Imagine. Just imagine.

Imagine you’ve been deaf all your life.

Then after a few decades of living in a silent world, you receive an experimental hearing implant. The person who gave it to you insists you go to a symphonic concert together…

The concert starts, and you’re immediately taken aback at the array of exotic sensations. It’s not like anything you’ve experienced before.

In these sweet melodies there’s joy and sadness, passion and grief, all the different flavors of human condition. It’s like someone had remote access to your heart, and could instil there any emotion immediately on demand.

You leave the concert hall heartbroken and with a sense of longing.

Going back to your community, you try to explain to them what just happened. But there are no words in any known sign language that could even begin to describe a symphony.

If you’re brave and feeling poetic, you can try to describe how the symphony made you feel. You can say it was like a dawn on a sunny October morning, when you watch the sea change colors and shapeshift, like watching the birds flock together getting ready for their epic voyage, knowing this might be one of the last sunny days before it gets all cold and dark…

Until someone says, what’s this bullshit about flocks of birds?

Can’t you just say what a symphony really, objectively is? Sure there must be some scientific explanation for that?

So then you start to tell them about all these different instruments that make air particles vibrate in peculiar ways, and then your brand new hearing implant translates vibrations into nerve impulses, that your brain in turn will interpret as sound.

Now that’s something! Your friends build a machine to record and analyze such tiny vibrations of pressure in the air. They calculate Fourier series on the signals they’ve collected so that they could write it all down using formal symbols and diagrams.

After a long investigation they come back and say, look, we finally cracked this mysterious symphony thing you told us so much about. Then they hand you an entire volume of equations and nicely formatted graphs.

Again, there are no words in any known sign language to explain this. No, this is entirely not what a symphony is all about.


Photo by Manuel Nägeli on Unsplash

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