In Pursuit of Blue

We are all searching for blue.

You don’t know it, but you are. It’s primitive almost, a quiet yearning for blue, and you’ve spent your life looking for it. Some of us are closer than others. But it’s our collective drive, a primal need for something we do not have. We crave it. We need it. And thus, we seek it.

Welcome to the crossroads of linguistic theory and human studies.


Two years ago, I listened to an episode of Radio Lab that forever changed my life. Radio Lab describes itself as ‘a show about curiosity…where sound illuminates ideas, and the boundaries blur between science, philosophy, and human experience.’ Ah, be still my heart.

This particular episode, ‘Why Isn’t The Sky Blue,’ was part of their series on color. To paraphrase, there is evidence from ancient writing to suggest that, as a species, we develop words for colors in a specific order: generally, it goes black, white, red, green, yellow, and the last color that we learn to identify is, without fail, blue. Blue! Every time! We can’t see a color until we have a name for it… and we can’t have a name for a color until we can make it. Homer describes the sea as ‘wine-colored’ because the man couldn’t physically see blue – and he couldn’t see blue because there was no word for blue. A blue-less world! Imagine how strange that would be, so soft and skewed, tilted just so to accommodate for this profound lacking.

Something in my brain shifted when I learned this.

Take the theory, expand it outward, and it becomes my color theory.

Nothing exists if we do not have a name for it, but that doesn’t mean we don’t feel the void where it should be. As you are right now, you are searching for something: your blue, to be specific. Maybe you think you know its name. Maybe you haven’t the slightest idea. But you and I are both searching for our blues – in vastly different places, using completely different methods, but still we seek!

It is so unabashedly human of us, isn’t it? To search without grasping exactly what it is we’re looking for. We’re shoving our hands in the earth, over and over, in the hope that we will pull something precious from the dirt. Please do me a favor: don’t stop looking. It will take you an entire lifetime to find what you seek (and then to name it! and keep it!), but it will forever alter your sense of being. And for what it’s worth, I fully believe in your ability to find blue.

So, stay hopeful. Keep digging. Allow the colors to find you as you are – let them mold you into who you need to be.


3 thoughts on “In Pursuit of Blue

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