Was the dress blue and black, or white and gold? As a pop-culture enthusiast, I pride myself on the fact that I am up to speed on trivial phenomena that shake the new media. To me, it is amateurish to bring up an episode that is a year-old as reference. However, unlike most pop-culture occurrings, this particular incident, like a well-constructed house after a hurricane, stayed with me.
We take colour for granted. Let me rephrase that, I take colour for granted. The blue-black/white-gold incident made me wonder, and question my existence; maybe not so Sartre like, but it did get me thinking — what if colour is subjective?
A quick rundown made me realise that I knew at least one colourblind person in my clique. Colourblindness is a genetic deficiency, and it cannot be used in a sample set to demonstrate my speculation of colour being subjective, but what if every single individual belonging to the human race is, in fact, suffering from various degrees of colourblindness?
I am quite ignorant when it comes to grasping the specifics of deficiencies that I don’t have, but my recent fascination with colour led me to speak to a few people, and learn a thing or two: colourblindness does not entail that a person sees the world through the viewfinder of a 16mm Siemens movie camera from 1930. They are unable to entirely sight the three primary colours — red, green, and blue.
Like ‘touch’ itself, we fail to realise that sight is a sensation. It is a sensation caused by the stimulation of the sensors in the eye when light reaches the eye.The idea that sight is a sensation, and not an intrinsic property is a subtle distinction that doesn’t demand any academic hairsplitting. Since colour is a sensation, our perception of it varies every single time.
In other words, there is no right or wrong when it comes to identifying colours. Fundamentally, colours can be objective, but those are merely light properties. The shades of the colours, however, remain a subjective phenomenon. The question is, are these objective and subjective properties intimately related to each other, or are they independent?
Colour is the product of your physical reality that ceases to exist outside your intellect. That is the most fascinating characteristic of colour; you might suffer from colourblindness, and you might not even know it. Yes, a simple scan of your retina cones, and optic nerves will reveal that. But, if every single person on the planet were, in fact, colour blind, there would be no benchmark. The timeline of this planet-wide epidemic spoils the point of this hypothetical, therefore I am choosing to stay from it.
So, the next time you decide to revisit a pop-culture phenomenon, and by some strange craving for the coincidental, and the trivial, you decide to take a look at the dress again, what do you see? You see white and gold? Well, I see purple and green (Yes, I am aware of the limitations, but just play long). Who’s right? There is no way to find out.
(When he isn’t writing, the creative producer with The Rascalas watches a lot of ‘cat videos’ on YouTube)