What is the meaning of color? I realize that for many this question will seem non-sensical, since color is likely to be perceived as something that just is, a phenomena that originally occurred in nature and that we replicate through various means in culture. Others, tuning into the fact that we replicate colors in culture, might respond to this question by drawing upon what each color means symbolically according to various traditions. In this manner, red might mean love or anger, yellow might mean friendship or cowardice, and white could mean purity or absence, and so on and so on. Still others might turn to a scientific analysis of nature for their answer and respond to this question by looking at how colors function within various ecosystems. Within this vein, one could say that the multicolored plumes of a male bird means sexual attraction, or that the green of a leaf means energy production. All of these responses, however, don’t quite get at the marrow of my question, for I pose this question metaphysically. In this light, I restate my question thusly, “In the grand scheme of things, what is the meaning of color?”
The answer to my question is found in a willingness to set “sense” aside, and become a child, who with a trusting heart is enabled to enter the theological playground where this question was formed. The reason this is so is that the answer to this question in not something that is derived through the sophisticated disposition common to adulthood, a disposition that seeks to get below the appearance of things. Such an approach causes us to miss both the question and its answer. Instead, the meaning of color is discovered in that disposition of heart and mind that allows humans to experience the sublime. Though I risk being criticized as anthropomorphic, I assert that it is within our very subjective response to the glory of color, particularly as it is found in nature, that we find its meaning. It may be true that we as individuals have a variety of responses, but generally we have all had moments of awe and wonder. For me, it often happens during summer when the late afternoon Sun illumines the leaves of all plants and trees on the valley floor, and after that when during sunset the sky is ablaze with intense hues of red, pink, yellow, purple, and orange. It also happens when I look at the deep dark blue of the midnight sky punctured and punctuated by white shining stars. I could easily go on to name numerous other instances, but the point is that such instances exist in the first place. In these moments, when we are arrested by the glory of color, we are enabled to perceive what creation is always declaring, that God is good, and this is the meaning of color.
So, the next time you find yourself in such a moment, don’t dismiss it as the freak response of human consciousness; rather embrace such a response as that which mostly deeply connects you to who God is and his heart toward you. After all, a child would easily accept this as true.