Colour


 
It's not easy to imagine living in an epoch before electricity was invented. We are conditioned to take it completely for granted.
When there is a power failure, we are lost, but quite confident that it will only be for a few minutes, an hour at the most. But if ever during the winter months there's a serious power failure which lasts several days, we have no choice but to try to readapt to a way of life considered perfectly normal 250 years ago. We huddle in front of a wood fire (if we are lucky enough to have a fireplace and wood to burn) in a candlelit room (if we are lucky enough to have candles) feeling numbly disorientated, as if life is in bleak pause mode, and our salvation totally depends on the electricians' ability to get things back to normal again.

Trying to live without electricity would be intolerable. Our way of life totally depends on it. Computers, television, washing machines, electric cookers, refrigerators, freezers, central heating, air conditioners and obviously electric light are all essential to what we now consider as normal, everyday life.

Perhaps being obliged to get by without electricity would be a less negative experience than one might imagine. Instead of typing and sending digital messages, or picking up the phone, we would communicate directly with our neighbours far more. Perhaps we would feel more duty bound to help one another cope. But although the subject is interesting, I'm digressing, wandering off the dark.

To return to light. We have as much light as we need for as long as is desired, at least unless there's a power cut. Because of the constant source of electric light, interior and exterior (in lamp-lit towns, or luminous cities that never sleep) colour might appear to us to be almost tangible, corporeal. We therefore take colour also for 'granted', as if it were immutable. But of course colour can only exist if there's light, and the hew of a colour changes according to the quantity (Kelvin degree) and quality of light, the colour of neighbouring objects and reflected light. Because of our access to light at the flick of a switch, we might tend to imagine that colour exists even in darkness, but the human eye is unable to discern it. It's true that colour always exists when there's enough light to determine it, and that this has nothing to do with vision, as Leonardo da Vinci pointed out with his allusion to a glass of water on a window ledge refracting sunlight and sending the primary colour components of white light as a small, colourful beam on a dark tavern floor.
He meant that if no one were present in the room at the time in order to see, the spectrum beam would still be there for as long as the sun ray lasted. But then we could make a parallel by suggesting that a noise in the desert still exists even if there were no ear to hear it, or if all those within hearing distance of the noise were stone deaf.


Colour is a fascinating subject, and the human perception of it is only one particular but glorious facet. How other creatures including insects discern or interpret it, would be even more fascinating and no doubt difficult to appreciate. Biologists inform us that there are various designs that could be compared with runway landing indications on certain petals of flowers that without optic means the human eye cannot see. Naturally after being attracted by the flower's perfume these designs are perceived by certain insects that the flower relies on for pollination.

Naturally molecular fluorescent colour, (that of particular aquatic plants, and certain tropical fish and birds) needs light in order to radiate its amazing display. And in the total darkness of deep sea there are fish that have photophores that generate light. Apparently they use this bioluminescence to communicate for mating purposes, to camouflage themselves and to capture their prey. There is still much to learn from such mysterious phenomena.

Unconsciously we constantly think in terms of colour. Politically, for example. Blue appears to many to be more conservative, reasonable or rational than red, and pink (rose) could be regarded as a dishonest, muted (tacit) form of red. As green is the opposite colour of red, and for the so-called ecologists who secretly embrace Marxist doctrine, green would be a more useful camouflage than a 'biological' colour that they can sincerely identify themselves with.

Naturally there is human skin pigmentation, the variety of which is constantly increasing. This is another reason why "colour prejudice" is absurd. Racism in most democratic countries no longer exists. If ever it crops up at all, such discrimination would only be practised by minorities of morons.

The term "coloured gentleman" is therefore supercilious, trite and disdainful. One is either a gentleman or not, colour has nothing to do with it. Today skin colour difference is of no importance.
Unfortunately certain people who at some point during their lives may have been victims of racism, tend to see it where it doesn't really exist. The same way as homosexuals who might have been victimised during their youth, or not fully accepted even by their own parents when their condition manifested itself, tend to see homophobia where it doesn't exist.

In a local supermarket a young Ivorian works part time selling fresh fish perhaps to help pay for his studies. He smiles and jokes with everyone, helping to make shopping pleasant. He guessed where I was from and started talking English, perfectly. In fact he spoke fluent English, French, Italian and Portuguese. How can one not be impressed with that? How can one possibly regard oneself as being superior to such good-natured and modest brilliance?
If skin pigmentation still has some geographical significance, it has no real social significance. Skin pigmentation varies enormously, but the colour of our blood and everything else that we have inside us are the same. And in the dark we all have the same colour, or rather we are all colourless, in any case.

Heaven is often characterised as infinite azure, a lofty sky blue, the blissful depth of which would be emphasised by beautiful cumulus clouds. We usually identify hell with the colour red, the infernal flames of volcanic abysses that meander down to reach the centre of an Earth in constant turmoil.
But then if Heaven incarnates goodness and goodness is truth, then it can't be a colour. Truth can only be white. Naturally the components of white light are all the colours. In this case hell, it's opposite, can only be black. Red is too vital a colour for hell. It is the living colour of flesh and blood. Black is death, without a glimmer of hope. Yet like white light, it too must be composed of all colours, but in opaque form, so that the composed result of black cannot reflect any light whatsoever.

The colourful world of life makes us prone to dismiss the idea of death being a black eternity. No one would want to shun the hope of that glimmer of light, of truth, at that fatal, final moment, like a vague gleam to which we allow ourselves to be smoothly transported, at the end of a long, dark, cool tunnel.

Could it be that in the dark depths of death, submerged in a spiritual world, our souls emit an energy similar to the photophores of those strange, deep sea fish? Visually this might evoke the phenomenon of projected transparent negative colour film. Today perhaps the idea is even more obsolete than the film. Should one need to believe that there is after-life spiritual energy? If such were the case the world would be over stuffed with spirits, yet who knows?


When we close our eyes to sleep in the darkness of the night, we don't 'see' black. Before we fall asleep we might see a kaleidoscope of vague, unrecognisable images of dark muted colours that interpose and interchange. Merging images that might accompany a troubled state of mind before one is released by sleep. And then again one might be inadvertently transported into fabulously coloured dreams or horrifying fuliginous nightmares.
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Text and top and second image © Mirino. Third image © Mathias, with thanks. April, 2014

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