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  • Writer's pictureJamie Bass

An Ode to the Special Color White

White, are you even a color? We know you are the absence of all pigment and the reflection of all light wavelengths. You diffuse nearly all incident energy through the visible spectrum. Is this why you’re so closely associated with godliness? And why those living a religious or spiritual life sometimes wear white - to show their surrender to the divine?

You are untainted by outside influences as you are not affected by anything but yourself, yet you hide nothing. You can indicate that all is revealed on the surface or that someone or something is above reproach. At one end of your color spectrum, you indicate purity, which explains why you are the traditional color of choice for brides in our culture, representing innocence, harmlessness, and submission. In Chinese cultures, however, you are used at funerals and are associated with death, as if they were waving the ultimate white flag of surrender. At your other extreme, you are associated with emptiness and nothingness, and since dirt can’t hide on a white surface, you also signal cleanliness.

You can expose someone's true self or reveal one’s passion, particularly an independent or (even) revolutionary attitude, standing apart and taking a stand against the status quo. An all-white room screams “notice me!” and a preference for you in our culture may be due to our need to assert our uniqueness. You can signify either a strong ego or a gentle individuality.

A person who is not nurturing to others might use or wear you, and this person is probably not a caretaker, although an exception must be made for medical professionals who wear you to indicate a sense of cleanliness. And you are an appropriate wrapper for life itself, filling the egg and surrounding the seeing part of the eye.

You are best displayed in the bedroom to support people in being open with each other; in hallways to signify that there is no hidden danger; to show cleanliness, particularly in health facilities, exercise rooms, bathrooms, and kitchens; and to encourage carefulness, since you show all spills and dirt, and people have to stay alert around you.

But you’re not for every person or place. We need to avoid you in instances where we want to be exuberant and carefree, as you require us to take care. At times, too much of you can actually become a mask, allowing people to hide behind the appearance of being open while actually revealing nothing. You are the wrong choice in cold climates, children’s rooms, school cafeterias, and geriatric dining rooms. You also don’t belong in areas like theaters or public places where a feeling of coziness is preferred, and at times, extreme amounts or levels of your brightness can interfere with visibility, causing the iris of the eye to contract and creating fatigue and “snow blindness.” To avoid this, you shouldn’t be where people are working for long periods of time or in large gathering spaces where a lot of people are assembled, like busy offices.

Oh, white, even though you have multi-dimensional tendencies and we’re still not entirely sure whether you’re actually a color, you are so prized in our world. You have vast and important meanings and represent so much to so many. Would it be fair, then, to say that getting to the root of your true nature isn’t so black and white?

Curious about other colors? Check out the Odes to Yellow, Blue, Red, Orange, Green, Black, and Bubble Gum Pink & Purple.


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