There is so much that we take for granted on a daily basis; perhaps assuming that one person’s experience is going to be another’s for example. It was fascinating then, to watch the BBC’s Horizon: Do You See What I See?
It turns out that how we see colour is not the same: illusion, mood, culture and language all directly affect our colour vision. Show this aspirational summer sky to the Himba tribe in Namibia and they will describe the blue and some of the greens with the same word. In fact, they will take considerably longer than readers of this blog to even see there is any difference in the colours of the leaves and the sky.
Five words cover the colour of their world.
Contrast this with the Desana language in the Amazon, a tribe who, with their words for such colours as yellow-bright like the sun’s rays, and yellowy-green, and greenish-blue like moonlight, can experience and describe their rainforest hues in all their spectral glory; leaving our *language, and perhaps our colour experience, wanting.
And best of all, consider this: blue and yellow are the first colours we evolved to see and as such are hardwired into our emotional lives.
Escape into blue and our perception of time quickens.
No wonder we miss those summer skies…
*A useful list of words for colours
Have we have been given an extra hour this morning, or we have had an unwanted hour imposed on the chronology of this day. How do you see the clocks going back? I feel it is an imposition, but then I feel the measurement of time by clocks and a Pope’s calendar as a deep constriction on my soul. I cannot deny the passing of “time”, the moon waxes and wanes, the tides rise and fall, the seasons change, night follows day and so on but surely the word time is too limited to encapsulate all these concepts?
On a side note, it is strange to me that English has so many, many words and so many of them useless to most of us. Words that name words if you are linguist or grammarian (I’m not) or words that set others apart from the run of the mill of us: academic words, scientific words, specialist words that we have no cause to employ. All useful in their own way I am sure for a very few people. What about a wider range of words for the human condition: a choice of words for time, and birth and love. We have such a tragically limited choice to describe the huge range of concepts and feelings we experience.
Back to time. There is the time most of us are bound to live our lives by but we are all aware there are other types of time that we experience: when time does something else. The middle of the night, the way time passes when your child is ill or someone is dying, the way time hangs when we travel. The Greeks divided time into two concepts: kronos and kairos. Kronos is the sequential, linear time we measure with our clocks and calendars; that time we live, work and die by.
Kairos cannot be defined exactly by one word in English – it is a concept – those moments of opportunity that place us only in the now without measurement. Kronos is defined as quantative, kairos as qualitative. Kairos is something to not merely note, but to participate in. I experience this when I look at certain paintings, listen to music, stand under a tree in the wind. This is personal to me, everyone will have their own kairos moments. Sometimes the opportunity offered to humans through participating in this kind of time, not just marking it off, changes the course of history. Even if that is not for you today, kairos still offers each of us the opportunity to now and then transcend the limitations of the clockface.