This week’s writing challenge, a splash of color, asks us to consider the power of colors as emotional triggers. As the challenge voices, there are certain colors that have stereotypical (cultural) responses – white: clean, blue: sad, red: angry, green: healthy – and there are certain colors that have would trigger more personal responses based on memories and experiences of each individual – the colors of leaves as the seasons change: reds, oranges and browns, the color of the ocean as it breaks on shore: a full gradient of blues topped with a foamy white, the storm clouds gathering on the horizon: blacks, purples, greys, and oranges if the sun happens to be setting behind the clouds. These are all great examples of the power of color. I could write blog posts about each of these, what they mean to me, and how the color influences my reactions and responses.
However, personally, the first colors I think of when I’m considering them as emotional triggers are Red and Black. Specifically, I think of a song from the musical Les Miserables titled exactly that: Red and Black. (For reference, you can check out the full song here: Les Miserables – Red and Black lyrics.)
My first introduction to Les Miserables came in the form of the 1998 film starring Liam Neeson as Valjean and Geoffrey Rush as Javert (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0119683/). I was so utterly captivated by the story in the film that I immediately went out and read the Victor Hugo classic. I was hooked. After finishing the novel I had the opportunity to see the musical performed several times, in several locations, with several different touring companies. They have all been fantastic. (Perhaps I’m just a sucker for the story no matter what form it is told in.)
This may be taking the challenge slightly out of context, as rather than “actual” colors I’m going to focus on colors as words, but there are several lines in the song “Red and Black” that help me relive the experiences of watching, reading, and listening to the story and relive the full ensemble of emotions that the story has brought out in me each and every time I’ve gotten to experience it:
The color of the world is changing day by day…
Red – the blood of angry men! Black – the dark of ages past!
Red – a world about to dawn! Black – the night that ends at last!
Red… I feel my soul on fire! Black… My world if she’s not there…
Red… The color of desire! Black… The color of despair!
Red and Black, two colors, seemingly such simple descriptions (they aren’t even the most imaginative or expressive of colors) but in this song they exist on a palate all their own. They encompass life and death, love and loss, past, present, and future. They are everything we have ever been and everything we will ever be.
Red is passion, hope, love, the dawning of a new day, the dawning of a new life, a new relationship, and all the possibilities the future may have in store, as well as the drive to make that future a better world.
Black is loss, and loneliness, the necessary evils to bring about change, strife, anguish, the demons from our pasts, the things that haunt our memories, and, ultimately, death.
These simple words, these two simple colors, help me remember all of the corresponding interactions and emotions in the story. From there, the colors help me transfer my thoughts from the story to experiences in my own life; Red and Black trigger a flood of memories: pain and sorrow, triumph and joy, and above all love – that ever constant and ever fluctuating drive in all of our lives.
Ups and downs, back and forth, good and bad, red and black: love and life. These two colors can represent the entire sum of our human experience. At least, when I’m listening to that song, they can for me.