Just in case you've been living in a cave somewhere, some girl snapped a photo of a dress, and the interwebs are all a twitter because some folks see the dress as white with gold lace while others see it as blue with black lace.
When I first saw it, I was firmly in the white and gold camp. Seriously, I couldn't wrap my brain around how anyone could possibly see blue and black. So, just to convince myself that it wasn't some sort of weird trick, I tried importing it into a graphics program and playing with the color balance as one site suggested. It didn't take much tweaking for the blue & black colors to appear.
Here's an example that I found on the web...
The original is in the middle, the left has been color adjusted more to the gold end of the spectrum, and the image on the right has been tweaked in the blue direction.
But here's the weird part. Once I saw the blue & black - even when the color balance was restored to neutral, I couldn't go back to seeing it as white and gold!
Actually that's not entirely true. Now when I look at the photo, I initially see white & gold, but almost immediately it morphs right before my eyes and turns into blue & black. Even the left-most image above now looks light blue and faded black to me.
So what's going on here? I've read about a zillion explanations of this phenomenon... rods & cones, visual differences between people, RGB percentages, yadda, yadda, yadda. But as far as I'm concerned, the real explanation is simply this: There is no spoon!
OK, let me back up. Have any of you seen the film, The Matrix? It's a somewhat disappointing science fiction film based on the premise that everything we think is real is actually a computer generated reality, and that in truth, the world was long ago taken over by aliens who are now "farming" humans in giant warehouses, and we're all really living in little pods with our brains plugged into an enormous computer game to keep us entertained.
I thought it was a fascinating premise, but the filmmakers just glossed over all of the interesting parts so they could focus all of their energies on men with sun glasses flying through the air shooting at each other. Because, really, who wants to be bothered with trivialities like character development and plot when you've got more important things like guns and special effects to focus on?
But while the film was an overall disappointment, there was one small scene that really stuck with me. Rather than trying to explain it, I'll just show it to you... don't worry, it's only about a minute long because, you know, the filmmakers didn't want to waste time actually giving us something to think about, we have to get back to killing each other.... (she says with only the slightest amount of sarcasm.)
Anyhow, I think that all of this points to a fundamental truth about the human experience. I don't mean that I think we're all actually living in pods with aliens sucking off of our vital bodily fluids or whatever they were doing.
What I mean is that in a very fundamental way, we are incapable of perceiving objective reality, and in truth, everything we humans experience is an abstraction of one sort or another. The reality is that we cannot interact with the universe directly, so everything we experience is filtered through our bodies and "made sense of" through our brains.
Some folks might argue that objective reality does not even exist, and that everything we think is real is simply human-generated illusion. I guess I'll leave that question to the religious leaders and quantum physicists, because the main point I'm trying to make here is that perception is most decidedly not reality.
We can't agree on what color the dress is, because colors don't actually exist - they are simply a human abstraction that we use to help us understand the world around us and how different objects reflect light.
So why does any of this matter? Well, I'm not entirely sure that it does... but I do find it helpful to remember that just because I happen to see the world in one particular way, it does not therefore follow that this is the way the world actually is.
Perhaps this is just a stupid mental trick, but when I'm confronted with a really stressful situation, it helps me to remember that in some fundamental way, it actually is not real.
Seriously, back when I was running the music school, the politics of it all could get really out of control (musicians can be irrationally passionate, you know.) Anyhow, often, as I was laying in bed at night drifting off to sleep I would repeat to myself "There is no music school, there is no music school, there is no music school..."
I also think that when I'm confronted with people who hold a radically different worldview from my own, it might be helpful to remember that they're not just ignorant, pig-headed or stupid - they actually do see the world (and perhaps the dress) differently than I do.
Somehow, I think the world might be a better place if we could all wrap our brains around that idea.
Anyhow... I think I've blathered on this topic long enough. What do you all think? Am I just running in mental circles, or does any of this make any sense at all? What color is that damned dress anyhow?
In the meantime, I think I'll go back to working on my taxes.... Repeat after me: "There is no IRS, there is no IRS, there is no IRS..."