Now, among the heresies that are spoken in this matter is the habit of calling a grey day a “colourless” day. Grey is a colour, and can be a very powerful and pleasing colour. There is also an insulting style of speech about “one grey day just like another.” You might as well talk about one green tree just like another. A grey clouded sky is indeed a canopy between us and the sun; so is a green tree, if it comes to that. But the grey umbrellas differ as much as the green in their style and shape, in their tint and tilt. One day may be grey like steel, and another grey like dove’s plumage. One may seem grey like the deathly frost, and another grey like the smoke of substantial kitchens.
…Lastly, there is this value about the colour that men call colourless; that it suggests in some way the mixed and troubled average of existence, especially in its quality of strife and expectation and promise. Grey is a colour that always seems on the eve of changing to some other colour; of brightening into blue or blanching into white or bursting into green and gold. So we may be perpetually reminded of the indefinite hope that is in doubt itself; and when there is grey weather in our hills or grey hairs in our heads, perhaps they may still remind us of the morning.
— G. K. Chesterton, “The Glory of Grey,” Alarms and Discursions
Purple was my first love, as colors go. “I heard that a lot of babies like purple,” my grandmother said when I told her. Within a few years, I had shifted my allegiance to green. My pediatrician gave me a lime-flavored lollipop after I said so. As an adolescent, I was concerned with trying to appear edgy and profound, so I started telling people that red, being the color of blood, was my favorite, even as I increasingly began wearing black clothes. At some point, purple and I got together again. Basically, I’ve slutted my way around the color wheel, but in middle age, I’ve come to truly appreciate the humble, autumnal greys (and browns, to a lesser extent). Still waters run deep; so do restrained colors.
May 20, 2020 @ 6:52 am
Oh dear. Yet another marvelous quotation from Mr. Chesterton that (like arresting quotations from C.S. Lewis’s works) makes me want to read everything Chesterton wrote, despite my qualms with some of his political and religious convictions.
Purple has long been my own favorite color, although I think that notion began in my adolescence (long story) instead of, like yours, in childhood (or, perhaps infancy). Sometimes I wonder if my current preference for it is not kept merely out of habit than anything else. As I get older (I’m approaching 72), the infinite shades of green (in nature, anyway – not so much in clothing, upholstery, etc.) seem to be tugging away at my lifelong privileging of purple. It’s odd, isn’t it, that we humans think we need to declare “a favorite color” – odd how unusual to find anyone who says they don’t have one, or to find someone who loves a lot (or all) of them.
May 20, 2020 @ 8:28 am
Hahaha, I once drove my mother to exasperation over the “favorite color” question.
I’ve been enjoying Chesterton’s essays recently. I like that they’re short, in a personal, journalistic style. As with haiku and other spare forms of poetry, I like compact forms of writing. In a way, I don’t care as much which viewpoint a writer is coming from so long as they present it with zest and humor, and Chesterton’s essays are undoubtedly spirited. David Warren is one of my favorite bloggers to read even though I disagree with most of his convictions, primarily because he has a distinct voice. I’ve really come to appreciate that in this age of Internet homogeneity. To some extent, it doesn’t matter to me what story he’s telling as long as he makes it interesting and amusing, which he does. Same with Chesterton. His contrary opinions don’t seem threatening or spiteful to me. I don’t mean it condescendingly, of course — “Ahh, you batty old Catholic rascal, you’re so adorable when you complain about atheists like that!” I respect the fact that they see the world in a significantly different way from me, but I sense they’d still be fun to talk to. I’m not at all surprised that Chesterton could be friends with George Bernard Shaw, for example, but I am surprised that Shaw could be friends with Chesterton.