On Seeing


Last Friday I was just thinking. I was trying to think of an everyday concept, one that was more complex than it appeared to be. Then I started thinking about color. And then I thought about what color really is, which is light (kind of). And then I thought briefly about what color really, really is, which is the result of light wavelengths interacting with an object’s molecular structure–an object’s unique molecular structure determines what light wavelengths it absorbs and reflects, in turn giving it color. (I then noted that an object’s color is inherently opposite to the colors of light it accepts/absorbs- which is just interesting to note.)

BUT THEN, I thought about describing the thing of color– not how color works, but just describing a color. I’m sure this has occurred to you before. How would you describe red to someone? Fire? Apple? Warm/hot? I mean, a sighted person could understand what you’re inferring about red by referencing those things, but what about a blind person? You would have to venture outside the realm of sight to explain to them effectively the experience of the color red. Inevitably, you would find this task extremely difficult, if not impossible. I daresay it is impossible, because logically, color is a physical characteristic that exists only in the experiential dimension of sight–You cannot perceive it any other way (that we know of). And I know some people reported to have smelled or tasted color during a hallucinogenic trip, but clearly that would not have been possible had they no previous perception of color/sight.  Texture and depth and dimension are visual characteristics also, but are not perceivable only by sight– you can feel them.

Anyway, I already knew it was impossible to describe color to a person incapable of seeing. I was more just fascinating myself by the ever-apparent truth that our human experience is forever limited to our body’s ability to perceive our environment. Just because we are unable to feel color, doesn’t mean that somewhere there may exist a being that can. And what would that be like? How would that enhance our human experience? I am sure I can’t say. This all, of course, is just an elementary example of a much more extraordinary idea. Though I try, I simply cannot live every moment of my life bearing in mind these kinds of truths and all that they imply. The best I can do is remain aware, and whether or not what I am experiencing is all that truly exists, what does exist that I am capable of experiencing, I will try endlessly to perceive. Being alive is an involuntary state of being, but living is a conscious pursuit. We can’t ever know everything, and some things, I believe, we are incapable of knowing. Move forward into the unknown with the humility of the consciously discerning observer.

This is what I was thinking about on Friday. Today I am thinking about politics and Beyoncé, which I may write about at a later date.


About TARA

American Photographer. Musician. Writer. Science enthusiast.
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