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Imagining color

While sitting together on a paddleboard yesterday, Charlie asked me this:

“Why can’t I imagine a new color? I’m trying so hard, but I just can’t picture a new one in my mind.”

It was one of those questions that are both ridiculous but also profound.

Possible answers that scrolled through my mind:

“Do we really need another color?”

“Aren’t there bigger problems to solve in this world?”

“I don’t understand your brain.”

“Why do you think I would be able to answer this question?”

“You own more science books than me. Look it up.”

“How did we get from the election of 1800 to your incapacity to imagine a new color in a single sentence?”

Instead, I said this:

“The universe disappoints, Charlie. It confines us with unreasonable and unnecessary boundaries that we can try to escape but often cannot.”

Charlie was quiet for a moment. The water lapped quietly against the paddleboard. Birds sang in the nearby trees. The wind whistled across the water. Then he sighed and whispered, “Stupid universe.”

I told him to keep trying. “We managed to bust open the atom, so who knows. Maybe you’ll figure this one out someday.”

He didn’t seem satisfied. Understandably so.