Adding Color to Your Life

In his fascinating book An Anthropologist on Mars (Knopf, 1995), Oliver Sacks relates seven paradoxical tales of unusual neurological conditions and how the patients who suffered from them adapted mentally and emotionally. In one of these narratives, he tells of a successful 65-year-old artist who had lost his ability to see color.

"Mr. I. could hardly bear the changed appearances of people (‘like animated gray statues') any more than he could bear his own appearance in the mirror...He saw people's flesh, his wife's flesh, his own flesh, as an abhorrent gray... As the months went by, he particularly missed the brilliant colors of spring – he had always loved flowers, but now he could distinguish them by shape or smell. The blue jays were brilliant no longer; their blue, curiously, was now seen as pale gray... He could no longer see the clouds in the sky, their whiteness, or half-whiteness as he saw them, being scarcely distinguishable from the azure...

Fixed and ritualistic practices and positions had to be adopted at the table; otherwise he might mistake the mustard for the mayonnaise, or, if he could bring himself to use the blackish stuff, ketchup for jam... Red and green peppers were also indistinguishable, because both appeared black...."

It is hard for us to fathom how radically our lives would change without color. The great Hebrew writer N.H. Bialik, reminds us, however, that beyond our physiological ability to capture the different hues via the cones of our eyes, we have the power to add color to the canvas of our lives - in the way we observe the world around us and in the way we live out our days. "Then many colors [hues], new colors, shall you adjoin to the light in your life."

Then many colors [hues], new colors, shall you adjoin to the many colors [hues], new colors

COLOR Table of Contents



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