Re-Discovering The Color Blue

For exactly one month, I wore blue-blocker sunglasses to see what the world looked like without blue.

What would it be like to see blue again for the first time?

I was excited to find out. With little fanfare, I removed the sunglasses while looking at a prism rainbow projected onto my floor.

The blue and violet instantly returned to the rainbow.

The moment I removed the blue blocker glasses after one month. Left: blue-blocked simulation. Right: unfiltered version.

I looked around. Icy blue light was everywhere, and the world was newly white and clean.

Possessed by the urge to make everything even cleaner, I began washing dishes. This is when I first saw the sky: reflected as a floating film of blue in the dishes and in water for ice cubes.

I would never have thought to take photos like these had blue light never been absent from my life. But now they seemed like poignant portraits of a long-lost friend.

Rose-colored glasses

Around the house, I began to notice the real colors of possessions I’d acquired since putting the glasses on: a bottle of ibuprofen’s cap was bright blue rather than green, as were the bristles of a detangling hairbrush. A brass pendant had looked silver, and a letter on yellow legal paper had looked white.

My first impression was so different that it’s still hard to believe this is its real color. Source: Walgreens.com

Knowing I was limiting my blue vision with yellow-tinted glasses, I could have guessed these things with the glasses on, but to do this I would have had to be extremely suspect about all new green things and all white things.

We all filter the world through biased lenses: our friends, what we read, and where we go all shape what we take in. Even if we know how we are biased, as I did with the blue lenses, it’s hard to know exactly where and how it affects us.

But the minute a filter is removed, the bias we had is instantly obvious. It isn’t enough to remove it: it takes re-examining the rest of the world without it, as I surveyed my misunderstood new possessions, to understand its impact.

The Exact Color of the Sky 

My first look at the sky after removing the blue blocker glasses

Things that were the exact color of the daytime sky became weirdly pleasurable, like seeing something glow in the dark.

The sky itself seemed solid, as if it was made of pool-cue chalk.

Text messages, spray paint, masking tape, and tarps seemed to take on an animated, alive quality just by being this color.

My mind would scan a scene and all the blue would pop out as if it was the only information that mattered. It reminded me of when blue M&Ms first came out: a shock of electricity among the earthy browns and greens and the warm reds and oranges.

Animated GIF simulating what it was like to get blue M&Ms in 1995. Not pictured: the tan M&Ms that were replaced.

The Phantom Unmasked

While wearing the glasses, I swore I could sometimes see blue.  That is, my brain seemed to see as blue things I already knew were blue. But when I took the glasses off, and I saw how truly blue those things now looked, this phantom blue seemed ridiculous.

“The real thing” is unmistakeable. It’s like the saying about how you tell the difference between a crow and a raven: to wonder is to be looking at a crow. There’s no mistaking a raven.