The most interesting thing about colour is not, I have discovered, that it can affect your mood to positive or negative effect, or that it can enhance your surroundings and reflect your personality, but rather that it does not seem to exist at all. It appears nowhere in the real world.
Bear with me here.
Imagine you’re looking at a ripe lemon. It is, you believe, yellow. Seeing is believing, the lemon is in front of you, and you would swear by all the gods that it is yellow in colour. Very few people would argue with you.
However, the lemon is not yellow. It is made up of atoms and molecules that have no colour at all.
The scientist in you may choose this moment to sigh, perhaps even groan. So that’s where he’s going, you think. How disappointing. Obviously, the colour itself comes from the electromagnetic spectrum, or light. In layman’s terms, light hits the lemon, and parts of that light are absorbed by the fruit. The bits of light that bounce back off form the colour yellow.
Yet any fool can see that the lemon is not throwing off rays of yellow light. If it were, you would probably assume that somebody uncharitable had dropped something exciting and mind-altering into your coffee. The world would look like one big acid trip if objects started throwing off light left, right, and centre.
All right, you say. I see what you mean. In fact, the parts of light that make yellow are invisible too. They travel from the lemon to your eye. Your eye then tells your brain what bits of the electromagnetic spectrum has just entered it, and the brain transforms that information in your mind into the colour we call yellow.
Think about that for a moment. How can that work? Electrons bounce around in your brain, and you see something as yellow? Yet, obviously, no part of your brain actually turns yellow at any point. The colour has still not existed in the real world. The lemon has no colour. Neither does light. Your brain does not physically create the colour you see (your brain stays, as you would expect, grey and gooey through the whole thing). At no point in the process is there a real colour yellow, a physical, tangible thing.
Yellow, to all intents and purposes doesn’t exist. Your brain is lying to you, telling you something about the world that is not real. It does this all day, every day, and while the world is nicer because your brain tells you there are colours in it which actually aren’t there, it’s a vast self deception.
There is no spoon.
If you take it further, having accepted that yellow is just a mental construct with no basis in reality, then think about the fact that your mind and my mind are each unique from one another. My mind has created a lie that it tells me is the colour yellow. So has yours. But, given that our minds at no time consulted each other on what yellow should look like, what are the chances that they’ve created the same thing? Statistically, the odds are very low. And if we don’t see colour the same way as each other, then the two of us are looking at very different versions of the world. We’ll never know, of course, because you can’t step inside my head and find out what my experience of yellow is like, and so you can’t compare it with your own.
If we were in a pub, devouring beer, we could go much further, but I’ll leave you to it for now.
It’s been a long and complicated month, and I’m very tired. The above is a perfect illustration of this. Goodnight.
PS – Kirsty is much better now. Thanks for all the well wishes.