Wendell Berry's Rootedness
The Frustration of Frustration

The Colors Green and Blue

Pine_treeLying on my back today in my back yard, looking up at the pleasing green of the pines against the blue sky, a question popped into my head:  Why does the juxtaposition of the colors green and blue, or more broadly, the colors in the natural world around me -- mostly brown, green, and blue -- create such a pleasurable feeling?  I have to think that a red sky and orange trees would not create the same sensation.

I can put what I know about color and our perception of it in a thimble, but I know a few things. Newton observed that color is not inherent in an object but, rather, the surface of an object absorbs some colors in the spectrum and reflects others.  Thus, what we perceive is largely a result of the composition of an object.  So, color is inherent in the way things were created.  It need not have been.  But it is.  Why?

It's also well-known that color influences mood and feeling in common experience.  Though human emotions are unstable and variable, it is also accepted that there are a number of general and universal reactions to color, that is, some things are true at substantially all times, in all places, and among all people.  Those are things we might even call natural laws or creation ordinances, things inherent in the way God made the world (though I am not sure if theologians have ever used these words in this way).

But back to the trees and the sky.  Psychologists know that, broadly speaking, the "cool" colors --  blue and green, for example -- tend to evoke a calming effect, while "warm" colors -- red and orange, for example -- tend to excite.  (One researcher notes that people will gamble more and place riskier bets if seated under red lights as opposed to blue ones.  Thus, Las Vegas is full of red neon lights.)  Thus the green of the pine needles and the blue of the sky have a calming effect on me, a pleasing, soothing effect.  No doubt you know what I mean.  It's a universal feeling.

Then I thought of Psalm 19.  The Psalmist says "The heavens declare the glory of God;/ the skies proclaim the work of his hands./ Day after day they pour forth speech;/ night after night they display knowledge./ There is no speech or language/ where their voice is not heard./ Their voice goes out into all the earth,/ their words to the end of the world."  The Creation is pouring forth speech.

At that thought I sat up and asked my wife what she thought God was trying to tell us by making the sky blue and the leaves and pine needles green.  She said I had too much time on my hands.  Maybe so, but I think what He is saying is something like this: "Do not be troubled.  Fear not. Peace be with you."

The late Rich Mullins said it best in a song called "The Color Green," from his album entitled A Liturgy, A Legacy & A Ragamuffin Band:  "Look down upon this winter wheat/ and be glad that you have made/ Blue for the sky and the color/ green that fills Your fields/ with praise."  He has to be glad, but I'm glad too.

There are no accidents in nature.  The sky is blue for a reason.  The leaves and pine needles are green for a purpose.  And the feeling they evoke is no accident either.

Peace be with you, they say.