This column has always been about seeking big answers: not by hunting them like game with the worn set of questions we’re used to philosophizing with (what is the meaning of life?) but instead by sitting down for a moment and letting them come to us, with smaller, subtler questions (what are your thoughts on doughnut holes?) Let’s test the limits of that strategy. What can we learn about humanity from color?

The easiest approach here would be to simply ask people their favorite color, but for better or worse, the Shyamalan in me demands a twist. What then, are people’s least favorite colors?

As is my developing habit, I conducted my interviews on the bus, where there’s a great diversity of commuters just a bit too tired to think too much about their answers. With my subjects in a relatively compact area, it becomes an ideal polling ground for humanity. 

The answers were fairly predictable. Quite a few people expressed a distaste for browns, greys, and your beiges of various sorts and shades, citing their close association with the soulless glare of florescent lights and tinny fax-machine hum of the college students’ collective corporate cubicle nightmare. 

Another, interestingly opposing faction objected to the ostensibly headache-inducing neon family: electric blues, highlighter yellows, lime greens. I found this polarization so intriguing that I originally planned to write the column about our paradoxical displeasure for both the plain and pandaemonic. 

But then I got an answer that changed my mind, defied the duality. A smiley, bright-eyed freshman responded promptly and with great certainty that his least favorite color was the poetically specific “milky pink.” He defended his distaste at length, arguing that milky pink elicited that same sense of revulsion in him as many people feel when they hear the word “moist.”

Alright, time for a radical subject shift. Stay with me.

When I was a kid, my family went to the beach every summer. Now, the idea of my family's annual pilgrimage to an island beach resort provokes complex questions of privilege and class in my dutifully educated liberal mind, but back then, it was much simpler. There was an island, and I was on it. 

There was no shortage of things to do on the island. Roving bands of children would emerge from houses like ants from a disturbed mound, let loose onto the beaches by their parents in the explicit name of relaxation and the implicit desire to release themselves from the bonds of parenthood, if only for a few hours.

We would wander the island like manically grinning, Land’s End clad, Robinson Crusoes. We engaged in shenanigans of such impish audacity I still fear to fully disclose them to my parents. Rooftops were not safe from us, nor were the winding service roads we illegally rode our bikes through. To this day I shudder to think of the pristine lawns we mauled while running back and forth across them, attempting to get our five-dollar kites to soar proud in the endless blue of an island sky. 

My own particular crew of kids, ranging in age from around ten to fifteen was called the Doughnuts, after a plastic inner tube we somehow managed to lodge in a palm tree at least twice as tall as all of us put together. Our families tended to vacation at roughly the same time, so we would meet year after year. We formed one of those peculiar sorts of bonds that transcends geography and age and is only really possible to maintain in childhood. 

But while I have many fond memories of the island involving my friends, there was one activity that they refused to engage in with me. Storm-watching.

About once a summer, without fail, an enormous storm could be guaranteed to sweep over the island, sending sane people scrambling back into their houses to play board games or watch movies for an evening. I, of course, did the opposite. The western end of the island tapered to a point that had been covered in rocks ranging in size from pebbles to full-sized boulders, to prevent erosion. I would head for this spot, nestle myself safely between two of the larger rocks, and await the oncoming storm.

They were something to behold. The sky would roil with furious black and gray clouds that seemed somehow craggy, as though a mountain range was erupting from the dome of the sky. Piercingly bright greenish lightning leapt from cloud to cloud, cloud to ocean, and in one memorable occasion, cloud to a spot on the beach that seemed to be only a dozen yards away from me. I remember wishing I had words to describe the sound storm-waves made against the normally tranquil shore to my friends, then being interrupted by a thunderclap so loud that I didn’t just lose my train of thought, I lost the tracks. 

On one of our later trips to the island, when I was around sixteen, I sat there watching for so long that I actually fell asleep. I was awoken by the sound of seagulls and the set of aches that inevitably accompanies a night spent sleeping on rocks. I opened my eyes to a sight that I still associate with those nights spent storm watching, with my friends, even with the island as a whole. 

The storm was gone, replaced by a pre-dawn sky so peaceful and pure that the previous night’s fury was retroactively enhanced by the contrast.

It was the color of the inside of seashells, the color of saltwater taffy freshly unwrapped, the color of hidden things revealed. I haven’t lived a long life, but I can say with some confidence that the color of the sky as I sat on those rocks that morning was one of the most beautiful things I will ever have the privilege of seeing.

I sat for a long while. My head was tilted back, skyward. All I could see was milky pink. 

Mihir Bellamkonda is a Trinity first-year. His column, "small questions," runs on alternate Tuesdays.