The sky grew darker, painted blue on blue, one stroke at a time, into deeper and deeper shades of night — Haruki Murakami, Dance Dance Dance.
I don’t know about you, but I still constantly find myself starring longingly at the endless horizon, where the sweeping pale blue sky aligns with rusty roof tops to create a contrast between the substantial and the abstract; between solitude and longing for the unknown, and in the midst of my desire for escape, I also wonder – why is the sky blue?
Science tells us sunlight is made up of all the rainbow colours – red, orange, yellow, green, blue and violet, but when it reaches the Earth’s atmosphere, it is scattered by nitrogen and oxygen, and deflects the colour with short wavelengths (blue) towards our eyes. It is the same particles that scatters in large body of water, and paints it the hue of blue.
Sometime in the middle ages, artist replaced their stoic, unimaginative space in the background of every painting with the melancholy and the dreamy essence of the blue horizon. It became a symbol for time and space – a technique since used to render distance and build perspective.
In art, distance and desire are represented by the colour blue. Artist use the sky with it endless horizon to suck us into a false desire for the unknown, and somehow, to convince us that the ideal is only a step away, when in reality, the ideal, no matter how many steps you take, will always remain a step away.
The sky, like art, highlights the depth of our loneliness and insatiable nature, and paints the story of the human condition mired in the notion that what you don’t own is better, and also acts as a symbol for man’s endless desire for a destination he never arrives in – that he never conquers. Maybe the sweeping dreamy grandness of the blue sky is nature’s ironic way of reminding us of our minuteness in the grand scheme of things; of telling us instead to find joy in the tangible.
Almost every religion directly or indirectly harps about the myth of the sky or our desire for escape into the unknown, as they portray a saviour that elevates skywards, beyond the mountains, and into heaven, seemingly to escape the human condition of frailty and inadequacy.
Science further explains that the blue of the sky gets pale the further you look because the particles will need to scatter, and re-scatter the more it travels, but in abstraction, the distance of the blue also taunts us as the more we reach for it, the more it eludes us, only to retire into a cloud of emotions. It remains one of life’s greatest paradox – that in as much as the sky’s beauty bestows us with infinite possibilities and creativity, we still need to temper any such idea and desire with a dose of reality and awareness.
The strongest, usually, are those who can love without guarantee, and the happiest amongst us will probably be those who seek to conquer their reality above all, and have come to terms with the fact some things will always be far away, and cannot be possessed – like the blue sky.
Photo Credit: sarahstewart☼
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