So, Eldest Progeny climbed into the car after school on Friday, and introduced me to a new idea that has sent me down a fascinating rabbit hole.
I did some digging. EP may have gotten this assertion from a reference to this article:
It’s a fascinating description.
But, there’s also a cool rebuttal “Yes, Virginia, There is a Magenta” , which, as I understand it, basically says that, technically, there are no colors at all. Everything we sense as a “color,” is just our brain’s way of interpreting wavelengths. The cones of colorblind folks don’t pick up certain wavelengths of light, and certain diseases and medications can interfere with distinguishing between some wavelengths.
People who don’t have lots of exposure to different wavelengths don’t have those frequencies distinguished in their brains. In every language on the planet, “blue” was the last of the colors to be described. Universally, black and white come first (thought sometimes as “light” and “dark”), followed by red (wine and blood), and then yellow and green. Blue comes last (earliest in Ancient Egypt, who was, not coincidentally, the first culture to create blue dye).
We take certain facts for granted as being “true.” The sky is unquestionably blue. But the Himba people of Namibia have no word for blue, and would assert the sky is a shade of green. Homer had no word in Early Greek for “blue” – the Aegean Sea in his Iliad and Odyssey is “wine-dark.”
(This is a fascinating rabbit hole in its own right. Check out this Business Insider article for more.)
It also makes me wonder about a semi-frequent joke in our household. Dear Husband claims that he personally only has, at best, a 24 pack of crayons in his head (though he was born with the 8 pack and had to work to sort of hit 24), but observes that some people are born with a 24 pack and can move up to the 96. I think he’s hit on something a lot more insightful than I previously understood.
Homer’s wine-colored sea and the Himbia’s green sky are just as true as our blue seas under equally blue skies. We must remember, that they are working with the words and understanding of the world that they have access to.
I am reminded of a friend of Youngest Progeny, who suffered from a broken arm (at the same time YP did – but from different causes!). Friend was attempting to scratch the nearly-healed, and very itchy arm, and dropped an object into the cast. Parent asked what object, Friend replied, “a ring.” Doctor decided that the irritation caused by a foreign body inside the cast was more harmful than taking it off a day early – parent was quite irritated that the object in question was not a “ring,” but was the metal piece on a pencil that holds the eraser on. Claimed the child “lied.” But, when we later spoke about it – she took a moment to consider the shape of the object, and to think about a 6 year-old’s vocabulary. What other word would you expect a child to use?
(Plus, it makes logical sense that a child would use a pencil to scratch an itch, rather than dropping a random small object into a cast.)
That was several years ago, but I was reminded of it when considering the nature of “truth” and how it relates to language and interpretation.
We have to meet children where they are. They are literally incapable of understanding the same truths we are, until they have been given the same cultural expectations, understanding, and language we have access to.
If our understanding of color – and the world in general – is dependent on the way our individual brains interpret things, it makes me wonder whether this is true of everything.
Be patient with each other, but especially the children.
Every truth has two sides; it is as well to look at both, before we commit ourselves to either. – Aesop