According to a group labeled “Psycho Physicists” by Native Communications, Inc. of Manitoba, Canada, the eleven main colors (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, pink, brown, gray, black and white)—when altered by the shades of light and levels of red-green and yellow-blue visible to the human eye—combine into 10 million shades of color. But at the same time, the group claims “today’s standard computer screen shows over 16 million hues of color for a single full color image.” Maybe the seeming discrepancy is due to confusing hues and shades. Or perhaps any attempt to calculate the total number of combinations of colors is pointless, given the endlessly incremental nature of color, hue, and shade combinations. But questions about the differences between color and hue must arise (and must be answered) before arriving at any reasonable and believable answers. And an actual count of all the combinations may be impossible. The universe would be a simpler place (from the human perspective) if we viewed the world in shades of grey, rather than in color. Most marine mammals are monochromatic. Humans are trichromatic. Male tamarins and spider monkeys only have two cones (dichromatic), with females split between trichromacy and dichromacy. The only animals that have no cones at all, and therefore are incapable of color vision, are skates. The difference between having monochromatic vision and no color vision at all seems a bit confusing, although perhaps monochromatic vision might not be limited to seeing in black and white—maybe creatures with monochromatic vision can see only in shades of red or green or…the possibilities either are endless or severely limited; hard to say which.


As the preceding paragraph illustrates, questions about “simple” matters like color and vision can have limitless numbers of answers, none of which can be relied upon as “final.” Information and facts and knowledge blur into an imprecise haze if we attempt to understand them all at once. It is for that reason—among others—that humans tend to limit their interests in ways that enable at least modest clarity. We try to make out figures in the mist by figuratively stripping away intrusive images that interfere with precision. That is true of language, art, medicine, sound…every single aspect of our existence and our perception of the existence of everything outside ourselves. Complexity, then, is embedded in the realities with which we must deal every moment of our lives. Every. Single. Moment. There can be no serenity when complexity is so utterly impossible to understand. Chaos prevents us from achieving peace. Tranquility is an imaginary state that cannot be achieved, no matter how hard we try—and no matter whether we abandon its pursuit. Yet we can be satisfied, more or less, with an approximation of tranquility. Comparative serenity allows us to experience a noisy sample of what that imaginary state of peace must be like. Dreamless sleep—total unconsciousness—may be as close to actual serenity as we will ever get.


Two hours have flown by since I abandoned my attempt to experience an approximation of peace/serenity. I have not been especially productive in those two hours, but neither have I been unproductive. I washed some dishes, prepared food for the then-sleeping cat, made espresso, attempted to play some word games but gave up when it became apparent my brain was too jumbled to accomplish anything of consequence…and, of course, wrote this post. And more, but not much. I skimmed world news, but gave up on learning about anything that could bring about peace because there was nothing in the news that could have enabled that to happen. With all the wonders of life on this planet, humans choose, instead, to still focus so damn much attention on hatred and domination and maximizing power over other humans. I am disappointed in humanity, which includes myself. If I find the human condition so offensive, why do I not do something about it? Why do I not solve the problems of war, starvation, thirst, homelessness, violence, disease, and the like? I would, but other obligations that command my attention. We all have such excuses.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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