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Sunday, February 20, 2005

Colors: Green

Green is the color of growth. We wouldn't be here without green plants. They make food for us, and for the animals that many of us eat.

The process that uses light energy to make food is photosynthesis. (There's a common belief that we need the oxygen from green plants. It's false. We need oxygen, but, if photosynthesis stopped, we could get along fine on what's in the atmosphere for a few thousand years. We'd die in a hurry without the food.)

What makes plants green? Green pigments. What's a pigment? A chemical that absorbs some colors, and reflects others, or just lets them go through. The green pigments of plants are chlorophylls. Since leaves look green, they aren't absorbing that color--it is reflected off them. That means that it is non-green colors of light that give photosynthesis the energy that is turned into food. Green light has little or no importance in photosynthesis.

The Wikipedia article on green says that some languages don't distinguish between green and blue, or between green and yellow.

There are over 40 uses of green in the Bible. Most of them are in the sense of "green plant." There are some nuances. In Judges 16:7-8, green sticks are green in the sense of "not dry." Esther 1:6 has the first use of green other than for a plant. It is used as a color of fabric in that verse. Job 8:16 uses the word to refer to a favored person. Job 15:32 does, too. There are a few similar uses. One of the most familiar uses is in Psalm 23, where David says that he has lain in green pastures.

Green is the only one of the seven rainbow colors that is a common last name. There are some Reds, and an occasional Blue, but I've never known a Mrs. Orange, Ms. Yellow, Mr. Indigo, or Miss Violet. (One of the founders of my denomination, The Wesleyan Church, was named Orange Scott. Violet is fairly common as a first name.) My wife has some relatives named Green.

Green shows up fairly often in fantasy, often in a bad light, if you'll excuse the expression. Besides the classic "little green men," there are green dragons. In The Silver Chair, by C. S. Lewis, the witch was a green-clad woman, who metamorphosed into a green serpent. Edgar Rice Burroughs peopled Barsoom (Mars) with black, yellow, red and white humans. The red race was so much like us that John Carter, from Virginia, had offspring by a red princess. But Tars Tarkas and the other green "men" were different. They were much taller, and had four arms, not two.

Green is considered a color representing envy.

Even though Kermit the frog sings that "It's Not Easy Being Green," I'm glad that plants don't seem to find it difficult. Thank God for growth, and food.

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Addendum, Feb 21, 2005.

I have failed to mention a lot of things. Sorry about that.

One of them is that many cities in the U. S. are named Greenville, or Greeneville, either named after someone named Green, or just because someone thought that the color was a good one. Two of my own state's largest are Greenville and Greenwood, South Carolina. Some states have more than one Greenville.

Another is that one of the earliest works of English literature is Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, probably over six centuries old now. Go here for a web site on this work (there are others). Tolkien, who was an expert on ancient literature, wrote a book about this and other works.

Addendum, June 16, 2007. The church I currently attend has a note in its bulletin, saying that Green symbolizes Ordinary Time (as opposed to Lent, Advent, and other special times), and Christian growth.

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