Archive for the ‘Color’ Category

(color wheel by Moses Harris–1766)

Did you know that if you stare at a yellow circle for a minute or two and then close your eyes, you will see a purple circle floating around on the back of your eyelids? And that if you stare at a blue circle and then close your eyes you’ll see an orange circle floating? As a matter of fact, if you stare at any color on the color wheel long enough and then close your eyes, you will experience the color directly opposite on the color wheel (it doesn’t work on the computer screen, possibly because of back lighting. You have to use paint or something non-opaque).

Goethe (the German philosopher, scientist and writer) said that when we see colors, something inside of us “reciprocally evokes” the colours diametrically opposed to [them] in this diagram.” (Goethe’s Theory of Colour) (ps. the “diagram” refers to the above color circle). When we see a color, its complementary color arises inside of us, and we unconsciously experience the whole of the chromatic scale at once.

In my last post I posed a question. If everything physical in the world can be continuously reduced and reduced until it is no more than nothing, does the physical world hold any meaning?

During a particularly depressing period in his life  (he had been helping a prostitute raise her children but it didn’t work out), Vincent van Gogh moved to a city called Nuenen to live with his parents. Nuenen was a city of weavers and van Gogh spent a lot of time during the year he lived there watching the weavers work. It was during this time that he decided that weaving was much like painting, and he began to develop his method of using paints as a weaver uses threads.

When the weavers weave that cloth…the peculiar Scottish plaids, then you know their aim is…for the multicolored checkered cloth to make the most vivid colors balance each other. But for the weaver, or rather the designer of the pattern or combination of colors, it is not always easy to determine his estimation of the number of threads and their direction, no more than it is easy to blend the strokes of the brush into a harmonious whole. (Vincent van Gogh quoted in Van Gogh and Gaugin: The Search for Sacred Art by Debora Silverman)

Van Gogh carried a little lacquered  Chinese tea box full of yarn with his painting supplies. While he was painting, van Gogh would take out different colors and twist them together to maximize the balance and luminosity that is experienced by the viewer. The colors, weaving together like so many threads, evoke the feeling of balanced contrast in the world.

On observation, all those swirling, seemingly disparate particles collapse like threads into a moment of balance, creating meaning in a formless world.


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My lady told me the other night, over a divine meal of roasted chicken, mashed potatoes and brussels sprouts (it really is brussels sprouts! with an extra s! I couldn’t figure out why it was underlining it at first), that she doesn’t like it when scientists (specifically particle physicists) dissect the world into tinier and tinier pieces until the meaning is all sucked out of it. The world becomes a mass of nothings.

The universe is pulsating with an energy that we call electromagnetic waves. The frequency range of electromagnetic waves is huge–from radio waves, which can sometimes have more than 10 kilometers between them to the tiny cosmic waves, which move in wavelengths of about a billionth of a millimeter–with X rays and ultraviolet and infrared and TV and gamma rays in between. But the average human eye can detect only a very small portion of this vast range–only, in fact, the portion with wavelengths between 0.00038 and 0.00075 millimeters. It seems a small differential, but these are magical numbers for our eyes and minds. We know this section as visible light, and we can distinguish about ten million variations within it. (from Colors by Victoria Findlay)

The world is a swirling mass of electrons and photons just waiting for a finely tuned assemblage of rods and cones, optic nerve and cortex to happen by, absorb the waves and interpret the results.

This reminds me of a conversation I had with a friend at the recent Earth Day celebration here in Eugene. My friend teaches a Brahma Kumaris meditation class. She told me that Brahma Kumaris teaches that the soul is as tiny as a grain of sand and it lives in the middle of the forehead, just behind the eyes.

Our souls interact with the physical world through our bodies. My body is a wonderful and magical tool (fully equipped with millions of rods and cones) that I inhabit. Everything that I “see” is, in its original form, a wave of vibrations, perceived by my receptor cells and interpreted by my cortex.

Question of the day: at what point does the physical world become meaningless?

(Memory of the Garden at Etten by Vincent van Gogh)

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