What does it mean to be colorblind?

Plate4It shouldn’t come as any surprise to you that I am colorblind. Out of the 800+ posts I’ve written on this blog, I’ve mentioned it at least twice (Jokes at My Expense & I am colorblind in a color-coded Christmas wonderland). But for some people, it is still a novelty to learn of my minor disability.

For the lengthy scientific answer of what color blindness actually is, read up on this incredibly boring Wikipedia article. For the quick and dirty version, all you need to know is that eyeballs have rods and cones that allow us to perceive light and color differences. Colorblind folks have some messed up cones that make it impossible to differentiate between certain colors.

What it does not mean is that everything is a shade of gray (unless you have achromatopsia, but that doesn’t even really count since that is a failure to understand color differences not a failure to see them).

In fact, I would posit that aside from the obvious differences in color perception ability, color blindness is a meaningless condition. I mean, a big part of what I do everyday at work is create ads and other visuals to promote products, events and sales. Granted, I will occasionally ask a fully color-perceptive co-worker for verification of a specific color, but I make do pretty well on my own.

And in case you think that I’m just getting defensive, know this. Emerson Moser (distant relative?), one of the top crayon makers at Crayola revealed after 35 years in his job that he was colorblind. He only revealed it at his retirement. How crazy is that?

So what does it mean to be colorblind?

Not a colorful thing.

The Surprising Mantis Shrimp

So, sometimes when I see something that I want to write about, I’ll open a new blog post, put in a link to that thing, and save my draft so I can come back to it later and expound on the idea. And sometimes, I hit the “Publish” button when I mean to hit the “Save Draft”. So, some people got an unintentional preview to this post.

mantis_shrimp_the_oatmealFor the rest of you, please take a moment and check out this amazing page about the Mantis Shrimp, as presented by The Oatmeal.

Did you read it?


So, now I don’t feel so bad about my color blindness. In comparison to the Mantis Shrimp, we are all terribly colorblind. I mean, sure, a few of my cones are defective so I have trouble differentiating certain shades of red and green (and occasionally blue and purple). But is that anything to the fact that humans see variations of 3 primary colors and the Mantis Shrimp sees variations of 16 primary colors?

That’s 13 primary colors that we can’t even imagine! Not to mention the variations of mixing all those primary colors.

Forget the fact that the Mantis Shrimp is possibly the world’s most frightening killer (a nightmarish mix of an aquatic centipede (arguably the most terrifying bug in existence) with Wolverine from the X-Men). Let’s just focus on their ability to see colors we can’t even imagine.

I’ve mused in the past about the existence of some sixth sense, not like ESP, but another way of experiencing our present world in addition to sight, smell, sound, taste, and touch. I mean, can a person born blind really understand what people mean when they say that something is red, or bright, or beautiful to look upon?

So what if there was another sense that humans lack? One that, to us, would be like red to a blind person. I’ve wondered what life would be like if we could be granted that mysterious extra sense.

And now I find out that there is a creature on this planet that already experiences life in a sensory way that humans can’t even hope to experience. I’m kind of jealous.

But maybe I shouldn’t be. After all, those same creatures are terrors that people won’t even risk putting in aquariums because they will kill all of the other fish and then break the glass of the aquarium tank to get out. Maybe I am happier because I don’t experience the world in such detail.

Maybe I’m even luckier because I’m colorblind, and experience less than even most humans do. After all, dogs only see two primary colors and they are usually pretty happy as a species. Did I really just compare myself to a dog as a proof that I am happier than most people? Sure did.

Anyway, have you ever thought about what kind of thing we’d experience with a sixth sense? Share those thoughts in the comments! I’m dreadfully curious (and I need some reassurance that I’m not the only one who thinks of such things).

Thanks for reading!

Jokes at My Expense

I love my old roommate, Adam. I do. But when I went to visit him a few years ago, he made fun of my disability. Maybe he didn’t even mean to do it, but he did.

He wore this shirt.


You see, I am colorblind. I had no idea that there was a message in the circles. I just see a bunch of circles within a larger circle. Adam ended up telling me that it had a message on it, but he refused to tell me what it said.

I hadn’t thought of that shirt in a long time. That is, until I saw this.

I can see the message in this shirt. It says “Secretly Loathe” inside of the heart. Funny stuff.

And since I could read this shirt, it made me think of the other one, the one that Adam wore. I thought, why did I never try adjusting the colors on that shirt to find the message? Good thinking, Self! Only a few years late.

So I did.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANow I can see that it says “I ♥ Color”. Finally.