The pain is still there. But I want to use it as wood, as coals, as embers. There is always a light. — April 21, 2014
There is something about the light that has always gotten me. I get depressed when I’m not out in natural sunlight enough. Something about the warmth on my skin is healing, restorative beyond any other source. The all-giving, the asking of nothing back. Or is it? Does the light need me too? Are we symbiotic forces or are we co-dependent? Is the light the only way I see color – and yet, does it by its very nature also limit the colors I can see?
These are not questions I thought I’d be seeking when I went to go see the lecture “The History of Questioning Color Perception” at The Machine Project. But as I listened to the hour-long lecture, I began to question my perception of the light and its role in my life. And ultimately, because I am a love junkie, it made me question my perception of relationships, my body, my ability to feel. It made me think about healing and restoration.
Just a little
Professor Zed Adams talked about the history of color perception, hitting mainly on the views of Aristotle, Descartes, and Dalton.
Aristotle held that the colors we perceive are attributable directly to the object we are looking at i.e. a causal process of transference. In other words, we perceive that blue jeans are blue because of some immutable quality in the jeans of “blue-ness”.
Connection of the body and mind. Light is the medium which transfers blue-ness to my eyes and then makes me recognize: blue. Color as fixed and transferable, but immutable.
Descartes argued that our perception of color does not truly reflect or resemble anything in the object we are looking at, or, “colors, tastes, smells, and so on, are…merely certain sensations which exist in my thought, and are as different from bodies as pain is different from the shape and motion of the weapon which produces it.”
A separation of the body (i.e. reality) and the mind (i.e. mere sensory perception).
Despite my better judgment
Despite the brightest sunlight filtering through the windowpane and onto my skin in
By 7 am
Despite Method Man and Limp Bizkit playing on KDAY and making me
At the absurdity of
Despite telling myself,
Okay, you’ve got this,
Despite embracing the grind
Crumpled up dollars in
Which could be nothing
Which could be coins I’ve rolled into tubular bank-approved
Even though I found a parking spot in the morning
And have coffee
And have a mother
There is a place
You still get to live
Despite my better judgment
Despite wanting to shut you out
And just let the sunlight fill in the shadow-slats
And just let the coffee seize my veins
And just let the grind replace you but
Despite it all
I accept the melancholy
On this Monday morning
Which should be new beginnings
Which should be warm
A strange sun-stricken sadness
That I let bleed
Onto my skin
Onto my heart
Even when I can’t lift the corners of my mouths and pretend, while ordering more coffee,
Don’t live here
Like a gnome
Like a lover
Like the kind of sunlight that burns
Abruptly, suddenly, and slowly
And then there is Dalton, who pioneered the studies on color blindness and referred to it as “a shortage of color perception.” A lack, missing cones in the eyes.
I have always had horrible vision, and once almost went blind when I cut my eyes with contact lenses. It took a long time to heal, and even now I often get eye infections and struggle with comfort in vision. When people give me compliments on my eyes, I think of how little I can see. I think often of the lack, the invisible lack that forms my perception of myself and others. The space carved out. What you see as a wave, a mountain. What I see as erosion.
This lecture made me look at my body and mind and question my vision, my perception, the way I see versus how you see. Then, I looked at my most recent poetry, seeing how much I refer to the light, the sun, the warmth. It made me think about what the light is letting in, and also what it could be shutting out. And it made me think about the variable nature of sensory perception.
If we fell into each other
On a sun-stricken day
Following the same corners of our bodies I don’t know
If I’d want to hear the sound.
Taste the taste.
Of you-now. Of me-now. Of the us-now hybrid monster we could
I want the memory of you
Like Lik-M-Aid sticks
Dissolving but not
Gone. Next to my human skin
But with my
Professor Zed discussed the sun as a force of light that is too powerful to look at but which enables us to see color. However, he also mentioned that objects also have an influence on the light. Though the sun is powerful, we fight back. Or, alternatively, we give back. Or, alternatively, we become the object of the light’s affection. The sun could be obsessed with me, with us. The sun could need us for blue-ness.
The lecture also touched on concepts of a range of sensitivity to light. Some of us are more sensitive to regions of light, and some are not. This varies our color perception experience. I think about this in terms of how I live versus how other do. I want to be sensitive to all the regions, to know it all. I want a color experience so rich and unrelenting, that perhaps I become blind. Do you? Maybe you are better off for not wanting. For not wanting it all. If I could be sensitive to only some regions, maybe I could truly see in that way. Is it limited, or does it lead to developed, targeted strength? My mind is often wandering, and maybe I am (over) exposed.
Zed talked about the way different external experiences could produce the same internal experience, and also, alternatively: the same external experience could produce various internal experiences. Therefore, you hold my hand. Therefore, he holds my hand. Therefore, (that person) holds my hand. And I: leave.
Alternatively: you hold my hand. He slaps me. (That person) hands me a hundred dollar bill. And I: leave.
Do we make the same mistake over and over? Is this response an immovable, transferable response to transference by an external behavior (i.e. Aristotle’s thought) You offer me pain-ness like blue-ness, and the light transfers pain-ness to my eyes. In that case, is there hope for change? For a new way? For a healing?
Or, does our internal response have nothing to do with the qualities of what you are offering me? (i.e. Descartes’ theory). You treat me like absolute shit, you give me shit, but the light gives it to me, and I make it into love in my mind. Because I can separate you from my body. But then, maybe there is more hope. For things to go wrong, yes, but also for things to change. A different response. A new love collage.
Not everyone can discriminate between colors equally. But we assume uniformity because of our own experience. Do you have a lacking? Or am I the one who is missing something? Seeing colors is, by its nature, partial.
I say I want all the light, all of the colors.
But do I?
Your writing is beautiful.
About starving yourself
I don’t really want to talk much about my eating disorder, but from this lecture I did think about the way, when I was almost dead from lack of eating, when I lay on my bed alone and almost succumbed to not breathing, when I felt my bones press into the mattress and began to lose consciousness, thinking: I can fly now, I am a bird—
There was so little light, so little color, so little warmth. I was always cold. But still, perhaps the only place I could find peace, was when I was outside in the sunlight. Letting the sun filter through skin and heat what was left of my bones. My mind seemed to shut off for that time, and I just felt the pleasure. A separation of body and mind. And yet, the fusion of both of them. Maybe, the sun saved me. Maybe, the sun needed me too. Because I gave it a purpose, a job. Because objects affect the light, too. They press back.
Maybe, one day, I will have a new language for colors. All of the colors. And one day this will blind me. Maybe one day, you will see me. Truly see me. Whatever that means.
You left me
Like there was nothing for you here in this house of
My limbs are living still
My limbs are loving still
In a sun-stricken graveyard
But here we are.