THINKING IN COLOR
It has been said that, ”the eyes are the windows of the soul”. Look into the eyes of a person and you will see what’s really going on: happiness, sadness, joy, pain, insecurity and confusion. These windows do not only reflect the soul (mind, will, emotions and spirit)–the inside world on display–they also bring the outside world in through the most amazing portal on earth.
The transparent cells in the lens of the eye allow millions of image-carrying light photons to enter the cornea. The cornea is the primary focusing structure, the place where particles of light pass through the optical fluid on their way to be analyzed and then processed by the retina. Before the photons touch down on the photoreceptor cells of the retina, they must first pass through the iris, which controls how much light is allowed to enter. The iris has the ability to constrict or dilate, and gives the eye its blue-green-brown colors. It has 266 identifiable characteristics compared to the 35 characteristics of the fingerprint.
The retina is paper-thin and only one inch square, yet it contains 137 million super light-sensitive cells. So sensitive, that the eye can detect one single photon of light in a dark room. On the retina approximately 95% of these cells are rods that have the ability to analyze black and white images, dim vision, night vision and peripheral vision. Then the balance of these cells is made up of seven million cones designed to analyze color images. When light first strikes the retina, a photon of light interacts with a molecule and is transformed into electrical signals – a process that takes picoseconds. A picosecond is the approximate time it takes for light to travel the breadth of a single human hair. These electrical images travel down the million optic nerves to your brain at approximately 300 miles per hour.
These highly intelligent cells of the retina take the optical image that enters upside down and turns it right side up, before transmitting the image to the brain. The retina cells achieve up to 10 billion calculations per second. Grant R Jeffrey in his book, Creation, points out that, “the retina acts as a type of film, receiving the actual image composed of light photons passing through the iris, cornea and eye fluid.” 1 Something he says “is more sophisticated in its design than even the most powerful electron microscope or satellite spy camera. For example, the most advanced film available today can differentiate between a range of one thousand to one. However, recent experiments have confirmed that the retina of the human eye can easily differentiate, and analyze, a range of ten billion to one.” 2
After all of the complex processes the eye goes through in order to deliver vision, seeing ultimately happens within the visual cortex of the brain – in full color. We have been designed to see our world in color – to think in full color!
Imagine a world where there was no color, only black and white. Where there was black and white fish, black and white plant life, a black and white animal kingdom, and black and white interior design. In countries where oppressive leadership exists it seems that everything from the physical environment to their mental environment becomes black and white or gray.
This is where we depart from discovering the wonder of the eye and discover how to think in color. To think in color has to do with creativity, hypothesis, design, innovation, new ideas, strategy, planning, and evaluation, possibilities, problem solving, instinct, humor, emotional intelligence, intuition, wisdom, empowering beliefs and analytical, critical thinking.
In contrast, black and white thinkers overindulge in cynical, critical or judgmental thinking. Edward de Bono points out that, “Critical thinking perpetuates the old-fashioned view of thinking established by the Greek Gang of Three” 3 (Socrates, Plato and Aristotle), based on analysis, judgment and argument. The Black and white thinker majors in this narrow way of thinking.
The Greek word for critical, is kritikos, meaning to judge. While judgmental thinking has its place, it is only one wing of the bird. With only one wing, our thinking will never truly get off the ground and may end up going around in circles. Critical thinking, as we will see has a part to play, but as de Bono notes, “our success in science and technology begins not with critical thinking but from the possibility system. The possibility system moves ahead of our information to create hypotheses and visions.” 4
This adversarial system of thinking is the reason we have developed a very judgmental, critical thinking society. Our media, politics, law and science search for truth through adversarial dialogue,” I am right and you’re wrong”–black and white thinking!
“Argument and debate,” de Bono points out, “are then seen as the proper way to explore a subject.” 5
BLACK AND WHITE THINKING
At a Methodist convention in the later part of the nineteenth century a young leader took the floor and shared his vision of the future. He told the ministers present that he believed that people would fly from place to place instead of merely traveling on horseback, a concept too far outside of the box for some in the audience to take.
A minister by the name of Bishop Wright stood to his feet and voiced his protest. “Heresy!” he shouted. “Flight is reserved for angels!” He went on to explain that if God had intended people to fly he would have given them wings. When Bishop Wright had finished his brief protest, he took his two sons, Orville and Wilbur, and stormed out. As incredible as it sounds, it was Orville and Wilbur Wright that several years later, on December 17 1903, took to the skies. They achieved four flights that day, the first was 12 seconds and the fourth lasted 59 and carried them 852 feet. The Wright brothers had built the first airplane, the Flyer III, and by 1908 flew 60 miles in less than 2 hours.
Black and white thinkers consider it their job to point out the problems within each new idea [or person] before considering the possibilities. Many black and white thinkers have made condemnation and higher criticism an art form. Black and white thinkers are often overdeveloped in vertical, left-brain thinking and carry an unhealthy prejudice, wrong belief systems, destructive cynicisms and bigoted attitudes. This can result in a distorted view of self and poor relationships with other people as they focus on faults before strengths.
Although this is a black and white view of black and white thinkers, it may help in identifying unbalanced, unhealthy thinking habits. Edward de Bono says, “This adversarial system is fundamental to western thinking traditions.” 6 We are culturally drowned in this system of thinking and need to unlearn the negative aspects of it. “If we trained a person to avoid all errors in thinking, would that that person be a good thinker? Not at all. If we trained a car driver to avoid all errors in driving, would that person be a good driver? No, because that person could leave the car in the garage and so avoid any possibility of error.” 7
Proactive, creative, design systems of thinking must be developed in order for our society to develop in a balanced way.