Black and White

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The majority of colorblind people face significant obstacles, the most universal and obvious being our often humorous inability to match clothing. Among the color inhibited, I experience the world’s visual exuberance on an even flatter plane, being almost, but not quite, completely colorblind.

I have been thoroughly tested by many specialists over the years. While some were eventually able to classify my deficiency, I pretty much failed every test… or that’s what it felt like…

One such test… pretty much a method of torture for the colorblind… consists of ordering 15 colored discs by similarity along a line. There are different sets of these discs. They are intended to determine both the type and intensity of colorblindness to a level well beyond the more common dot tests. Each time a tray of the unordered discs was laid out in front of me I would say, “They all look the same to me.” The doctor would smile at my joke, because they indeed looked quite similar to him too. Upon returning to see the results of my sincere attempts to create order from this chaos, I could tell that he was, in equal measure, impressed and chagrined by the complete lack of any pattern whatsoever. I imagined his thoughts… something like, “Come on! At least make an effort. What good am I if you don’t at least create a modicum of orderly divergence for me to interpret?”

An example to put this in perspective. On annual week-long childhood visits to my father in San Diego, he would often work during the days, so the TV was my best buddy. On one such visit, he said, “Oh… and I’m really sorry about the TV. It’s all we have.” I was perplexed by his apology, “What’s wrong with this one? It’s fine.” He responded quizzically, “Well… you mean… besides being a black-and-white TV.” I vividly remember seeing surprise ever so slowly replace skepticism on his face, as he came to realize that I seriously had no idea that I hadn’t been watching a color TV all week.

My mind is quite used to projecting imagined colors onto gray, based upon a lifetime of shade and context pattern recognition. I’m only consciously aware of color when it is extremely saturated and well lit. The rest of the time, I just assume that it’s there… somewhere. I see only enough color to know what I’m missing.

These ramblings represent examples of wants and desires, stimulated by the thrill of discovery and promise, then stifled by a seemingly rather mundane sensory limitation.

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