The colour of the world


Have you ever had the experience of seeing things all around you in a colour for a time?  And then that colour changes.

It’s like the leaves changing.  When the leaves are that bright spring green as they are in the moment when spring has not yet sprung, when the buds of leaves are just bursting into leaf and they have that intensely bright hopeful colouring…when you drive by avenues of them, the greens blend into each other and blur, and the whole world feels on the edge of a surge of something-ness.

You know that the leaves will change.  Wait for it, and miss it, and find it later.  You know there will be that moment of spring green-ness, followed by a deeper green into the depths of summer when the leaves are fully out with their beautiful contours, and then the gradual brown creeping in turning to crackling, until they fall right off and crunch underfoot, all brown and down.  With the spring green comes such an up-ness, and with autumn brown a gentle descent.  Down can be inviting though, down is not always low, it can be rolling as it exists in relation to up.

Each colour carries its emotion within itself.  And each colour has a spectrum of emotions to offer.

And yet because you know the drill, you know the pattern of one moving to the next, while you feel it with the whole of you, you also know the story – how it begins and ends and keeps going.  It’s familiar, it’s always a surprise, but it’s a comfortable surprise of remembering and repeating.

It’s a different feeling when the colour of the world just changes.  Maybe you didn’t even know it was coloured until it does change.  What was clear suddenly clearly had a tint.

So you thought you were wearing clear glasses but actually they were shades.  Some people wear dark glasses all the time, maybe they get so used to the dark hue of the world they think that’s how it is.  And some people have those glasses that go dark in the light, as if they cannot bear too much light.

So when the colour of the world changes and now it seems clear again, you realise how coloured it was before.  So you have to ask yourself, is it really clear now?  How do you know? You just keep stripping away the layers, like old paint on a wall, and maybe you get down to the substance itself.  You need paint stripper, wallpaper-remover, all those psychological chemicals, to make sure you’re really removing it and not just putting more on.  The layers accumulate and they are so tightly packed one on the next, you can’t even tell one from another.  And how do you know when they’re all gone?

You just have to stay with it – like an optician, each lens gets clearer and lighter, like a painter doing your preparations with great attention, care, discipline and persistence.

And sometimes you may wonder, would you want a world without colour?  Would you want instead the right colour for each scene, each situation?

The shock is when you realise the picture itself that you painted, is not there.  You blink back something, short of breath.  And so there is a disappointment when you reach out to touch that which has no substance.  You let go of that which cannot be grasped or held.  You step back and wait and accept.

The blinking stops, the breath is quiet.

Actually, this is a good place to be.

Other echoes
Inhabit the garden. Shall we follow?
Quick, said the bird, find them, find them,
Round the corner. Through the first gate,
Into our first world, shall we follow
The deception of the thrush? Into our first world.
There they were, dignified, invisible,
Moving without pressure, over the dead leaves,
In the autumn heat, through the vibrant air,
And the bird called, in response to
The unheard music hidden in the shrubbery,
And the unseen eyebeam crossed, for the roses
Had the look of flowers that are looked at.
There they were as our guests, accepted and accepting.

So we moved, and they, in a formal pattern,
Along the empty alley, into the box circle,
To look down into the drained pool.
Dry the pool, dry concrete, brown edged,
And the pool was filled with water out of sunlight,
And the lotos rose, quietly, quietly,
The surface glittered out of heart of light,
And they were behind us, reflected in the pool.
Then a cloud passed, and the pool was empty.
Go, said the bird, for the leaves were full of children,
Hidden excitedly, containing laughter.
Go, go, go, said the bird: human kind
Cannot bear very much reality.
Time past and time future
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.

– T S Eliot, Burnt Norton

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2 Responses to The colour of the world

  1. Viv says:

    Glorious and haunting.

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