28 June, 2016

Colour me in the pink

By theRead Desk

We rely on colours — external appearances, second-hand information — to understand our world, in most cases. Yet, they can be very misleading. Here's a selection of lucid images to help explain how to deal with this...

Colour. It's what defines an object. Colour is literally what differentiates an edible melon from a poisonous one...

^ A Hello Kitty face is embossed on a melon, grown specially in Hokkaido, Japan. The melons are harvested after the design is etched onto them. Once they ripen, they will go on sale for 5,400 Yen ($53 approx.), pictured here at the Sanrio Co headquarters in Tokyo, on June 23, 2016.

Yet, colour is only a property — not the essence — of the melon. And here's the really cool thing about colour. You notice it only when light reflects off of the melon. Until light informs you of its external surface, you really don't know anything about the melon. But even then, light can only give you information about the melon's surface. And that's pretty superficial, when you think about it. Because appearances can be fabricated. Artificial strawberry milkshake looks quite identical to the real thing...

^Participants react to a downpour of foam during a Bubble Show event in Beijing, on Sunday, June 26, 2016. Thousands of residents enjoy coloured foam churned out by machines along a running track at the event designed for children and parents' interaction. | AP

We say, “See it to believe it”, as though sight — afforded by light — is the most sureshot way of comprehending something. But when you think about it, when you rely on colour and light, you're relying on a truly second-hand source.

You literally have to believe what light tells you. But it's daft to believe what a politician — someone self-avowedly seeking power — tells you...

^ Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a news conference in front of a lighthouse at his Turnberry golf course, in Turnberry, Scotland, on June 24, 2016.

Sound familiar? When we let demagogues tell us what to think of the world we live in, we can be sure that we will end up distrusting our neighbours and handing the demagogues the keys to the city. It's what they do. It's called divide-and-rule. Set up a fictive danger, then campaign for power on the promise that they will save the world from it. Thing about demagogues, though, is that they concoct and fabricate so much that fact begins to matters very little to them.

^ Edinburgh Castle rock is illuminated with a sign to "Vote Remain" in a show of support for the campaign for Britain to remain in Europe ahead of Thursday's EU Referendum, in Scotland, on June 21. Therefore, it was understandably odd that Donald Trump would tweet congratulations to Scots on Britain leaving the European Union.

And that's how Donald Trump ended up tweeting his congratulations to Scotland, where he addressed a rally earlier this week at his golf course, even though the Scots had voted against the U.K. leaving the European Union, by a ratio of 62:38. But, you can rest assured his campaign-managers will come up with some rationalisation of the faux pas — some colourful story to justify the comment.

Ok. This is not to say that colour — by which we mean externalities, or the stories/narratives we tell about ourselves, in general — is bad or doesn't matter. It allows us to display our vital statistics up front. It allows us to make the snap decisions needed to understand something at a glance and get on with life and not sit around pondering for hours on end about the real truth behind each and every little thing.

But wasting time being obsessively contemplative is one thing; and deciding to vote for your country to leave its continent without knowing what your ballot is for, is quite another.

^ A sticker reading "I'm in" is left in the mud at Worthy Farm in Somerset during the Glastonbury Festival, Britain, June 24, 2016.

It's true. Google reported a 250% spike in the number of people searching for “what happens if we leave the EU...” almost half a day after the referendum had taken place. This sort of thing is bound to happen when you allow second-hand information to dictate your judgement — or when you allow second-rate politicians tell you a superficial story about “dangerous” immigrants and con you into abandoning the virtue of togetherness and unity.

^ The Dome of the Rock is seen in the background as Palestinians pray on the third Friday of the holy fasting month of Ramadan on the compound known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount, in Jerusalem's Old City, on June 24, 2016. Jews are barred from offering prayers at the compound.

Because, there are already enough artificial things dividing humanity. Just take a look at Israel, where Muslims and Jews revere the same structure, but refuse to share it. Such a powerful allegory about the contradiction between religion and spirituality...

^ A pregnant woman performs yoga on International Yoga Day, June 21, 2016.

See, the former is based on indoctrination and leads to sectarian strife; whereas the latter is based on free-thought, and makes you all-embracing and generous.

^ A participant takes part in the annual Pride London Parade which highlights issues of the gay, lesbian and transgender community, in London, on June 25, 2016.

Because to truly engage with the spirit, you need to open — as they say — your heart and your borders. And relieve yourself of your prejudices in order to truly embrace life and your brethren. As Charlotte Brontë put it, “Happiness quite unshared can scarcely be called happiness; it has no taste.” It's like the tongue needs to share its taste information with the brain in order for the taste to actually manifest.

^ Revellers walk near tents at Worthy Farm in Somerset during the Glastonbury Festival, on June 23, 2016.

There is something contagious and colourful about the joy that people can generate when they come together. It's strange, but in a way, when you share joy, or have your joy reflect off of another person and rebound back to you magnified, it is a form of second-hand joy, just like light seems to be a second-hand sensory informant. Right?

^ A man selling unsewn fabrics locally known as "Ankara" walks past through a street at Agege district in Lagos, Nigeria, on June 22, 2016.

Our theory is, the more you are weighed down by your colours — or the narratives we attach to the world — the less freedom of thought you will have. And the less freedom of thought you have, the more susceptible you may be to attempts by demagogues to inject their colours into you. We must be individuals to avoid the pitfalls of mob mentality, yet collectivise in order to defeat those who would seek to infuse mob mentality in us. A colourful irony, no?

So, the key might be to approach life with the understanding that we are all on the same planet, on the same boat, on the same diet, on the same highway...

^ U.S. Customs and Border Patrol officer Constantino Zarate walks an Emu off the highway as a wildfire continues to burn north of the U.S. Mexico border near Potrero, California, U.S. June 21, 2016.

... and unless we decide to look out for one another — no matter our individual colours — and strive to lead one another out of harm's way, we may all end up as roadkill.

(All photos courtesy Reuters, unless specified)

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