“We saw the 111.”

“A box of matches on their table fell, and discharged its contents on the floor: ‘111,’ the both cried simultaneously; and then, in a murmur, John said ’37’. Michael repeated this, John said it in a third time and stopped. I counted the matches — it took me some time — and there were 111.

‘How could you count the matches so quickly?’ I asked. ‘We didn’t count,’ they said. ‘We saw the 111.’ …

‘And why did you murmur “37,” and repeat it three times?’ I asked the twins. They said in unison, ’37, 37, 37, 111.’…

‘How did you work that out?’ I said, rather hotly. They indicated, as best they could, in poor, insufficient terms–but perhaps there are no words to correspond to such things–that they did not ‘work it out’, but just ‘saw’ it, in a flash. John made a gesture with two outstretched fingers and his thumb, which seemed to suggest that they had spontaneously trisected the number, or that it ‘came apart’ of its own accord, in these three equal parts, by a sort of spontaneous, numerical ‘fission’. They seemed surprised at my surprise–as if were somehow blind; and John’s gesture conveyed an extraordinary sense of immediate, felt reality.

Is it possible, I said to myself, that they can somehow ‘see’ the properties, not in a conceptual, abstract way, but as qualities, felt, sensuous, in some immediate concrete way?

The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, Oliver Sacks. “Seeing” numbers hardly seems like a phenomenon restricted to the mentally extraordinary or abnormal, right?

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