Coca-Cola. First aid. The jerseys of the Bulls and Blackhawks. Roses. Ketchup. Strawberries. Santa Claus. A firetruck. A cardinal. A ruby. The Canadian flag. That color--the boldness of it, the fervency--draws my eye and, often, holds it. If we play Sorry! or Settlers of Catan I'm reaching for the red game pieces (and I'm secretly disappointed if I don't get them). But it isn't as though we have a special kinship, me and red. I haven't picked it as a favorite, and I don't even think a favorite color is a thing worthy of thinginess. But I know that it pulls my eye. It interests me, more than the emotional tones of blue, the quirkiness of purple, the nourishing flavor of green, the shocking vibrancy of yellow, or the too-cool-for-school attitude of orange.
Red is a very practical color, mostly for stop signs, stop lights, brake lights, and emergency sirens. Red alerts us to danger. It gets our attention. I think this have something to do with its occurrence in nature. Most of nature is green, brown, or blue. The grass, the dirt, the water, the sky. There are some exceptions to this, like a soothing crimson sunset, a flowering vermilion volcano, or a stunning rusty desert, but the peculiarity of those instances arrest our attention. Mostly, red appears in nature as a detail: a berry on a bush, a bird on a branch, a bug on a begonia.
At this point, I think the responsible blogger would delve into the biology of the eye and the neurology of color experience, but after doing the research (i.e. Wikipedia and four Youtube videos), not only am I not sure it helps me figure out the point or purpose of red, but it makes my pendulum just swing from biology back to phenomenology. I don't care as much how the trick is done as the reasons why I'm dazzled by it.
(That said, the cones in your eyes are the ones that detect color, and 60% of your cones detect only the color red, as opposed to 30% for green and 10% for blue. Every color we see is a combination of these three colors. They send information to the visual cortex in the back of your brain, which then creates the phenomenal experience of color through a process that both neurologists and philosophers are still not entirely sure of and is outside the scope or attention span of this post to dive into, though I warrant it's an interesting question that I'll get to at some point. My focus is the creation of meaning, in particular the meaning the color has when utilized for things like emergency lighting, marketing campaigns, and athletic uniforms, which brings us to...)
There's one other major place red occurs in nature, and that's blood. Bloody blood. Organic petroleum. Whenever you see it it means danger. Something's wrong. That stuff is supposed to stay inside of you. Or red is the tongue, the mouth, and other erogenous zones it would behoove you to pay attention to.
I think it's this association, imprinted upon our brains through millions of years of evolutionary trial and error, that gives red its meaning. Red is urgency, red is vitality, red is passion, love, action. Red is pumping through us. Red seethes; red pulses. Stop signs and brake lights shock us awake, yes, but Valentine's Day cards arouse our hearts and bold sports jerseys incite action. I think it's because we are all blood on the inside, and when it isn't blood, the red we see is food and flowers and fire and flirtations, things that propel nature's animation. Because whether it's hair, lipstick, coals, a flag, a convertible, or a tin can with sugary brown liquid inside, red grabs you. Red grits its teeth. Red stands on the edge of a cliff staring into the sunset with the wind through its hair. And then red hugs you and won't ever let you go