Yesterday my package finally arrived! YAY YAY YAY and more silliness — I’d been hawking the mail for that thing for over a week.
And now, with suppliez, my new obsession can become really dangerous. Good thing the pliers are small; if I really lose it, the most damage I can do is cause a blood-blister or two.
So, all I did last night was put away all my new rings, but in the course of this, something struck me. I was sitting there, lovingly squishing the little bags with the colored aluminum rings, not really thinking anything about how weird this was: I’ve come to accept that I’m a chainmail addict now, and there’s just nothing to be done for it but stick rings together until I die, or am cured by a traveling mage. But then I noticed that other people were also fascinated by the colored aluminum. Like animals, we all felt drawn to the shineys, compulsed to play and poke and pat them. But I had plain silver, "bright aluminum" rings too, and those didn’t get nearly as much attention as the colored ones, even though they’re arguably shinier.
It also just so happens that I’m reading Locke this week for one of my classes, and as some of you will know, John Locke famously categorized color as a "secondary quality" — something that exists, not in an object itself, but rather as an object’s ability to cause a certain idea in our minds. This is how he explained the fact that some qualities of things, like their size and number, are not affected by our subjective experiences (two things is two things, no matter who you are); and some, like color, are.
Obviously, in Locke’s time, there wasn’t the science to know that things like color do come from an object, and that the color (in the sense of the specific wavelengths of light reflected) is actually as knowable objectively as size and weight — just not very accurately by our senses. (Thinking about it, without any tools at hand, you and I probably couldn’t agree completely on the weight or size of something, either — our senses would provide estimates, just as they do with color. We would agree that this is redder than that, and this is heavier than the other, but what you think is one pound I might think is two, and what you call red I may say is more purple.)
But, even if they’re not distinct from the normal properties of an object, colors are still special somehow — they draw us, they have mental and emotional connotations for us; they inspire like and dislike. (I’m certainly no exception — while I love my new colorful metal bits, I can’t generally bear to wear colors that are too bright or too far from neutral. Couldn’t tell you why for the life of me.) Not to mention, color is a typical correspondence used in all types of magick, ancient and modern, serious and hogwash. Different colors have been shown to affect us differently — stick someone in a red room and someone in a blue room, and you can see a psychological effect. Give one guy a pound of butter and another guy two pounds, and, well, you get the point.
Is it because they’re experienced more subjectively, because we feel like we have a hand in "creating" them, that we tend to get so involved with color? Or maybe the explanation is more physical — maybe the parts of the brain that interpret color sit next to some other parts that cause an emotional reaction when they’re stimulated. You never know, with brains. Brains are tricky.
And so, it would appear, are colors. For while a wavelength is subject to the exactitude of physics, a color, specifically, isn’t. Color is like sound, in that it doesn’t actually exist without our input — if there were no eyes on the planet which could see color, would there be colors? (This is exactly the same question as "If a tree falls in the forest and there’s no-one to hear it, does it make a sound?" …The answer to both is no. Light would still exist, and waves of vibration would still exist, but with no eyes or ears, there’s no color, and no sound.)
So maybe Locke had a point, drawing that distinction…unless…would there be size or weight, without someone to measure or notice it? Would there only be Mass, and what’s the difference? Are primary qualities (size, weight, number, etc.) actually completely independent from our senses, or only more resistant to them? …Well, regardless, we know that what Locke called "secondary qualities" are definitely more dependent on our senses, to the point where, arguably, they don’t exist without us.
I don’t know about you guys, but thinking about that gives me the shivers. Man is creating the world, on a second-by-second basis. Thinking of ourselves as "part God" is no longer just a pretty phrase, or a safe one — if we’ve been creating such huge things as color and sound (and time and fear and hope and come on, think of some more) all this time, what else might we be creating, or capable of creating?
Maybe heaven is as close as figuring out how to work our minds properly.
Maybe hell is as close as failing to.
…It’s amazing what you can learn from color. Or, to look at it another way, from little metal rings and their emminent squishability in a plastic bag. ;)