Friday, June 4, 2010

Getting a new perspective

"I like your orange blog, Mama."

"Thanks, honey. I see it as green."

"OK." Boss Man shrugs and walks away. He's used to us telling him that we see things differently.

Boss Man is color blind, so he sees the world in a completely different way from most of the rest of us. It's a permanent condition, there is no "cure" (at least not yet). But really, why would we want to fix it? It's not a disease, it's just how he sees things.

Animals see the world differently from humans. Many birds and insects can perceive ultraviolet radiation that is invisible to the human eye. With so much variation, no individual (human or otherwise) sees the world how it "really" looks. Who is to say that we normal-vision people see things the same way?

I used to wonder about this when I was a kid. What if my blue sky looked green to you? Meaning, what I see as blue, you see as my green, even though you call it blue. This would actually explain wild variation in color combination preferences. For example, I really dislike orange and blue (or green) together, but other people really like it (or so I assume from the orange/blue and orange/green clothing that has been so popular of late). Maybe someone else's orange is my yellow, which completely changes the picture.

Perception is a highly  individual thing. It's easy to get caught up in our own perceptions, but it is probably worthwhile to occasionally take a step back, take off our perceptual goggles and try on someone else's. If we all did this (in all parts of our lives), it would help us to better understand each other and be more compassionate.

Trying on someone else's perceptual goggles also helps spark the creative process. To give you an example, this is how Boss Man sees the rainbow (what you and I see is on the left, what he sees is on the right).

His world looks completely different from mine. The green leaves that I adore look brown to him, except for a few weeks in the fall, when they turn yellow. Dark reds look black (he often thinks that black ink on his hand means he is bleeding). Pink looks gray and purple looks blue. He loves pink and purple, and I have to remind my husband that those colors look gray and blue to him (very manly, think Dallas Cowboys).

There are other forms of color blindness and varying stages of loss of vision, too. If you are looking for a bit of inspiration, whether for a story, a painting, a drawing, or something else, do a little experiment. Put yourself in someone else's perceptual position for a bit. You might just find the inspiration you were looking for. Here's a web site to get you started.


  1. I have also wondered about how individual people see colors differently. The website link was very interesting. I love olive green, but if so many things were variations of that color, I wonder if I'd get tired of it.

    By the way, I love your new blog. I see it as a green (with flecks of blue).

  2. Thanks, Kristin! The colors may not suit everyone, but I like them. :-)

  3. Enjoyed reading your blog today. My dad was colorblind, and one of my sons and a couple of nephews are, so I've been attuned to it for a long time. Even wrote a picture book on it about ten years ago, but have yet to find a publisher.

  4. Keep trying with the picture book, Ev, I hope you find a publisher for it. I think it's so important to share different perspectives/ways of seeing the world. We would buy it! :-)