0.01% COLOURFUL

August 30, 2018

 

A post on my Facebook feed just told me that we can see less than 1% of the electromagnetic spectrum, which didn't make total sense to me, but has refreshed my vision, as such dinky facts tend to do. It confirms my suspicion that colour is incredible, and invisible. Apparently, rainbows are only visible to animals (like us humans) with conical receptors in the eyeballs. In other words, rainbows and unicorns and leprechauns and whole chunks of folklore simply don't exist to many animals. So what exists that we cannot see? Are there ultra-rainbows all around us? 

 

The alchemists saw colour as sacred. There was in fact a whole schema of colour, that described the various stages of the alchemical work, or "opus". Nigredo - black - was the first stage, a time of potential and chaos. Out of the nigredo would come the citrinitas, the yellowing, as form began to emerge. Albedo and Rubedo - white and red - were the final phases, in which a marriage of moon and sun, feminine and masculine, would occur, and spiritual harmony would be achieved. Often this time was visualised as a peacock, symbolic of the holy presence of all colour, united as one. This was, quintessentially, the Philosopher's Stone, a.k.a enlightenment.

 

And how do we experience colour? Consistently, is one answer. The shade of your apple-green Kia. The tone of your skin in the mirror. The redness of your tongue as you scrape away last night's breath. Colour pervades all, and I think we often miss it. To counter this, I've been looking at flowers recently. I marvel at the idea that a plant can literally grow colour, purely to attract pollinators, and perhaps also to show off. Imagine if humans could grow petals from their backs, red as carnations, or blue as jasmine. Would we relate to colour more intimately? 

 

Take a moment today to notice a colour around you. Admire its particular qualities, and the emotions it suggests in you, however faintly. Delight in the complexity of its shades and tones, and savour its majesty. It might be just 0.01% of what's actually out there; but I'll be damned if it ain't a good 0.01%.

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