Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Shades of Green

*Sorry for any glaring typos or formatting issues. I wrote this over mobile.

As a partially colorblind individual, I occasionally get grilled about what it's like to have such an infliction.

"Can you see this?" is the most frequent question as the inquisitor proceeds to hold up or point to various items of various colors: a book cover, a marker, a stripe on a shirt.

But over the years a couple things have occurred to me: 1) maybe they are asking the wrong question and 2) maybe I have figured out something essential about beauty and subjectivity thanks to my colorblindness.

Let me break this down for you.

1) "Can you see this?" Ah the question I've heard a gazillion times which carries with it the jagged connotation of What a lovely opportunity to point out this poor fellow's flaws. and/or What a chance to point out my superiority over this guy (regardless of how insignificant it may be in the grand scheme of things, for in no way shape or form is color-seeing an indicator of valuable human aspects like altruism, perserverence, or contentiousness).

Think I'm at all scarred by these inquisitions? Nah!

Anyway, when I look through the lenses of my eyeballs out into the world I see myriad colors. I really do. And what I see is positively glorious. My favorite colors are the shades of green that dutifully paint the world. The bushes, the differing species of trees -- cedar, Cypress, cherry -- the grass and weeds that speckle it like toppings on a sundae. And nothing completes the scene like a purely blue sky, as if that shade of cloudless blue were the color of the canvas that the world was painted on.

Art class as a child taught me that a dark green is simply green with some black added, and that to get light green just exchange the black for white. Science has taught me that my rods and cones have trouble sending the proper signal to my brain that allows it to easily distinguish one color from the next. But does this deficiency disclude me from experiencing joyous rapture when I see colors like the ones I just mentioned? Hardly. And this is the assumption that the color-seer makes. He thinks (even if subconsciously) that my worldly experience is less because I cannot identify the names of the different colors that light up the landscape. 

2) That brings me to my second point. Perhaps I am blessed because of my colorblindness. Perhaps the color-seeing person has the tendency to objectify the world. For example, sight, arguably the primary sense of man can be broken down into shapes and names -- e.g. colors, materials, species, etc... In the present moment, sensory input is very much objective (i.e. that is a beige pair of pants). The subjective side of things doesn't happen till after the fact (i.e. those are some snazzy beige pants). 

So, is it possible that us colorblind folks, lacking the ability to objectify the world of color, slip into that subjective reality sooner and more seamlessly? I think you know what my answer to that question is, and I see it as a little recompense for all of the abuse I have taken over the years.

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