Monday, March 24, 2014

Go To The White

    Innocence, cleanliness, purity, chic, athleticism, mourning, precision.  These are all terms and states of being that are evoked by white.  
    Like its polar opposite black, white is a color of extremes, and holds within its referential boundaries the same dichotomous expression of fulfillment and negation.  Diametrically opposed to black in a physical sense, white is the presence of all color wavelengths in the visible spectrum; and when rendered in paints and dyes, the absence of them.
    Even before we knew this to be true of white in a scientific sense, we understood internally, that white and black were the extreme opposites of each other.  Consequently we have, in Western culture at least, associated white with all that is good, beautiful, and truthful, regardless of whatever existing facts might challenge that at the time.
     First and foremost, white is the color of innocence. We associate it with the beginning of life, with childhood, and simplicity.
     Connected to that assumption is the notion of purity of soul and of person.  So much do we cleave to that idea, that in the 19th century we decided that it was only right that a woman's purity should be psychologically reinforced when approaching the altar of marriage, and the white wedding dress was born.  And even now, when virginity before marriage is less and less a reality, the white wedding dress still commands enormous power in the mind, and controls the huge wedding market, comprising nearly all of the wedding dresses sold each year. 
    White is also a color we connect to timelessness, classicism, and a certain pared down chic.  Partly this is due to the presence in the group mind of images from the Greco-Roman cultures, even though many of these statues were painted back in the day.
    In contemporary society, this translates into things as varied as this series of white saris, a tunic and pants, or a body skimming gown.  And in each case there is a sub-textual reference to the same purity, simplicity, and cleanliness that is an inextricable part of white as we perceive it.
    Precision and aptitude are things we associate with science, and so we consequently clap white onto our scientific types.  Sure, one could say that white gets used in these cases because it will stand up to heavy washing, and will show soil right away, to signal the need to change, but there are more subtle cues revealed as well.  We have long held a connection between white and refined, cultivated thoughts and actions.  In some ways we use white to help signify the best in ourselves. And so we wear it when we want to appear above board, and direct.
    When we need to make sure we and others are perceived as clean, white is the go to.  Its still the dominant choice for underwear, and kitchen workers the world over are clad in white, more for our benefit, than their own.
    Lastly, we associate white with the realms of spirit. Ghosts, angels, and other spirit forms are all often evoked in white.  In China white is the traditional color of mourning, and we also often imagine our perfected selves that way, wearing white head to toe.
    Every color we we can see comes from fractured white light, and so white's position as the color of beginnings and generation seems apt.  That we "get" this notion on a subliminal level, and always have says something profound about the perceptive powers of Homo Sapiens Sapiens.  We see more than we know, or acknowledge. We are more than we appear. White is the color we ascribe to those ideas of us.

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