Monday, March 31, 2014

Donning The Purple

    Of the color wavelengths in the visible spectrum, those we delineate as being purple have the shortest, most energetic waves, before leaving visibility and turning to the ultra-violet.  That is perhaps part of why purple is a color associated with profound spiritual, emotional, intellectual and psychological states.  We attach purple to the highest levels of all human conditions.  It is connected to mysticism and religion, to royalty and temporal power of the greatest kind, to mourning and loss, to violently passionate love, to inspired creativity and to seriousness of purpose. 
    Even when we see purple in use in playful ways, it retains in our psyches a weight that makes it hard to see as frivolous.  And so, it has become, for this and other reasons the go to color for persons in the highest of offices.
    Until the development of aniline dyes in the mid 1800s purple was the most expensive and rare of colorants. In fact in ancient Rome purple was obtainable only through the crushing of snail shells.  The amount needed to make enough dye was enormous, so it was reserved for the Emperor alone, thus began the notion of Imperial purple.  Over time purple expanded in its use to the Catholic clergy, first as a color worn by the Pope, and later as a color used by priests during Lent.
    This connection to the spiritual includes any part of what we call mysticism; magic, shamanism and faerie.  So much has this connection become part of our cultural road map it has reached icon status, and gets referred to almost as a joke.
    Purple in the western world is also part of the mourning tradition.  Once the full freight of grieving has passed, we are allowed to "go to purple" as a sign that grief is still there, but lessening.  As purple is the last color we can see before we "go to black" so to speak, it makes a certain sense that we choose it for this use.
    Purple is also aligned with extremity of other emotions, including passionate love, and even madness.  There is a psychological association with internal energy and volatility that is not quite controllable, which makes purple a color we connect to persons of great creativity.
    What we experience when we see purple is a rise in heart rate, and a slight, but measureable increase in mental processing speed.  We actually think a bit faster when we are exposed to purple.
    In the time I have been blogging here and on facebook I have many times posted garments that are purple, and in every case, the reaction from readers has been fast and positive.  We seem to bond to purple quickly, in the same way we respond to red, which exists at the opposite end of the visible color range. I know that I have always been drawn to purple. In fact some of my living room walls are a deeply intense shade of it. So I make a purple a color I interact with every day significantly.
    Take a moment when you can to look at where your day intersects with purple.  It could be revelatory. (slyly smiling)

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