I hope I am not alone in remembering how perfectly perfect the sharpened points were on a brand new set of Crayola crayons, fresh out of the box. They had that paper wrapping which you loved at first but then hated as you ran out of crayon at the top. They had the smell, distinct and waxen, man-made, but also delightful in a cathartic sort of way.
Even as kids, we all knew there was something magically indisputable about crayons, an absolute truth that need never be acknowledged. Crayons were a direct link between the physical world and the depths of our absurd younger selves, raw and unfiltered as they were. Through them, we addressed the color of our thoughts, the tone of our feelings, showed the vibrant interactions between our senses and sensibilities – a capacity which grows ever more dependent on words as we stretch further into our adult lives.
Silly though it may seem, I would like to think there is a deeper reason we all colored as children, a reason so painfully obvious its significance has become largely unrecognizable. So far as I can tell, this reason has something do with the macro and micro, or things within things. And it may be a wholly unremarkable thing to speak about in somewhat serious terms, but maybe not.
To explain, I would invite you to consider how simple your life was as a child. When there was less in the world, less to the world, and far less bouncing around inside your little head. Anything that could be said was said simply, and logical impulses flowed along the continuum of either/or. Life merely was, and we never paused to consider what that meant – we were kids, after all.
Crayons were no different in this regard. Just simple objects. We started with red, black, blue, orange, purple, green, yellow, and brown. And these eight colors were all we needed to make sense of reality, or bend it to our own will. They were symbols, in a way – the language of life itself. Green complimented some sense of livelihood, spoke to a richness in the essence of things; orange was bold and somehow naughty, but also pure; blue was deep, a reflection of the vastness within ourselves; and red was red, distinguished and confident, striking; passionate.
Except, we all knew this, experienced the power of color every day. So these eight crayons are only worth mentioning because they did no more than scratch the surface. Sooner or later, we came to realize that simple yellows and purples were not enough. We began to see all myriad shades of green that green wished to speak on behalf of, like sea green, granny smith apple, blue-green, forest green, olive green, and so many more. The ability to distinguish these colors from generic ole’ green became a significant thing for us. And herein lays the bridge between the macro and micro.
We came to know specificity, and wanted to share this understanding through our labeling of the world, via color. But we also knew how a color like red ‘felt’ to us, and to others. We knew how well it could remind us of anger, or love (and isn’t it amazing how the same color can be associated with such polar emotions?).
We knew how special every color was in its own right, how immediate and urgent our responses to them were. After all, the immediateness of color is meant to bring focus and clarity, to avoid confusion. And the reason this is important is because, in a lot of ways, most of us still try to view the world as simply as we can. We focus on the colors which grab our attention most easily. We look at people, places, even ourselves, and continue to stick with basic blues and yellows to describe how the world moves us, because anything more would just be too much, or too difficult.
But I am here to say that sometimes simplicity can work against us. While totally beautiful, sometimes these eight basic colors are truly not enough. There is more to red than just an affiliation with anger or love, and to say that you have ‘felt’ every color in the visible spectrum because you experienced Roy G Biv would be to reduce the world of all its magic.
Some people have days filled with turquoise, marigold, or magenta. Some people are a 64-color crayon box with a sharpener in the back. It is these individuals are often hard to relate to, because when they say ‘lavender,’ most of us immediately think of ‘purple.’
To those who have lavender days, you know the difference.
And if this is too obvious a thing to address, then turn the page, dismiss these words. If not, then I would encourage any who see the world as a combination of eight colors to dig deeper, to stretch themselves, open up to a world of 64 colors, maybe more. There are things within things, if you look closely enough. And while being human means that we are all pre-programmed with an understanding of the eight basic colors/feelings of day-to-day life, being human also invites the possibility of re-writing such programs, because they are primitive, or out-dated.
There are so many people with whom we can connect through red, yellow, and blue. But there are also just as many people wishing to find someone with whom to share the meaning of auburn, bronze, or periwinkle.
This is an important thing, I think. Or so I wish to suggest…