I’m color blind. I’ve never known what that really meant until yesterday, when I put on a pair of Enchroma glasses for the color blind and discovered what it’s like to see full color, or at least fuller color than I usually see. Being color blind doesn’t mean I don’t see color. I don’t live in a black and white movie. It means I see color as if everything was put through 100 laundry cycles of washing and drying. I can “identify” colors, but I can’t really “see” them.
When everything is dull and faded, faded red and faded green look pretty similar. If I try really hard and squint and contemplate what I’m seeing really carefully, I can perhaps make out a difference between red and green. But it’s too little of a difference to matter really. It was nothing more than a trivia question to me, the difference between red and green. I didn’t understand why anyone cared about red or green, since they were both almost the same. I could tell the difference and pass one of those “what color is this?” exams on the fly if I tried really hard, but I didn’t understand why people cared about the difference at all.
Then I said שהחיינו, the blessing you say for something exciting and new, and the blessing פוקח עיוורים (Blessed are you God King of the Universe etc. who gives sight to the blind) because it fit the occasion, and put on the glasses in a new flower garden with fresh soil that just happened to be planted in the synagogue front yard recently by my house. (Shout out to the Nussbacher family for planting it.) At first I saw no difference. Then the glasses kicked in a little bit after about 20 seconds or so and the first thing I noticed was that the soil was RED. Not laundered and faded red like I used to see, but RED. Then I noticed purple flowers, because purple has red in it. I knew that intellectually, but didn’t really know it experientially.
The REDness of the RED made the green stand out more as GREEN.
But none of this made me cry. It was really cool. I enjoyed it, but I wasn’t overwhelmed. I was overwhelmed by two things. First was last night, when my wife started going through her Facebook profile pictures while I was wearing the Enchroma glasses. These were pictures of memories I actually have in my brain, sitting there in storage. Real moments I remember with faded overlaundered “colors” I saw as a color blind person. Moments with my kids climbing and playing in parks and such. Now I saw these pictures with actual color, vivid extreme color, and my brain was forced back into these memories and then forced to rewrite the entire memory in color.
Every time I had a memory that Natasha reminded me of involving color, I was forced back into that memory to rewrite it entirely in terms of the picture I have of that memory in my head. It was like the scene from the movie The Butterfly Effect when Ashton Kutcher goes back in time to change one event in the past in order to change the course of his life, and then goes back to the present and his brain has to rewrite all the new memories that have happened subsequently just in a few seconds and it causes a seizure.
Now, my experience was not as intense as that. I wasn’t bleeding from the nose or anything and I didn’t wake up without limbs. I didn’t seize either, thankfully. But each time I went back in time in my head I could physically feel my brain cycling through memories very quickly and coloring them, overlaying a totally new dimension to each memory and it made the actual matter of my brain hurt. It was a physical headache quantifiable as pressure rather than pain, stemming from the very center of my head and radiating out as memories were literally rewritten. I could feel neurons firing and reorganizing themselves. Maybe I was just imagining it but I thought I could feel it. Not only the color of the memories was rewired but the associated emotions of the memories as well.
Brain scientists really need to wire up the brain of a color blind person using Enchroma for the first time while being shown pictures of his past and then monitor the brain scan. It’s gotta be a crazy thing. I felt so tired after that because doing all that rewiring that I could not stop, was totally exhausting. I teared up from that but I didn’t totally cry.
I did, however, completely break down the next day, which is today, this morning July 19th 2016, for about 5 seconds. I’m writing this at 12:30am Israel time and this happened at about 8:30am.
I walk into my daughter’s gan (camp, day care) and I see some of the arts and crafts the kids made. They were extremely colorful, very beautiful. The ganenet (teacher, supervisor) just happened to be cutting up really neon color paper as well. I mean neon color that I would have seen as bright even without my new glasses. With the glasses they looked totally radioactive to me. It was so bright I could barely stand it but still couldn’t stop looking at it.
Then I turned back to the arts and crafts the kids made, and my daughter (I’m tearing up right now thinking about it) who sees full color showed me the thing she made. It was an ice cream like thing with semi-spheres glued on to paper and a cup thing below, with glitter and sparkles and all that.
Tzivia showed me what she had made, and I could actually see the colors of it clearly. It wasn’t the colors themselves that broke me, but the fact that seeing it, I understood what colors she liked and why she chose the colors she chose in making that thing above. She wasn’t just picking colors at random and putting them all together which is what I would have done as a kid. She picked specific colors that reflected what she liked, what she enjoyed looking at, and put them all together because they matched, and made a complete picture of coherent color. And suddenly I saw how those colors fit with her personality in some kind of extra-dimensional fit of her identity that I could never see before.
It was like a whole new dimension of my daughter’s personality and existence opened up to me in a split second and I understood and I couldn’t take it. What she was doing when she made this thing, why she picked each color and why she placed one next to the other. It wasn’t the colors themselves, but my understanding of her and the fact that I just had no idea, that is what had me break down crying in front of a bunch of 5 year old kids. That a whole new dimension of her personality just flooded me instantly, too much for one brain to take without overload. I could see her picking the matching colors to make it and why.
Just crazy. I had to leave the room and calm down.
It’s like when someone says they love a certain movie but you’ve never seen the movie, so you don’t really understand why they love the movie or what about the movie moved them in whatever way. But then you see the movie and you understand more about the person because you understand what movies the person likes.
If you’re color blind, either a deutan or a protan, get these glasses. For God’s sake get the glasses. Really – for His sake, He made the world, He made our minds, which discovered how to make these glasses, so you owe it to Him to see the world as He made it. Or at least closer to how He made it than you can currently see.
Or just get them for yourself if the whole religious thing isn’t your thing. It makes waking up every day that much more exciting.
At this point I feel like the android Data in that scene from Star Trek First Contact when he is going to attack the Borg together with Captain Picard. Data is feeling a new emotion, anxiety, from his new emotion chip and he’s describing it to Picard. Picard suggests that he deactivate his emotion chip for now. Data does. Picard says, “Data, there are times that I envy you.”
If ever I want to dull it down a bit and not be distracted so much by all the vibrant insane colors, I can just take off the glasses and go back to my laundered and weathered dull reality to rest a bit and relax. Other people have to live with all that vivid color all the time and can’t turn it off. But I can.
Haha. It’s nice to be able to turn off your senses at will.