Monday, January 26, 2015

Never Take Color for Granted

Chris is seeing blue & yellow in art for the first time.  At the aquarium, he saw fish and coral where he'd previously seen blurs.

It would be difficult to overstate how much my life has changed since, about 4 months ago, I took a big step away from color blindness.

People close to me have have noted changes in my personality -- they say I'm more patient, relaxed, or happy.  I suspect it's all true.

But after four months of color, today was another notable day.  For the first time in four months, I took color for granted.

I hope I never do it again.

In my defense I can say that I had just spent a grueling but exciting weekend in Chicago, filming other color blind people seeing colors for the first time, using the new AmplifEye prototype digital technology for bringing color to the color blind.

I got home from Chicago after midnight Sunday, intending to go straight to sleep, but made the fatal mistake of "peeking" at the 63 gigabytes of video from the weekend. The video shows unmistakable success in bringing color to the color blind.   I fell asleep at 5, woke up in a daze at 9, and was passably lucid in the afternoon, when I drove into town to buy groceries.

As I was getting into the car, I realized I had left my color-correcting glasses inside.  They're usually around my neck, but in my mental fog I had left them on my dresser.  I was cold, and decided that  I could do without color for a run to the grocery store.  I took color for granted.

I didn't miss color on the drive to the grocery -- pretty much everything is white this time of year.  Entering the store, I came face to face with the produce.

For 57 color blind years, I had I bought produce without much trouble.  The only real problem for me was determining whether bananas were ripe.  In my previous life, I would have stopped a friendly looking person, explained that I was color blind, and asked which bananas to buy.

I couldn't do it.  My color blindness never used to feel like a handicap, but now it did.   Rather than beg a stranger for banana help, I bought a pomegranate.

The bananas didn't matter.  What mattered was... everything else.  Surrounded by fruits and vegetables, I was perfectly qualified to transact the commercial business of buying non-banana groceries.  But I have taken a bite of the color apple, and I am no longer innocent of the knowledge of what I'm missing.  Looking at the produce was the antimatter equivalent of a "wow" moment.  In a word, it was sad.

To date we've tested 3 other color blind people using the AmplifEye technology.  Every "wow" -- and there are plenty of them -- has a tinge of regret for years lost without color.  Even 17 year old Chris spoke of the time he had lost.

I've turned my own 57-year tinge of regret into a new mission.  I want to give the gift of color to every color blind child, at the earliest age possible.  The earlier kids get treatment, the more colors they will learn to see, and the less they will ever need to regret.

As a few of you know, I'm working my way up to a crowdfunding effort to turn the AmplifEye prototype into a reality. Whether that's news to you or not, I invite your comments on this draft explanation of what we want to do:

Life is worth living without color. The color blind don't need to be pitied.  As far as handicaps go, color blindness is a pretty small one.  But everyone deserves color in their life.  In a few weeks, I'll be asking for your help spreading the word about the crowdfunding.  But in the meantime, consider this:  1 out of 12 males (and 1 in 200 women) is color blind, with half of them considered moderate to severe.  How many of the people you care about are colorblind?  Who are they?  And what would you do if you knew you could bring color into their lives?

John, seeing green in Van Gogh for the first time.   Pictures of forests also astonished him.  I, on the other hand, was gobsmacked by the red in sunsets.


  1. The "tree of knowledge" aspect of these tests has been the most interesting aspect to me as an outsider looking in. Eloquently put.

  2. I have never seen the color green, and yet all my life I have answered "green" when asked what my favorite color is. I identify green with Spring, plants, and other signs of life. I still haven't seen "green", but I do wonder if it would still be my favorite color!