Press-Republican

August 19, 2012

Seeing is believing

By GORDIE LITTLE, Small Talk
Press-Republican

---- — 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.”

I’m reading a book by a old rock ‘n’ roller who once lived in Plattsburgh in the ‘50s and ‘60s. A.J. Roberts worked as a plane spotter in the Ground Observer Corps on the roof of the old Physician’s Hospital. He mentions familiar names in his preface, such as Art Pierce and Dr. Adolph “Dit” Ditmar, a local dentist who left me his music collection when he died. The title of the book is “From Adam to Omega, an Anatomy of UFO Phenomena.” 

Roberts was a fine musician when I knew him 50 years ago. His bio says he worked in the hotel industry and was a professional photographer. He now resides in Florida and has spent much of his life researching and writing about the UFOs. His book is almost 500 pages. 

Our friend Carol Hoenig, a wonderful author from Churubusco and now, Long Island, sent me a complimentary copy. There is a cornucopia of food for thought inside, and I would recommend it highly, whether you are a believer or not.

Some would claim that most, if not all, UFO sightings are a product of pareidolia. I strongly disagree.

I write ghost stories and would be crushed to learn that seeing a deceased loved one standing next to you is nothing more than your clever brain manufacturing the apparition out of thin air.

Seeing faces in my bathroom rug is pareidolia; seeing the face on the front porch is not. I know the

difference and, regardless of what you might call it, I’ll still stare at the sky and look for a giant’s boot or even a pig’s ear.

Enjoy nature, and don’t be afraid to cherish rainbows and dragonflies. We had a huge one that flew into our house recently, and I finally released it into its natural habitat after we worshiped its beauty. 

A wonderful lady in Tupper Lake sent me a photograph of her granddaughter’s shoulder tattoo of a dragonfly. A real dragonfly had landed right next to it. That’s about as good as it gets.

Have a great rest of your summer and please, drive carefully.

Gordie Little was for many years a well-known radio personality in the North Country and now hosts the “Our Little Corner” television program for Home Town Cable. Anyone with comments for him may send them to the newspaper or email him at gordandk@aol.com.