27 August 2020

Black and white AND/OR color?

First of all, contrary to popular assumption, black and white ARE colors.  ‘In black and white’ of course has connotations that have little to do with color. This, then, is about metaphor.

Ajith Fernando has penned a pertinent note on an old theme: ‘If one’s world is black-white then coloring it is your responsibility. If you lament the lack of colors, the first accused in this crime is no one else but you.’

Black-white, needless to say, is color-poor. Richer would it be if things were splashed with a full palette. Ajith’s mild admonishment is for those who bemoan but do nothing, not even the can-be-done parts of dispelling the gloom.

In essence, it’s a different way of saying ‘stop cursing the darkness and light a candle.’  But no, even when there are candles around, there are those who will suffer the darkness until power is restored (in the case of a power failure in the middle of the night, for example). We never have enough, but we don’t bother to consider the possibility of making do with what we do have. We don't say, 'it's not enough, but let's do our best to make it enough.'

We don’t have a full palette, but we are not completely without color. We can use them or wait for eternity for that magical set of crayons, pencils, watercolors or oils that can give us every conceivable shade. I am willing to wager that even in the unlikely event of being gifted such a complete range, we are unlikely to use them all. Think back on the first set of crayons someone gave you. Weren’t there some which disappeared from constant use, others that shortened to stubs and still others that retained original length? That’s how it is in coloring. We can color with what we have but we will complain until we are in possession of a wider set of option, to most of which we won’t give a second thought.

There’s a flip side to this as well. A lot of color is also a lot of noise. We are blinded to the details when we are forced to gaze on a bright flush of color. There are separating lines which define things, but color has a way of pushing them to margins of the invisible. What we are left with is a blur, a handsome swish of different brushes dipped in different cans of paint; and we lose the faculty of distinguishing one thing from another. We end up misnaming, misdefining and being misled.

There are times when we have to retire a lot of colors so we can obtain something at least half-way stark to facilitate comprehension. We need to break things down to constituent parts. Color, metaphorically, can and does gloss over a lot of injustice, for example. In fact color can turn falsehood into truth, injustice into justice, nightmare into the sweetest of dreams, vile and selfish intent into benevolent compulsion.  

Black-white to Color or vice versa, as Ajith would say, it’s all up to us. Well, we are not in total control of course for we neither have a complete palette nor a delicate eraser that can push aside lie and distortion. Nevertheless as long as there’s mind and heart, as long as we can imagine and have the strength to scratch away certain deceiving surfaces, we can unravel the real.
As Ajith’s observation implies, there could be more than one culprit for the crime of lamenting beyond reason, but we can only deal with that which we can control. Things are seldom completely out of control. There’s a brush and some colors we can use to turn life from dismal to palatable. There’s an eraser that allows us to get things or say things in black and white — just so it’s not all gray.

Up to us.  To the extent possible.

Other articles in the series 'In Passing...':  [published in the 'Daily News']   
Eyes that watch the world and cannot be forgotten 
 Let's start with the credits, shall we? 
The 'We' that 'I' forgot 
'Duwapang Askey,' screamed a legend, almost 40 years ago
Dances with daughters
Reflections on shameless writing
Is the old house still standing?
 Magic doesn't make its way into the classifieds

Small is beautiful and is a consolation  
Distance is a product of the will
Akalanka Athukorala, at 13+ already a hurricane hunter
Did the mountain move, and if so why?
Ever been out of Colombo?
Anya Raux educated me about Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA)
Wicky's Story You can always go to GOAT Mountain
Let's learn the art of embracing damage
Kandy Lake is lined with poetry
There's never a 'right moment' for love
A love note to an unknown address in Los Ange
A dusk song for Rasika Jayakody
How about creating some history?
How far away are the faraway places?
There ARE good people!
Re-placing people in the story of schooldays  
When we stop, we can begin to learn
Routine and pattern can checkmate poetry

Janani Amanda Umandi threw a b'day party for her father 
Sriyani and her serendipity shop
Forget constellations and the names of oceans
Where's your 'One, Galle Face'?

Maps as wrapping paper, roads as ribbons
Yasaratne, the gentle giant of Divulgane  
Katharagama and Athara Maga
Victories are made by assists
Lost and found between weaver and weave
The Dhammapada and word-intricacies
S.A. Dissanayake taught children to walk in the clouds
White is a color we forget too often  
The most beautiful road is yet to meet a cartographer