Check out this guy! Or possibly girl. There isn’t much information on the interwebs about Benthoctopus sp. or this individual in particular, but the photo (taken by Bruce Strickrott) grabbed my attention and got me thinking. The mechanical arm belongs to Alvin, the amazing and famous deep sea submersible at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. He was down on a mission for Principal Investigator Charles Fisher. The octopus just wandered up to say, “Hey.” The whole scene looks like a Steampunk meet-up, which is cool.
But red light bails out first going down into the depths, so our curious friend here probably doesn’t know he’s red. My initial thought was, how sad, he thinks he’s gray like everybody else. He has no idea how extraordinary he is. Then I noticed how deep this dive was: 7,500 feet. That’s almost a mile and half straight down, gentle reader. All light gives it up for a bad job well before that. Not only does Benthoctopus have no idea he’s red, color doesn’t figure in his world at all. He is wondrous and beautiful, but his habitat never lets it show. No one knows or cares that he is a brilliant shade of scarlet. Neither he nor his neighbors are aware that colors even exist.
Then I started getting philosophical, sociological even. What if no one can see the particular way in which I am special, maybe wonderful? What if everyone thinks I’m just gray, like them? Then… what if I am special and wonderful in a way that none of us even know about? What if I would be stunning and brilliant in some other habitat, a different sort of society, one which sees things we cannot imagine?
Back to our denizen of the deep dark. Even though color is invisible in his world, he is red. It only took someone shining a light on him to show it. What about our world, our neighbors? Who goes through their lives with incredible color we don’t see? We judge people to be gray, like ourselves, because we don’t shine the right light on them. We believe we are just gray because it’s all we’ve ever seen. Surely there is more to everyone, no matter how dull they appear in our world. But what is the light we need to shine on each other? Benthoctopus never saw Alvin or his lights before. He didn’t know about light or color. What can each of us do, as individuals, to let another’s true colors shine? I don’t know. But now I’m thinking about it. That’s where change begins.