There Are Advantages To Color Blindness

September 8, 2016

 

My grandfather is a big, barrel-chested retired navy man. He is straight out of central casting with a shaved head and thick forearms. He’s a gruff, old school, outdoorsman, Clint Eastwood-type. Tough as nails. He is also colorblind.

 

When I was a kid, he shared stories of his experience in combat and the lessons he learned while fighting in Vietnam. One such lesson was that our military would fly colorblind soldiers like him over areas suspected of hiding enemy armaments and supplies—typically in heavily wooded areas and in thick bush. Militaries hid their equipment with camouflaged netting making it difficult for people with perfect eyesight to detect. However, colorblind soldiers could see right though the camouflage. Their “defective” eyesight enabled them to see the enemy as if they were hiding in plain sight. In essence, they could see what was hidden underneath the surface.

 

My grandfather’s flawed eyesight gave him a different perspective. And, that perspective provided him a distinct advantage when detecting the enemy hidden below.

 

We generally believe in what we see. Unfortunately, what we see is filtered through the lens of our perspective. Sometimes it takes another perspective to see what’s hidden in plain sight. And, sometimes that perspective comes from someone who sees the world differently—someone we believe to have “flawed” vision.

 

When surrounded by people who share the same perspective you are sure to miss something.

 

On a lighter note: My grandmother, a cheeky Australian with a wonderfully dry sense of humor, loved to dress my rough and tumble grandfather in soft pastels. When we were kids, my sister and I thought it hysterical to see him decked out in pinks and yellows and lavenders. He often looked like a contestant on Dance Fever. We tried to explain to him that he was dressed out of character, but he couldn’t comprehend what a soft pastel was or why it was out of character.

 

So, if you have ever seen a big, gruff looking guy lumbering around in a canary yellow outfit… that might be my grandfather. I didn’t say colorblindness was an advantage in every aspect of life.

 

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