09 March 2018:
“Everywhere I inquired,
I was told look for blue.”
Blue. The ancient Greeks had no word for it. Japanese, Thai, Korean, and Lakota Sioux use the same word to describe blue and green.
Isaac Newton included blue as one of the seven colours in the spectrum. He also included indigo, which many would consider a hue of blue. One could say that two of the seven colours in Newton’s spectrum are blue. But six colours were not enough for Newton, who believed there had to be seven colours in the optical spectrum to correspond to the number of notes in the musical scale.
There is a spectrum of blue: Azure, sky, cerulean, teal, cobalt, ultramarine, sapphire royal, navy… And at the edges: turquoise, which inches into the green, and Prussian blue, sinking into the black.
Blue is sea and sky. It is also the earth. The blue planet. We can look at Housman’s “blue remembered hills” of the “land of lost content” or contemplate Dogen’s “blue mountains [that] are constantly walking.”
Blue is sad, blue is serene.
At one extreme it points to unbearable despair, at the other to unimaginable bliss. It is illness – depression, the blues. It is healing – the Medicine Buddha is always blue.
Robert Lowell, looking out from inside a mental hospital, finds the bright blue sky unbearable:
makes my agonized blue window bleaker.
DH Lawrence, writing of the Bavarian gentian flower, has blue take him all the way down to the underworld, “Pluto’s dark-blue daze”:
Let me let me guide myself with the blue, forked torch of a flower
down the darker and darker stairs, where blue is darkened on
In music, a blue note is a one played at a slightly different pitch, a bit “off”, to give an expressive, melancholic effect. It is also known as a “worried note.”
But blue is not always at the sad end of the emotional spectrum.
For filmmaker and artist Derek Jarman, blue is “an open door to soul”, a colour for which “there are no boundaries or solutions.”
I have walked behind the sky.
For what are you seeking?
The fathomless blue of Bliss.
In a mystical encounter with the Divine Sophia, the “eternal beloved”, the Russian poet Vladimir Solovyov is filled with blue:
Then, all of a sudden – the stream of passion runs dry.
Azure envelops me, azure in my soul.
Flooded with golden azure,
And Your hand holding a strange flower from a strange land […]
Eyes full of azure fire,
Your gaze was the first blaze
Of world-filling, life-giving day.
Of a different spiritual tradition, the American poet Gary Snyder writes:
Eastward from here,
beyond Buddha-worlds ten times as
numerous as the sands of the Ganges
there is a world called
PURE AS LAPIS LAZULI
its Buddha is called Master of Healing,
AZURE RADIANCE TATHAGATA.
There are so many blues. Which one is yours?
Epigraph: Carl Philips, “Blue”.
IMAGE: PAUL EDWARD DAVIES, Blue Note 9 (2018)