Press-Republican

Columns

August 19, 2012

Seeing is believing

Clouds are magical. As I sat down to write this, I scanned the sky from our deck. I focused on a huge cloud that looked like the pointy-toed leather boot of the giant in my childhood book of “Jack and the Beanstalk.”

Clouds can evoke memories and warm feelings of being part of the universe. We are, you know. A recent evening storm left us with three gorgeous rainbows. Friends captured them in photos that were posted on Facebook.

Kaye and I have childhood memories of lying prone in the grass staring at the sky. “There’s an elephant.” “I see a pirate ship.” What fun. 

Our brains are clever that way. We can see a nebulous shape and turn it into a face or an object. 

There’s a name for that; it’s called pareidolia. I’ll wager you’ve done it many times. 

I was standing on my front porch talking on my cellphone. I happened to glance down at my feet and saw in the stonework a side profile of a man’s face. I took a photo of it and have shown it to friends.

I once started to write a book entitled “Pictures on the Wall.” While I shave, I see the face of a witch and a dog in the paneling on my bathroom wall. I see faces in the nap of the floor rug. Rorschach would have had a field day showing me his ink blots.

I’ve never seen the face of Jesus on a piece of toast, but others have. Scottish philosopher David Hume said, “There is a universal tendency among mankind to conceive all beings like themselves, and to transfer to every object, those qualities, with which they are familiarly acquainted, and of which they are intimately conscious. We find human faces in the moon, armies in the clouds; and by a natural propensity, if not corrected by experience and reflection, ascribe malice or goodwill to everything that hurts or pleases us.”

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