I am no movie aficianado. I do, however, recognize genius when I see it. The 1939 film version of The Wizard of Oz had genius elements, most notably being the use of Technicolor. To hear Dorothy singing about a rainbow in a sepia-toned world probably didn’t seem out of place to the first audience. Can you imagine, though, the oohs and aahs when she emerged from her home into a Technicolor Land of Oz? Genius. The Land of Oz was so different than the Kansas in which Dorothy lived, and the film captured that in an amazing way.
Thoughts of Oz flooded through my mind when, yesterday, Helen made this comment. “Don’t you think it’s pretty amazing that the past was in color, not just black and white?”
Quite honestly, I laughed at first when she said it. It sounded kind of crazy. Of course the world has always been in color.
She was looking at a picture in her college magazine, a black and white photo of the college town where she had lived for the past three years. She knew the town was not a black and white town because she lived there. But 100 years ago? Was it in color?
I look at my parents’ wedding album. It’s all black and white. This picture of my mother and her father, standing on the porch before leaving for the church, yes, it is black and white. But the day of the wedding, the scene was as Technicolor as Oz. The viewer must, with imagination, fill in the shades of green on arbors. My mother has talked about the wisteria around her home. Is this the wisteria? Did the color consist of shades of lavender mixed in with the green? I don’t even know what color her house was and the photograph gives me no clues.
Several months ago Owen shared with me a Radiolab show about color. It was about how, when people didn’t have a word for a certain color, it also meant that they couldn’t see that color. Or could they? According to William Gladstone, an authority on Homer, Homer never colors the sky blue in the Odyssey or the Iliad, but rather green. Historically, has the color of the sky changed? Or, as I like to believe when I look out my window, is the beautiful blue sky over Chenango County the same blue sky that the early settlers in this area also saw?
At first I laughed at Helen’s question, because it sounded absurd. Yet there is a depth to it that I’m still trying to get my mind around.
If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it still make a sound?
If the world is full of vibrant color and nobody captures proof-positive that all those colors are there, were they?
Can something exist without being perceived?
Was something real if it was never documented?
Sometimes I get so caught up in the realities of the daily grind that I forget to think deep thoughts such as these. Or I laugh when I hear them.
The “aah!” and awe of Oz is not something to be taken for granted. I’m so thankful for children who awaken my senses to the Technicolor around me.