So, let's back it up and unpack it a little (unpack being a newish expression that is probably being overused and will soon fade).
I don't often listen to the radio in the car, or anywhere else for that matter, but Danica does, and she had had me tune the radio to her music station. Later, instead of turning it off as is my habit, I flipped it over to CBC and became totally absorbed by this program about Aphantasia, which you can also hear if you click this link. The program is about 20 minutes in length.
So, what is this thing, this Aphantasia? And why did the program grab my interest so? And what the heck does it have to do with me and art in grade 4?
OK, time to back up some more and do some more unpacking.
Back in grade 4 art class, I became frustrated with the fact that I couldn't actually art. When the teacher said, "Let's draw this," or "Bring some soap to class so we can sculpt it," my results were pathetic. I didn't even want to art anymore. I complained to my mother who even mentioned it to the teacher on parents night, but she had no solution, so I kept on having to participate in the damnable class. In my own way.
My problem was that I couldn't draw from my imagination because there was something missing in my head although I didn't really know that for a long time. Oddly enough, however, there were times when I could draw, like that time in woodworking class in grade 7. We were instructed to carve out a ring toss toy. I didn't know what to do until I realized that I had a Mighty Mouse comic book with a picture on the cover. He had his arm extended upward, and I figured that would make a decent landing for a ring toss toy.
So, I got out the comic book and drew it. Yes, I did, and it was reasonable copy or at least good enough. It was one project that worked. How come?
I will get back to this, but for now, let us fast forward to the present.
It has taken me much of my life to realize that I don't have the same pictures in my head that others do. For example: when I take my afternoon siesta and see a strange face and want to examine it, I can't capture it. When I try to freeze the image and have a good look, I can't manage. It fades away.
Going back to Mighty Mouse, I was able to draw a facsimile relatively well because I could keep looking at the original which wouldn't fade away. But mention something to me, like a mountain scene with a babbling brook, and I will see a flash of something vague, but even the vagueness will soon fade.
When this program, Quirks and Quarks, came on the radio, I was hooked. I had caught it in progress with an interview with a fellow who was worse off than I, for he had no pictures — at all, ever! He was bright and successful but had no images in his head. I have dream images, and I have images when I read. They fade right away when I try to hold onto them, but I have them initially. That gentleman didn't have any images, period.
I learned that the condition is called Aphantasia. It seems like it would be a crippling handicap, but this man lives a successful and productive life. He even reads fiction and learned that one author that he reads, his friend, Michelle Sagara, also has this condition. Yes, she also has Aphantasia but is still able to write descriptive passages.
Certain famous people have identified themselves as having this condition: neurologist and naturalist, Oliver Sacks, for example; and Blake Ross (developer of the Firefox browser); and Craig Venter (known for being one of the first to sequence the human genome).
Dr Adam Zeman of Exeter University has identified two types or degrees of Aphantasia. There are those like the interviewee, John, who have no images at all: no mind's eye as it were. This, he terms as Involuntary Aphantasia. Many others can dream visually or experience images when they read; they/we experience Voluntary Aphantasia where they/we do experience images but can't summon images at will.
Obviously, this is a condition that affects a minority of people, especially those who experience Voluntary Aphantasia, but Dr Zeman has 10 000 subjects available for his studies, and I wonder how many more, like me, haven't been formally identified. I did read elsewhere that some degree of the condition may affect 1/50 people.
I have been saying that I have this condition although I can't officially verify if I qualify clinically, but the test at this website confirms to me at least, that I do. In fact, I can't force myself to finish it because it frustrates me, and I give up very quickly.
- Conjure up an image of a familiar friend or relative. How clearly can you see the contours of their face, head, shoulders and body?
- Still imagining that friend or relative, how strongly can you see the characteristic poses of their head and body?
- How well can you envision the way that friend or relative walks, the length of their step, for example?
- How vivid are the colors of that person's clothes in your mind?
- Visualize a rising sun and look carefully at the details of that mental picture. How clearly do you see that sun rising above the horizon in a hazy sky?
- Imagine the sky clearing and surrounding the sun with blueness, how vivid is that image?
- Clouds appear in your sky and a lightning storm erupts. How well can you see it?
- A rainbow appears in your sky. How clearly can you make it out?
In short, I am Aphantastic kinda guy.