But why, when I own a white cat? And why, when I love primary colors in nature? What is it about the absence of all color that attracts me?
I was reading an article a while back that talked about light versus darkness. It stated that darkness does not exist because it can be obliterated by light, that darkness is the absence of light. But black, blackness, always seems to me to have such substance and weight. It seems heavy, able to land on you, able to anchor you to the ground. Maybe that is why I wear it, because it gives me a feeling of being earth bound. I think I have this fear that I may float off into the stratosphere like a balloon, that gravity has no effect on me. I am speaking metaphorically, you understand. My head seems always to be in the clouds, drifting off my shoulders, leaving the world far behind. So, I tend to gravitate to the color that would hold me together, black.
But there are so many more reasons that I think I chose to dress in black. It is what black represents that appeals to me, it is black's literary history, or ancestry that I am drawn to.
The word Black takes up three pages in the Oxford English Dictionary and was first used in English as a word for the color in Beowuf. The OED gives the literal definition as:
1.The proper word for a certain quality practically classed among
colours, but consisting optically in the total absence of colour, due
to the absence or total absorption of light, as its opposite white arises
from reflection of all the rays of light.
2a. As a color pertaining to objects, even in full light: Absorbing all light;
'of the colour of night; ' of the colour of soot or coal; of the darkest possible
hue; swart (Perfect blackness being a rare attribute of objects, those
from the surface of which very little light is reflected are commonly called black.)
But further down we read:
4. Characterized by absence of light.
a. Enveloped in darkness, dark, dusky, swat.
10a. Clouded with sorrow or melancholy, dismal, gloomy, sad.
Ah, yes, there we go, the absence of light, the blackness of the soul. I think that my melancholic personality is drawn to the dark, colorless color of black. Is it that I am constantly in mourning? And if so, what is it I mourn for? Do I long for youth, lost hopes, untraveled roads? Or is it even deeper than that? Gerard Manley Hopkins in his poem [I wake and Feel the Fell of Dark, Not Day] sees this blackness as the weight of our fallen nature:
I wake and feel the fell of dark, not day.
What hours, O what black hours we have spent
This night! what sights you, heart, saw; way's you went!
The darkness that clings and claws at Hopkins is himself, his being, his lack of light. This is a heavy weight to bare, this self:
I am gall. I am heartburn. God's most deep decree
Bitter would have me taste: my taste was me;
You might say he is a bit hard on himself, but his point is that we are not worthy of light, we are full of dark places and thoughts. I am, I know. I can slip into a downward spiral very easily. I can let my thoughts cascade across my memory, spilling over all the worst of the worst in my backlog of failures. But more to the point, I can acctually enjoy this, get some warped self-pleasure out of beating myself up. Hopkins calls this 'Selfyeast of spirit' and I really like that word, selfyeast, it nails the ME that I focus on.
I admit, Hopkins sometimes is not the first person you would like to sit and have a beer with, but he makes a good point. We are the sum of our woes sometimes, the center of our universe the axis of the earth. I know I am. And maybe black reflects my stubborn desire to refract what warmth and light there is out there. And yet, on the other hand, it may just be that I like black because it contrasts everything else. Anything held up to black looks brighter, sharper, cleaner. The world is not so bleak if it is held up to total darkness, you can find some light there somewhere. As T.S. Eliot says in East Coker;
I said to my soul, be still, and let the dark come upon you
Which is the darkness of God. As, in a theatre,
The lights are extinguished, for the scene to be changed
With a hollow rumble of wings,
with a movement of dark-
ness on darkness
And I say Amen.