Project 14 – Day 11: Emotions

Day Eleven gives you a perspective on the weird workings of my mind, and why I believe orange is the colour of love.

I have a love-hate relationship with my emotions. Most of the time, I love my capacity to feel strongly about things – to laugh ecstatically, to triumph proudly, to empathize deeply, to be blissfully happy, and to love with all my heart. But with that ability comes the price I have to pay, on occasion: I can shed bitter tears, feel failure keenly, take on other peoples’ pain, be miserably unhappy, and feel a loss with all my heart. It’s exhilarating, exhausting, and bewildering, all at the same time, so in the time honoured tradition of humanity, I’ve come up with a theory to make sense of it all.

For those of you who have read my posts about my hobbies, you’ll know I spend a lot of time with art. My theory of emotions actually very much follows the Paint Colour wheel theory, and I have a lot of fun matching emotional states to painting – Art History happens to be another hobby.

Like many theories that try to create a framework for things we don’t understand, it’s imperfect, like the shadows on the wall of Plato’s cave that mimic something too bright to describe properly.  And yes, emotions are just biochemical reactions in the brain or something or other, if you want to be technical about it, but in that case, humans are just slightly organized bags of dirty water, too, aren’t they? So suspend your disbelief, incredulity, and all your preconceived notions about emotions, life, and everything, and follow this slightly organized bag of dirty water down this mental garden path.

This is my emotional colour wheel.

Happiness is yellow, the ability to smile, to laugh, and to enjoy what little and big pleasures life offers you. It colours the sunshine moments of little pleasures, like playing in the school yard during recess or running your fingers through a loved one’s hair. It colours the golden moments of triumphal delights, like fighting back a demon, achieving a goal, or even just waking up in the morning. It colours the lemony moments of sweet laughter and tart humour, with your friends, your family, the world, and yourself.

Sadness is blue, the ability to miss and mourn and cry for the things that have been and have gone or have might have been. It colours the teal moments of missing someone, when your heart aches like a summer rain, constantly and lastingly, but not unbearably. It colours the navy moments of grief, when your heart screams and cries in a thunderstorm of pain. It colours the azure moments that remind us that we are human, because a yellow sun only shines so brightly in a blue sky.

Passion is red, the ability to react and feel on instinct. It colours the scarlet moments of embarrassment, when you’re overwhelmed by the heat of humiliation and shame. It colours the crimson moments of surprise, when life takes a turn you weren’t expecting. It colours the maroon moments of shock, when life sweeps you along even though you want to stand still.

Nostalgia is green, the ability to remember, reflect and recall the past. It’s always a balance between happiness and sadness, between yellow and blue, because while painful memories are coloured aquamarine, that they’re past gives it a tinge of sunshine. Sentimentality is always a little chartreuse, because those happy days are over. Yet I think the best nostalgia is lime green, because we shouldn’t be sad that it’s over, just grateful that it happened.

Anger is purple, the passion spurred by feeling that something is wrong. Sometimes that heady red-violet rage is instinctual and violent, like a flash fire, sparked by sadness but accelerated by passion. Sometimes that phlox fury burns long and bright, driven equally by grief that something is wrong and a burning desire to fix it. But I think most anger is a bruise purple grudge, sustained by melancholy, but liable to spark at any time.

And love is orange, the ability to open your heart to others and enjoy the happiness and stand the vulnerability that comes from a very human place. Lust, the irreverent, heedless, terra-cotta rush, is passion chasing the promise of happiness and maybe not finding it. Affection mellowed with time and experience is as constant and cheerful as the peachy dawn. But I think the best love is deep mandarin, equal parts happiness and passion, sometimes tart but sweeter with age, but always deep and abiding.

Opposing colours contrast each other, and similar colours complement each other. I’d paint hate a dark purple, confused, driven by grief and passion and closest to anger. Even though both emotions contain passion, placing the two beside each other make both stand out and pop. All these emotions mix; the results can be glorious or hideous. just like sadness and love can mix beautifully like a graceful sable, it can also become a ghastly mess. We also feel in degrees, strongly about somethings, pastel-like in others, we layer emotions, one on top of the other for some kind of cheerful chaos. White is our blank canvas, but it is rarely white. It carries washes from previous emotions, because no one can ever scrub their emotional palette clean. Likewise, our black, our inability to sort out what we feel, is often not truly black; it is tinged with anger or sadness or love or passion, and maybe sometimes all the colours, like a rainbow in an oil-spill.

It’s not a perfect theory, but I think it’s pretty good. A person’s emotions, even more than an artist’s style, evolve quick and in all kinds of directions. It’s not a linear, forward evolution either. Our evolution moves in n-dimensions, where n is as many different iterations and directions that human maturity can take. While that number might be measurable, quantifiable some day, it’s effectively infinity. If, when I first started writing this post nearly a long time ago, when I felt the impetus to start blogging and came up with this theory, you’d asked me  to paint you a picture of my emotions, it’d look like a Mondrian without the yellow – blocks of sadness and passion, demarcated by times when I didn’t feel anything or  felt too much to understand. If you asked me now to paint that same picture, I’d take a copy of Gustav Klimt’s “The Kiss” and spatter bright mandarin paint all over it.

I guess new modern art is in emotions.

Project 14 is how I’m going to start my journey of self discovery, to memorialize  who I am when I start chronicling my life. Each day, I’ll approach who I am through a different paradigm people use to define themselves. Read more about it at my About page.


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