The Importance of Color

There have been a few philosophical journeys that have been percolating in my mind for a long time. It’s time to pour some of these thoughts onto the pages of this blog, in several parts.

Back in 2015, I wrote:

What I found interesting about Amharic is that none of the names for colors bear any resemblance to those of other Semitic languages – except for one: Blue. The word is semayami, and it’s clearly derived from the word for “sky” (semay, which is essentially the same in Hebrew, Arabic and Aramaic).

Whenever Ethiopia became Semitic, all the other colors were already known, but not blue. The color blue was not known to the ancients. I’ll quote Radiolab:

Gladstone conducted an exhaustive study of every color reference in The Odyssey and The Iliad. And he found something startling: No blue! Tim pays a visit to the New York Public Library, where a book of German philosophy from the late 19th Century helps reveal a pattern: across all cultures, words for colors appear in stages. And blue always comes last.

See also here and here. The lack of blue, among the ancients, presented a challenge for Orthodox Jews; the Torah calls for a “thread of tekheleth” to be worn on the corners of one’s garments. Though tekheleth is often translated as “blue,” the matter remains a mystery.

Yes indeed; humans have been discovering colors since our very beginnings. As a matter of fact, it’s likely that our primitive ancestors only recognized dark and light. Over time, as we crawled out of the seas, and encountered other land-dwellers, we learned to recognize new colors – as required for survival. Red, yellow and green would have been important, even in the early days.

Please take a few minutes to watch this video about the color brown:

In a nutshell, brown is actually a shade of orange; through new contexts, we learned to recognize it as its own color. Red gave birth to orange, and orange gave birth to brown. The ancients would have seen brown as simply a shade of red – if we go back far enough, and depending on the culture.

In the video, we’re told that color is determined by a combination of hue and brightness. The Photoshop color wheel is used to identify various colors – and that’s it. Of course, in any finite space, such as a color wheel, there are infinite points. Therefore, there are infinite color possibilities…

… except that, in my opinion, there is yet another element to color: Luster or sheen.

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to discover a new color? A color that nobody has ever seen before? Wonder no longer; I have the answer.

In recent times, we have witnessed the discovery of new colors, based on luster. “Silver” is simply gray with more luster. “Gold” can be yellow with more luster. We are in the midst of a color-revolution, and most of us don’t even realize it. Can “Shiny Brown” be its own color? I think that future generations, in the not so distant future, may recognize it as such.

Is it possible that there are a multitude of other variables to color – which we haven’t yet discovered?

Bear with me, and watch this short video, which explains that our perceptions of color actually influence the way we see colors:

Like everything else we experience in our world, it’s mostly in our minds. We “see” more with our minds than with our eyes.

From our earliest beginnings, until the modern age, our progression has been a story of making finer and finer distinctions, of seeing differences that our more primitive forebears couldn’t see. Those who seek to erase distinctions are actually regressive.

Our color-evolution may be part of a deeper evolution, and evolution that takes us closer and closer to a more comprehensive understanding of The Universe, and our place within it.

Color is a quality of light, which is a form of energy. Light is an elemental component of our universe, and it even sets the maximum speed with which space can be traversed. I think this is because light and space are intricately connected.

What about light and time?

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2 Responses to The Importance of Color

  1. Blue and green seem to vary the most by culture and language.
    In Japanese, ‘midori’ means green including dark green like the drink. However, when talking about leaves or the green traffic light they use ‘ao’, blue.
    They sometimes mix up the English words green and blue, using them correctly most of the time but slipping back into calling the traffic light ‘blue’.

  2. Lon Spector says:

    As far as America’s future is concerned: PAINT IT BLACK!

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