Qualia is a word used to refer to those experiences that can’t be described. Things like the taste of sweet, or the feeling of pain. There’s a cliche about describing blue to a blind man, and although that blind man might be able to understand blue as being similar to a high-pitched sound spread out across a surface, that’s not the same as actually seeing it, is it?
Out of these primitive experiences, much more complex ones can be built. From the sounds of the human voice, comes the ability to understand words. From the taste of sweet and the ability to understand words, comes the sensation of sitting down with your family for dinner. And from the multitude of meals and trips and just time spent together, comes the emotion of love.
I have long fantasized about people being able to experience these complex qualia directly. I have wished for a kind of mystical process by which people can feel what it’s like to be another person. To see the world with the eyes of another, and to understand that what they see isn’t always what is actually happening.
I once met a man that could not visualize his imagination. At least, it would explain why he couldn’t do math in his head if he couldn’t. It’s actually not that unusual. I myself seem to only half-visualize things, with vast chunks of the picture missing and I only realize this when I go to draw it. And these people with no visual imagination? They frequently grow up assuming that people talking about seeing things in their heads are speaking in metaphors.
The scope of human experience is huge. One human can be an existence incomprehensible to another human. I wish that there was a way to make the chasm disappear. But the best that I can do now is to write fiction, and to try to describe with words what cannot be described with words.