24 November 2009

[liff] Pareidolia: New Jersey In The Sky

2264.We see what we want to see – or, more appropriately, we recognize what we recognize. And when confronted with a field of random, visual information, we impress meaning upon it, especially if that random information happens to form patterns we are familiar with.

This is what we call pareidolia. It's what we humans seem helpless to resist doing to make sense out of a senseless world. For instance, in this picture (nicked from Strange Maps), the cloud just happens to resemble New Jersey:

Just to see how close, here's an actual map of New Jersey along side:

Uncanny, isn't it? There are some places where the match misses it by a mile, but it's close enough for jazz, as we like to say.

The post at Strange Maps is here, and includes asphalt Maines, many versions of Australia, even a food-based District of Columbia.

Pariedolia is a strange and wild beast. It's why some think there's a human face on Mars; it's why so many see Jesus in peeling paint and the Madonna on a grilled cheese sandwich. We're programmed to recognize things we know, and if things just so happen to fall into a familiar pattern, our recognizer turns on and sees what we recognize.

Sometimes it's a very close resemblance, but sometimes it can be a mile off but still be reminiscent.

The next time you see something that makes you think of something else (Tanzania has always reminded me of Wisconsin, and both make me think of toast. This can lead to an incidence of grilled cheese sandwich), take a moment to let it open some perceptive avenues. Think about how a random assortment of meaningless forces made something that you recognize. Some may see God in the display; some may see the cosmos talking back to them; some may wonder at the amazement that wild impersonal chance can produce.

Thinking about this always makes me go inside and outside at the same time, which, for someone who isn't very religious, is a mind-stretcher, to say the least.

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