Blue people


Have you ever thought about what life would be like for people who saw everything as if looking through a blue-tinged lens?

For these people, everything in the world would be a shade of blue. Their car would be a shade of blue. The sky would only be distinguishable from the ground by its shade of blue. In the mirror, they would see their skin, teeth, eyes as shades of blue. Others might be able to distinguish people by the colour of their skin, but for them all people would be different shades of the one colour.

The rest of the world might associate emotions with certain colours, but for the blue people those associations would be meaningless. What does a phrase 'green with envy' mean to a person who can only see blue? How can a person who can only see blue understand a phrase like 'red hot'? How would they feel when they heard other people saying they were 'feeling blue'?

Thinking more deeply about this predicament raises another question: Would only being able to see the colour blue also inhibit the range of feelings available? Blue is seen as a soothing colour, while red tends to inflame the senses. These are genetic predispositions, ingrained in our being. So would a person who could only see blue appear calmer than other people? Would they be less quick to anger? More introspective?

If seeing in shades of blue did affect the way they reacted to the world, would it also affect their emotions? Someone who struggles to feel the fiery emotions that come tinged in red might struggle to feel the same passions as other people. How could they understand anger? How could they understand love? Other metaphors might take the place of colours. We can still burn with love without seeing the red fire. But, washed and immersed in a cold blue universe, would love still burn as strong?

You might say that the blue people would be just like those born without sight. A blind person learns to rely on other senses. Those who never know sight can still feel love, anger, jealousy, pain, hatred, excitement, amusement, arousal. The strength of these feelings is undiminished for the lack of visual metaphors. But those who see the world in tinges of blue aren't lacking in a sense—they are being deceived by a sense. They don't have a hole in their universe. Their universe is lying to them. Or more accurately, their body is lying to them about the universe. So what effect do these lies have on their realities?

It's one thing to be deceived, another thing to be physically unable to perceive the truth. To know that the universe you see is a lie, but that no matter how hard you try you will never know just how much of a lie. How would they know where the fake blue ends and the real blue begins? Once the deception is revealed they might, like the blind person, learn not to trust their sight and to rely on their other senses. They might learn to ignore the blue universe. Or perhaps they have come to love that universe. Perhaps they will continue to hold onto the blue universe, as diminished and as deceitful as that universe is.

Should we pity the blue people of this world? Should we pity those whose vision is shrouded so that they cannot know anger, nor hatred, nor excitement, nor love the same way that we know it? Are the blue people of this world fully human if they cannot feel it, if they cannot embrace it, if they cannot be immersed in it, in the same way as us?

Or are we just as impoverished as the blue people? Are we just as blinded by the lenses over our own eyes? 

Michael McVeighMichael McVeigh is editor of Australian Catholics

Topic tags: Michael McVeigh, prejudice, vision, poverty



submit a comment

Existing comments

At least, the blue people won't vote green!
john frawley | 20 June 2012

In a sense, we are all just like your "blue people". Except that instead of one blue lens, we have multiple lenses conditioning what we 'see, or 'know'. (1) We consider everything through the lens of our 'humanity'. Voltaire famously said, "It is said God made man in his own image. Well man has retaliated." All our thinking of God is conditioned by humanity as we know it. Genesis portrays God as man-conditioned. Not just walking in the garden, but making mistakes, being angry, and vengeful. In the Gospels, as God-made-man, he is shown as repeating (copying?) all the 'magic'(?) deeds that were part of the old 'pagan' religions. (2),We are further restricted - individually- by seeing everything from one (our) point of view. (3),The next lens that rerstricts us is the limited data that is available to us at our particular degree of development. That is why early mankind 'knew' the world was flat, that Heaven was a material 'place' just above the clouds, and that God was 'constrained' to intervene in human affairs to try to keep us on the right track.Then there are (4) 'Our traditions', which we are reluctant to examine too closely.
Robert Liddy | 20 June 2012

@John Frawley: my favourite colour is 'blue' and I vote for the Greens!
Seriously, I think we all have a 'favourite' colour. It's important though that God doesn't have a favourite colour. And it's important that, even though we may have a favourite colour, we can see the beauty of all colours(not too keen on puce though).
Pam | 20 June 2012

I think Michael's reflection here is a welcome relief from the inhumane bickering happening in comments following controversial ES stories last week. From the over-100 comments in one article, it shows we are quite happy to examine "Our traditions" but reluctant to see these traditions through the same colour as another person's lens.
AURELIUS | 20 June 2012

Plato - Book VII of the Republic - The Allagory of the Cave.....This entire allegory, I said, you may now append, dear Glaucon, to the previous argument; the prison-house is the world of sight, the light of the fire is the sun, and you will not misapprehend me if you interpret the journey upwards to be the ascent of the soul into the intellectual world according to my poor belief, which, at your desire, I have expressed whether rightly or wrongly God knows. But, whether true or false, my opinion is that in the world of knowledge the idea of good appears last of all, and is seen only with an effort; and, when seen, is also inferred to be the universal author of all things beautiful and right, parent of Light and of the Lord of Light ( John 8 : 12 ) in this visible world, and the immediate source of reason and truth in the intellectual; and that this is the power upon which he who would act rationally, either in public or private life must have his eye fixed.
Myra | 20 June 2012

Similarly rose coloured glass was sold for choosing to see through a rose coloured tint. And be deceived by a more favourable rosy world. Would the rosy world have a similar effect to the blue world to result in a more generous, caring mood?
Maggie | 21 June 2012

If the blue people joined force with the yellow people then the yellow people would be less frightened and together they would see the world as green and vote naturally as they see
graham patison | 23 June 2012


Subscribe for more stories like this.

Free sign-up