Sunday, 5 April 2015

Synesthesia. Oh, and animals.

Some years ago I worked with someone who one day happened to ask, quite conversationally, what colour Tuesday was for the rest of us. She saw it as blue. She was an Art teacher. It turned out that not only did she see each day with its own distinctive colour but she also saw them arranged in a quite specific pattern, as if laid out on a page. The only person who answered with a colour, not blue if I remember rightly, was an English teacher. Both of them spoke of experiencing certain tastes and sounds in colour as well. Neither of them had heard of synesthesia, the term for this kind of inter-related sense experience. Various poets, including French poets Arthur Rimbaud and Charles Baudelaire I believe, saw the world through synesthetic eyes. My two friends/colleagues both believed that everyone saw the world in colours as they did and were surprised to find that most of us live in a different kind of world, perhaps more impoverished. I can sometimes think of sounds as colours but I am not sure if I am making it up as I go along. 

Now I read that a behavioural psychologist has been researching how certain colours and types of music can enhance, and presumably detract from, our experience of food. He gave groups of people chocolate to eat while listening to pieces of classical music. While listening to sombre music people found the chocolate bitter but declared it set when listening to lighter music. How bizarre! Presumably restaurateurs could use this knowledge to enhance customers' experience of their food and thus encourage them to return in the future. Interesting! But just a little worrying! How easily are we manipulated? 

Today, having dropped my chessplayers off at the pick-up point for their lift to the chess tournament, I waited for the early morning mist to clear a little and then went over to my daughter's house so that we could take her crazy small dog for a walk. Despite the sunshine, the walk was rather damp underfoot. Afterwards we had to tie the small dog up outside for a while until his legs dried off a little and the mud could be brushed off him. After that he more or less had the run of the house as usual, although the younger children were taking care not to let him into their bedrooms as there were toys around that he believes belong to everyone and, therefore, that he is allowed to chew them. As a rule they have no objection to his being in their rooms. In fact, they usually encourage it. 

When my daughter and family moved into their new house, on the first night they took a decision that the small dog was to sleep in his basket downstairs and on no account was to be allowed in anyone's bedrooms. He howled all night. Nobody got much sleep. Research shows, my daughter tells me, that if you move house and make your small dog sleep downstairs alone he will be sure, once you head upstairs for bed, that he has been abandoned and will howl out of sheer despair. A poor creature abandoned by his pack! Consequently the dog now seems to sleep in different bedrooms on different nights. 

Not only that, but quite often he sleeps at the foot of the bed, on the bed or indeed IN the bed. Here's another thing: when I stayed at my son's house, babysitting overnight while he and his wife went to a wedding reception, their cat made no attempt to pester me during the night. Perhaps she did not realise where I was sleeping. However, when the young couple returned the following day the cat made a point of sleeping that night on the pillow, practically curled up around my daughter-in-law's head. 

Now, I find all of this very disturbing. Sleeping with animals if fundamentally wrong. And I am not even talking about bestiality; I mean simply having animals in your bed. I would even draw the line at animals in the bedroom. However, I seem to be expressing a minority view, at least to judge by the pictures I keep seeing on Facebook. These are pictures of children snuggling up to dogs and cats. Not only quite large children such as my grandchildren who are old enough and large enough to carry their dog around and often do. In fact, the whole family has a habit to pick him up and cuddle him. They are a little surprised if I am reluctant to be hugged by them after they have spent some time snuggling the hairy creature! 

No, what I find most alarming are the photos of small babies cuddled up to sleep with dogs and cats. Even more upsetting to my delicate sensibilities are the videos of crawling babies and tiny tots in bouncing cradles and ride-on toys being "kissed" by the family pet. Most parents carefully sterilise baby bottles, baby cups and spoons, dummies and the like. Almost anything that is going to find its way into the tiny child's mouth is scrupulously cleaned. And then they let the child hug the pet ... and presumably afterwards put their fingers into their mouths!!! They allow the dog to lick the child's face ... and everyone knows that dogs lick the most unsavoury things! 

Two things:-  
  • I am aware that children need to experience a little dirt and a few germs but there are limits. 
  • I can understand the value of pets for a child's emotional development. Well, sort of! I think soft toys can be a very good substitute. (My daughter tells me she got her first dog so that her children would not grow up afraid of dogs. OK but I am not totally convinced!) 
  • And I would not do anything to harm an animal. I just don't believe in living with them, especially not in close proximity. 
 I realise that those are three things but that's how it goes.

No comments:

Post a Comment