The Joy and Beauty of a Colorful Life

3 Jun

By Karo Caran

How would the world look if it were devoid of colors?

I tried to imagine. The sun would not enchant us with breath-taking sunsets, nature would not soothe us with its hues of green, and we would look in vain into each other’s eyes looking for the tiniest traces of color in the irises. My first thought was that if you take the colors away, the world would bathe in shades of grey, just as it did in black and white movies. However, it occurred to me that this would not be accurate, for grey, with its range of hues, from light ash gray to dark charcoal grey, is still a color. Nor would the world be dark, as it is sometimes believed people who are blind must see it. The only way I could imagine the disappearance of colors was its dissipation into nothingness. But even then, I could not picture this in my mind’s eye.

Perhaps for that reason, for fear of nothingness, of not knowing what color is and how color looks, I am fascinated by colors. To me, the presence of colors signifies the presence of life in all its glory: the bright yellow lemon, the red strawberries, the green kiwi, the list is endless! The more colors I can gather around me, in the form of flowers, fruits, clothing, etc, the more aware I am of being alive and well, of defying nothingness.

Colors in Communist Poland

To defy nothingness has become easier with time. Colors were scarce growing up in the former communist country of Poland. In Poland, there were lots of worn-down, high-rise buildings in shades of grey (high rise and grey were the characteristics of the Soviet-style, I suppose because this type of sad and very utilitarian architecture was favored by the Soviet Union, and copied in Poland). This grey landscape was prevalent and seemed devoid of color to me. Green spaces were scarce and not well attended to, often flowerless and of yellowish-brown-green color of the untended grass. Most people dressed not in colors that expressed their personalities, but in colors available in state-run stores. And most of the time, the colors were bleak: the greys, the navys, the browns. To find a vivid color in that reality was a Herculean tas

Bursts of color around the world

Living in the US makes finding bursts of color relatively easy, just as it is in the contemporary Poland. Blooming flowers, colorful buildings, and clothing in a multitude of colors are common sights. Still, I am always on a lookout for more colors or more interesting color combinations. I rejoice at the memories of the well-matched, brightly colored sarees and tunics I saw in India, the elegant red-feathered and the playful yellow/blue birds I admired in Singapore, the colorful meals that I tried far away from and close to home. These memories of colors are a feast to my eyes, they literally open my eyes to new possibilities of perceiving the world, of displaying its joy and beauty.

Since I am partially sighted, my sensitivity to colors may seem counter intuitive. Sometimes I come across people who are genuinely surprised at my love for colors, perhaps assuming that I should focus on seeing clearer or further first, and only then indulge in admiring colors. Yet, for me seeing colors is precisely what is more important than improving my vision in any way. When people ask me how much I see, I usually tell them, “enough to read books on the IPad and enough to distinguish colors.” It is through colors, rather than being able to see one or two more rows of letters at the doctor’s office, that I perceive the world and explore it with awe for its beauty.

(Karo Caran is a novelist and has a blog titled


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