I viewed some YouTube videos in which color-blind men saw colors for the first time. Each received a pair of newly patented glasses that corrected their achromatopsia, an inherited condition of total color blindness. What intrigued me about the videos were the men’s extreme reactions. In each case, they were overcome with emotion, to the point of tears.
I’ve tried to imagine a world devoid of color where every scene looks like a black-and-white photograph. Those of us who’ve always possessed the gift of being able to distinguish colors take it for granted. For us, it’s one of those senses as natural as sight, itself.
As I sit writing in my sunroom, I glance out the window and spot two birds at the feeder. One is a Christmas red cardinal, and the other has cornflower-blue feathers and a chestnut-red belly. They’re painted against the backdrop of a cerulean sky. With the advent of spring, this scene will be dotted with green leaves, pink blossoms, and yellow daffodils. How unappealing my view would be if the colors were limited to shades of black, gray, and white.
Inside, I grow lush plants in varying tones of green: two ferns, a peace lily, and a Norfolk pine. In one corner stands a palm tree. In the opposite corner, a fichus tree (fake, but still colorful). I wonder what labels Crayola would give their slightly differing hues: Sea Green, Forest Green, and Jungle Green perhaps? I try to imagine them without pigment: gray, grayer, and grayest. How dull and uninteresting they would look!
Can you imagine a bride selecting Crayola’s Dolphin Gray, Outer Space Black, and Crystal White for her wedding colors? Although the creative names make these hues sound interesting, the wedding guests would yawn with boredom.
Publicists know how to use color to energize their advertisements and products. Color garners attention. Color sells.
People (mostly men) with red-green color blindness have difficulty differentiating stoplights from “go” lights. In emergencies, the ability to see red exit signs and ambulance lights saves lives. Yellow center road lines separate opposite flows of vehicular traffic, and yellow lights tell drivers when to proceed with caution. The inability to distinguish these colors could pose a serious safety hazard.
We depend on color cues every day. If I didn’t pair my husband’s jackets and pants and match his socks, he’d show up at church wearing navy-blue pants with a black jacket, one black sock, and one navy sock. Okay, maybe that’s not a safety hazard, but it’s a fashion faux pas that most of us can avoid with little effort.
We’ve all watched movies like “The Wizard of Oz” that start in black-and-white then gradually emerge into the full spectrum of Technicolor. Suddenly, our brains awaken to whole new sensations. We sit up and take notice. This cinematic effect must be what it’s like to put on glasses that correct achromatopsia. After watching those YouTube videos, I’ll never again take for granted my ability to see the world in living color.
Cindy L. Freeman is the author of two award-winning short stories and three published novels: Unrevealed, The Dark Room, and I Want to Go Home. Website: www.cindylfreeman.com; Facebook page: Cindy Loomis Freeman. Her books are available from amazon.com or hightidepublications.com