desaturate

The Canadian National Exhibition is a good place to reach saturation quickly. So much noise, so many people, so much food (fat sugar salt starch protein), so much beverage, so much merchandise, so much colour. You soak in it and soak it in. It’s like applying layer after layer of ink onto a piece of paper: it becomes more and more intense as the paper absorbs more and more. It goes beyond satisfaction, beyond satiation, beyond satiety, to saturation. At a certain point you need some desaturation.

Do you notice how satisfaction, satiation, satiety, and saturation all start with sat? It’s not because they’re all associated with Saturnalia (although there is a bit of that aspect in an annual fun fair). They’re all related words: satis is Latin for ‘enough’ and satur, a related root, is ‘full, satiated’. (Saturn is not part of the family.) This one root is soaked full of uses and meanings.

But desaturate has a little extra something that sets it apart. I mean the de, of course, but that also casts a particular hue on it. Or lack of hue. There are many things that can be saturated, but not quite as many that can be spoken of as being desaturated. One of the common uses of desaturate refers to decreasing the intensity of a colour. Complete desaturation results in a greyscale (black-and-white) image. All the intensity of the colour has gone out. Not only is the ink not saturating the page to produce a maximally intense colour, it’s not even there – just the black is left.

Of course, nowadays when you’re working with image colours you’re doing so on a computer, and there is no ink to speak of. So desaturation is really a smoothing out of the colour balance to make all three inputs (red, blue, and green) even, so that it has no intensity of anything except greyness. But we look at it and we experience it as a loss of ink intensity. Desaturation.

Now imagine being at the CNE or another similar collection of sound and colour and food and beverage and stuff and reaching the point of saturation. You want to desaturate, let some of the ink of the day drain out. Where do you go? Someplace quieter, less crowded. Over in one corner near the flower competition there is a local wine and microbrew beer bar. Sit down and have a glass and go grey for a bit. Thin your blood, wring out the sweat, de-magnetize, de-humidify. Desaturate.

But it may be a bit of a shock when you step back into the fully saturated and saturating world just beyond your quiet garden.

One response to “desaturate

  1. Pingback: silhouette | Sesquiotica

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