When people learn that I’m partially color blind (or color deficient, as the optometrist explained), they always ask two questions:
- What colors can’t you see?
- What’s it like?
My answer to both questions is the same: I have no idea. If I knew, I wouldn’t be color blind. I was never told by my eye doctor what colors I struggle with, so I don’t have a detailed explanation to offer others. In regards to that second question of what it’s like not to see colors, I honestly I have no idea…
I don’t know the difference, and if I don’t know what it’s like seeing in full, vivid color, how can I explain what it’s like to see the world slightly duller? It’s a matter of perspective, but each of us comes from just one experience and, therefore, don’t have the capability to explain the other.
The line I use to laugh off people who express their sincere, yet trite condolences is that “I don’t don’t know what I’m missing,” because I don’t. My world is as it should be. You can’t miss what you never had to begin with.
And that’s what’s making me increasingly nervous as I see more and more videos like the one below showing a man putting on a pair of EnChroma glasses that allow him to see in full color for the first time in his life. Watch…
It’s as magical a moment as they come.
Consider the shock: You go through 30+ years of life seeing the world—your mom, your dad, brothers and sisters, your neighborhood, your own eyes, absolutely every single detail of your existence—you see the world as it is, the same way, for decades. Then, imagine closing your eyes to everything as it should be and opening them a split second later to a landscape new and unfamiliar.
Sure, I don’t know what I’m missing, but I also don’t know if I want to find out, either. I fear loving that new world and never wanting to take off those magical glasses, which would change my identity. And not just because I’d always be wearing sunglasses. My perspective would shift, and even the subtlest change would add a new layer to who I am and how I interact with the world around me.
The fact that I can’t see color as well as most of you has in no way diminished my life experience. At least, not from my singular perspective. On the contrary, maybe I’m the one better off, not distracted by all those pretty yellows, reds and greens.
What do you think? Should I track down a pair of these glasses, or stick to the world I know?