This post extracts another piece from my novel This Moonless Sky. In the extraplanetary country where the novel begins, the people don’t believe in astrology. Their ancestors were transported to another part of the galaxy and, although the place they ended up is only around 40 light years from Earth, enough of the constellations have been scrambled to make our ancient Babylonian system seem like nonsense. Also, they have no moon, as you can see in the book’s title.
But the human mind seems to need something like astrology, some all-encompassing, tongue-in-cheek mysticism that comments on personalities and tides of fortune. On the new planet, some anonymous person, many years ago, came up with a system of divination based on colours. You can look at colours that people like, colours that people wear, or colours in objects and symbols – they can all be interpreted with mystical skill. Here, I explain, while sitting by a campfire on this other planet and writing stuff for you, how the system works. At the end of my novel, there’s a big chart listing many colours and the significance that is assigned to them, but here I only tell you the meaning of the basic ones. You may begin to see that colours have a lot more to say than you ever thought.
The values assigned to the colours will seem completely arbitrary to you at first, but this is just the beginning. The more competent readings you see, the more the meanings of the colours will pull together. The meanings blend in the same way as the colours do, e.g., yellow and red blend to orange; ‘luck’ and ‘action’ come together as the happy spontaneous accident of humour. The spooky psychological depth of this system has never been explained. The piece reprinted below only gives you a tiny foretaste of it.
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(tree frogs peeping in the tropical dark, the ocean waves lapping nearby)
While things are so quiet here, I can sit by the campfire in the firelight and make good on my promise to tell you about the half-colours. These are a weird part of sDiyyanantse culture that appeared out of nowhere, centuries ago. (Pardon a couple of words from our local language that are explained in more detail elsewhere in the book).
The name “half-colours” was explained in a little introduction that was passed around with the original, anonymous, handwritten copies of the colour interpretation charts. I’ll give it to you straight; don’t take it too seriously. In fact, don’t take any of this too seriously. It’s not post-ironic, just somewhat goofy.
“A colour is an infinity; it has unlimited places and uses. Each colour is a deuheiktan [complete array of possibilities], and the deuheiktan of all colours is a deuheiktan of deuheiktans [this may sound like nonsense, but in fact there is a recognized mathematical concept, Georg Cantor’s ‘infinity of infinities,’ that loosely corresponds to it.] Nothing can be said that can grasp the wholeness of a colour, but if a partial reduction is divined within the colour, then a pattern emerges. The samskara’d [term from Hindu philosophy, here meaning ‘conceptually imprinted’] minds of all humans can be seen and read in the half-colours, the colours as reduced.”
Let’s look at a few basic half-colours:
Yellow: Luck. Extension: Early inspiration, sense of being ‘on a roll’
Blue: Alluminance [‘bringing to light’ – early intuitive apprehension of things in their original wonder]. The deeper the blue, the more it bears a sense of philosophical ‘depth,’ the apprehension of natural law and fundamental structure. Deep navy blue is assigned the value ‘alluminance of dimensionality, profound realization’ and the extension ‘law.’
Black: Passion, Extension: Commitment
Orange: Humour, Extension: Lively attractiveness
Purple: Consummation; Extension: Good production, orgasmic ecstasy
Brown: Creativity. Extension: Versatility, inspired service
More intergraded colours like ‘peach’ and ‘magenta’ are also assigned values. I’ll post the main table people use as an appendix at the end of this chronicle (see ‘This Moonless Sky’ in online booksellers or download free pdf of whole book at http://rapidshare.com/share/A1D7C7A75D97E28F5223DA2A0FEEEAD4 – click on ‘to download’ and then click away ad that comes up)
But let’s see what we can make of this so far.
Take the flag of the United States. How can we read it?
The red, white and blue in the U.S. flag are, or were, found in the flags of most serious empires and megacountries, such as Britain, France and Russia. Red indicates action, the powerful military, the expansion across the land, the vigour of economic growth. White indicates receptiveness, the open country of new settlement and opportunity, and the free admittance of thought in democracy. Deep indigo blue is a commitment to fundamentally correct law, order and deep understanding, and by extension, to science. Another country that used to have an extended international empire, the Netherlands, shares the same colours in three simple bands. Slovakia and Slovenia share the horizontal white, blue and red colour scheme of the Russian flag, but modify it with shield devices, stamping themselves with specificity that qualifies the universal principles announced by the flags. Perhaps they take the colours as pan-Slavic and use the shields to indicate their part of the greater unity. Both countries have ‘Slav’ in their names.
Canada, seeing itself less as a regulator of world order and world thought than the US or Britain, drops the blue and comes up with a flag that is red and white, dynamism and openness. Denmark also, somewhat on the sidelines of Europe, doesn’t appropriate blue to itself and sticks with red and white. Sweden is much more confident of its centrality in life, taking a cross of blazing yellow good fortune into a field of deep, all-knowing blue. Its lack of red suggests that it has no intention to spread this ennobled status beyond its borders. Political neutrality is natural. Hardy and rugged Norway, exposed on the open coast and looking out to rough seas, has thin crosses of civilizing blue and white set into a field of red action.
The Russian Communist Party, in making a flag for its revolution, replaced the white, blue and red of the Imperial Russian flag with a pure field of red, indicating the irresistible forward motion of the revolutionary vanguard. The workers’ good fortune intended by this process was indicated by the small hammer and sickle in yellow in the canton corner of the flag. A star drawn as a yellow outline above the yellow tools also indicated lucky auspices, but the star had to be filled with the red of the vanguard to keep its luck intact. Many would argue that, with neither law nor openness to restrain it, the Soviet flag was headed for trouble from day one. Russia, at the time I left the Earth, had put the white and blue back into its national psychology by re-adopting the Imperial flag.
Artistic and religious Italy replaced the stodgy legal blue of the imperial countries with spirited green. A country of geniuses cannot be restricted by indigo. The white of openness and the red of action stand there beside the green to make sure that the genius has both input and output. The indescribable insouciance of the Irish flag, replacing the red right-hand band in the Italian flag with orange – the half-colour of levity, laughter, partying, prosperity and personal charm – is both charming and frightening. Can they really pull it off? Spirit, openness and full-time joy? At least they didn’t add magenta, the half-colour of ‘exuberance, transport, creative obliviousness.’ I don’t know of any country that dared to have magenta in its flag. Qatar went for maroon, but this is a colour associated with beauty, faith and fulfilled promises, quite a different motif all in all. The flag’s intensity of accomplishment is muted with a white left border, connecting via a sawtooth pattern that interleaves sensitivity into the maroon.
In the flag of Saudi Arabia, the green of spirit makes up the main field, consistent with a country dedicated to worship. The only receptive white in the flag opens up within letters taken from the Quran, implying that elucidation and new beginnings should be reconciled with scripture before going any further. Another exotic flag is the flag of Germany, which starts off with black passion at the top, advances to red action in the middle, and then goes on to yellow fortune on the bottom. At first this seems like an unchecked tinderbox of enthusiasms ready to explode, but look closely and you’ll see that the yellow is by no means pure, but is more a gold colour, historically based on the colour of brass military buttons. Gold being the still sunny and lucky half-colour of ‘acclamation, welcome, honour,’ this tends to put the action and commitment to work in favour of all-out hospitality. Such an energetic and hospitable country could be the heart of Europe, as indeed Germany was at the time I left the Earth. The Nazi flag, by contrast, had no gold in it, but rather a field of red action around a circle of white. Inside the white was a swastika wheel of black passion angled to cut into the receptive space it sat in, like the blades of a combine harvester. This was strictly the flag of a war machine anticipating minimal resistance.
Ukraine – the sky blue of primordial discovery and the yellow of beneficent fortune. Rationalize it as the sky above the steppes and the gold of grain if you wish, but the half-colours know better. Did a country ever so eloquently proclaim its surprise and delight to be independent of the powerful empire next door?
I find this a lot of fun.