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  • Erwin Barona

Of Life, Death, and the Grey Matter in Between




More trivia for you: In an article from Popular Science, the human eye is capable of detecting around ten million (!) unique (!) colours. But it is able to detect only thirty shades of grey. (Yes, forget claims from the film Fifty Shades of Grey.) Comparatively, computer monitors, smartphones, and tablet screens are able to produce 256 shades of any colour, grey or otherwise.


Black and white images are still attractive these days, despite advances in producing colours in a three-dimensional image. Black and white images (or any other monochrome) are just maybe as popular as ever, as they are less complicated, simpler, where patterns and textures and hues are more discernible, despite the fact that we never see the world in monochrome. But more importantly than the pure black and pure white in an image are the shades of grey that create depth and texture and mood to a photograph. Not the blacks, nor the whites, but the greys. The greys in between mean a lot.


Life and death are as clear as black and white. And yet, it is the undefined portion in between these two inevitabilities that would define happiness or frustration; success or failure, rags or riches, legacy or mediocrity, intimacy or family or solitude, going with the flow or growing with purpose. Hoping to have an attached manual or handbook just like most of our gadgets do, there is none to navigate the greys between life and death. We rely on education, or parents or mentors to guide us, but all humbly claim not to have all the answers we seek. Religion offers a way, while others claim it as a mere human construct to rationalize our purpose on Earth and even beyond --- spiritual immortality, resurrection, an undying consciousness. Sounds gloomy indeed.


“Because a work of art does not aim at reproducing natural appearances, it is not, therefore, an escape from life . . . but an expression of the significance of life, a stimulation to greater effort in living.” --- Henry Moore

The simile ends, the satire begins. The irony is in the greys, in the foggy in-between stuff, that bring "colour", depth, variety, challenge, meaning and purpose. Imagine that we did have a manual or handbook to see the greys, I do not think life would be such an adventure if we had one in our back pockets. A manual perhaps of do's and dont's? It may help. If we did, situations would be predictable, challenges almost always had a solution. The greys are the unknowns that push us forward to grow, to know one's self in relation to another; to get back up from failure; It is in the greys that we try to figure out, so we can enjoy life to the fullest. It is the matter that brings us from here to there; from not just being informed but also to being much wiser. It is the greys where we apply ourselves to the journey from life to death. The greys are where legacy is built, our unique purpose formed.


So, whenever you see a black and white image, remember the greys that present themselves from light to dark, where the the "depth" and "colour" of life matter most.




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