There are people who tell you, for example, that you can speak of a pencil's dimension, location, appearance, state of motion or rest but not of its intelligence or love of music. The moment I hear that, the poet in me rebels and I want to write a poem about an intelligent pencil in love with music. In other words, what they regard as nonsense, I suspect to be full of unknown imaginative possibilities. 1
When I was a kid, for some reason I owned a book about the Lüscher color test,2 a psychological test invented by Max Lüscher, a Swiss psychotherapist, in 1947. Lüscher believed that your preference for one color over another revealed things about your emotional state and subsconscious mind. Its validity has been challenged, but I did not know that then and would not have cared. The book was too much fun. It included a set of eight colored cards which allowed you to administer a simple version of the test to yourself and others.
After taking the test myself, I turned to my father. He had trained in painting and sculpture at the Art Academy of Cincinnati, made his living painting signs, and periodically turned one of his photographs into a painting. I brought the cards over to him and thought, This is gonna be great.
I explained the test. "Okay, Dad, here are the first two cards—which do you prefer?"
"Neither of them."
"No, you have to."
"Well, I don't."
"What do you mean? Look, that one's red and that one's yellow. You have to like one color better than the other.
"Well, I don't."
Exasperated, I stacked the cards.
"Here's the thing," he said. "When I look at each of these colors, I just see the things I could do with that color. I don't have a preference because they've all got possibility."
1 Charles Simic, from his essay "Reading Philosophy at Night," published by Anteaus in 1987.
2 You can take a skimpy online version of the test here. I did, and this is what it said about me: "Hungers for intensity in life and welcomes opportunity to take on challenges and experience them with intense vitality. Is active and full of initiative, but unwilling to accept risk. Wants orderly activity to be the path to the goal. Also capable of relaxing and taking in impressions sensitively. Thanks to the ability to keep everything on an even keel and to alternate between activity and rest, overdoing things and exhaustion are avoided. Has an urgent need for conflict-free contentment and calming security, and therefore seeks to protect self from hurtful insults. At this time, wants to avoid anything disquieting that leads to emotional turmoil. Wants to form an attachment only to persons and tasks that afford a sense of dependability, security, and personal esteem. Expects of the other an unlimited, emotionally intense, and lasting attentiveness and attachment." About half-right, I think.