Being black is a lonely business; black is to despair as white is to hope. Scientifically, black absorbs all light, without reflecting any of its rays. Philosophically black is the absence of light. Some will even say that black is the absence of a color. There is black art (or black magic), which implies a work of the devil. In folklore, blackbirds symbolize evil. As black as a crow, as black as a raven, as black as thunder, black as the ace of spades and black as a minister’s coat are all phrases of old that represent something very dark. The Black Death, sometimes called the Great Pestilence, and frequently known as bubonic plague, was a sinister disease which decimated more than a tenth of England’s people in the fourteenth century. Other black illnesses range from a simple black eye to the potentially deadly black lung; from pesky blackheads to the fatal blackwater fever, black continues to symbolize death and suffering. Black seems to mean malignant, forbidding, even Mephistophelean events and circumstances.

Though black is often represented to be tenebrous, wispy, and depressingly despondent, it has a number of other, much more harmless uses. Many people (and machines) have made their living by mining black diamonds, more commonly known as coal. Blackberries are a fruit enjoyed by many. Black can be the essence of mysteriousness, and for the romantics at heart, perhaps there is something cozy to be said for a blackout. Some gardeners are proud to plant the Rudbeckia hirta, or black-eyed Susan, flowers that are easy to care for. If you are superstitious then black cats are something to be avoided. Perhaps black cats are bad luck; in the witchcraft hysteria of the 1600s, the presence of a black cat with the accused was sometimes declared evidence of the person’s guilt. During the Middle Ages it was believed that Satan frequently took the form of a black cat.

There are so many other terms, like that old black magic”; the existence of black holes; the religiously important Black Stone; there is the act of blackmail; a young man’s address book of girlfriends is called his little black book; and this dark list could go on and on. But we’ve decided to conclude this discussion. What one phrase will be our closure? Perhaps a favorite of film-makers as they complete production of a scene: fade to black."