. Cupid awakens and deserts her because Love cannot live where there is no trust. Cupid returns to his mother, Venus, who again decides to enact revenge on the beautiful girl. Psyche, meanwhile, journeys all over the land to find Cupid.
She decides to go to Venus herself in a plea for love and forgiveness, and when she finally sees Venus, the great goddess laughs aloud. Venus shows her a heap of seeds and tells her that she must sort them all in one night’s time if she wants to see Cupid again. This task is impossible for one person alone, but ants pity Psyche and sort the seeds for her. Shocked, Venus then orders Psyche to sleep on the cold ground and eat only a piece of bread for dinner. But Psyche survives the night easily. Finally, Venus commands her to retrieve a golden fleece from the river. She almost drowns herself in the river because of her sorrow, but a reed speaks to her and suggests that she collect the golden pieces of fleece from the thorny briar that catches it. Psyche follows these instructions and returns a sizable quantity to Venus. The amazed goddess, still at it, now orders Psyche to fill a flask from the mouth of the River Styx. When Psyche reaches the head of the river, she realizes that this task seems impossible because the rocks are so dangerous. This time, an eagle helps her and fills the flask. Venus still does not give in. She challenges Psyche to go into the underworld and have Persephone put some of her beauty in a box. Miraculously, Psyche succeeds. On her way toward giving the box to Venus, she becomes curious, opens the box, and instantly falls asleep.Meanwhile, Cupid looks for Psyche and finds her sleeping. He awakens her, puts the sleeping spell back in the box, and takes her to Zeus to request her immortality. Zeus grants the request and makes Psyche an immortal goddess. She and Cupid are married. (Summary taken from Gradesaver)
It is with much delight and gratitude that I write today’s post. Synesthesia has been a topic that has fascinated me for many years. (New to my site? You should view my previous posts: Synesthesia in Art & Fashion and Joan Mitchell) It’s a topic I’ve researched extensively. I was recently invited to share my research with Exchanges: The Warwick Research Journal, published by The University of Warwick.
My article, Teaching Synaesthesia as a Gateway to Creativity, is now live and available for free download.
Please click this link: The Warwick Research Journal Murgia Article
This article encapsulates my experience of teaching creativity within a higher education curriculum. Creativity often eludes common understanding because it involves using different conceptual streams of thought, often times developing unconsciously and manifesting in the prized “eureka” moment. In 2009, I began explaining the neurological condition of synaesthesia and later introduced this phenomenology in a course designed to cultivate creativity to first year fashion design students. There are many challenges in teaching creativity. Through teaching this course, I discovered that the first challenge is making the students conscious of their own qualitative beliefs on creativity and art. The second is creating exercises to challenge and alter these beliefs, thus forming a new way of thinking and experiencing the world. The most resistance from my students arose when experimenting with non-representational art. They did not have a conscious framework for making and evaluating abstract art. Introducing synaesthesia, a neurologically-based condition that “merges” two or more sensory pathways in the brain, gave my students a framework for discovery. Understanding sensory modalities and ways in which these modalities can blended together in synaesthesia proved to be a gateway to creativity in many of my students. The scope of this article chronicles how I developed my teaching methodology, the results it created in my classroom, as well as its effects on my own artistic practice. (To read the full article, please visit: Teaching Synaesthesia as a Gateway to Creativity)
Many thanks to Dr. Karen Simecek, Catherine Snyder, Neira Kapo, David Lautz, Terry Hall, Dawn Marie Forsyth, and to all of my former students. This article would not have been possible without your assistance, encouragement, inspiration, and dedication to the pursuit of creativity.