moon

Pareidolia

On a clear late summer night, the woman sat on the edge of a field outside of town to watch the moon rise. In another age, she would have been known as a seer among her people. But times have changed and there’s no demand for seers anymore. Instead, she spends her days performing the dull, essential tasks that modern life demands of us all.

She has sought out a place as far from the city’s light pollution as she can get to, but she knows that what she sees is a shadow of what was there when she was a child, far from any city, watching the heavens traverse the sky above her.

When she was young, she had found it a spooky to think that the beauty of a heavenly parade took place night after night long before there was any human present to appreciate it. And it would continue after humanity was gone. It is hard for a child to imagine a world which existed before their arrival and would continue after they had departed again. But watching those stars as an interloper just passing through allowed the woman make peace with the fact that the world was not for her. It has an existence all its own.

The moon rose full and bright while the woman watched. It climbed higher into the sky, illuminating the only bank of clouds in the sky. As the thin clouds passed directly in front of the moon, the woman saw two angels bearing the bright orb of the moon between them. As she watched one angel became an eagle. The other soon morphed into a serpent opposite a lion.

For a few moments, an array of creatures made their presence in the cloud known. The woman was so caught up in the display that it came as a surprise when the clouds began drifting away. Soon the sky would be entirely clear.

She had looked deep into the cloud and been absorbed in the secret life it carried with it. She knew she would soon enough forget the details of this cloud – one of many she had loved. But for a few minutes, that cloud had been her world.

The woman was no primitive. She knew that this was just a trick a person’s brain played – seeing faces on the moon and angels in the clouds. God wasn’t sitting around shaping clouds to send her messages.

She knew this, but she never quite understood why this made the reality of it any less wonderous. That she had a brain which played such a trick. That something as simple as a cloud could make that happen was amazing in and of itself. The fact that sometimes her seer’s heart could find meaning in the convergence between the tricks of her brain and the randomness of a cloud just made it all the more magic to her.

With her beloved cloud moving on and and the chill of the night breeze picking up, the woman packed up her seat to return to the house where her children were sleeping. Soon she would be asleep as well. In another time, her seer’s dreams would have been seen as valuable and sought-after. But we don’t live in those times. Dreams, like the visions in the clouds, are nothing but more tricks of the brain. And what could be the wonder in that?

*Pareidolia is the technical term for our tendency to see faces or other known things in random things like clouds.

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2 thoughts on “Pareidolia

  1. Intuition is the voice of the non-physical world. –Gary Zukav

    ‘The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honours the servant and has forgotten the gift.’ –A. Einstein

    “You get your intuition back when you make space for it, when you stop the chattering of the rational mind. The rational mind doesn’t nourish you. You assume that it gives you the truth, because the rational mind is the golden calf that this culture worships, but this is not true. Rationality squeezes out much that is rich and juicy and fascinating.”
    — Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

    “Don’t die with your music still inside you. Listen to your intuitive inner voice and find what passion stirs your soul. Listen to that inner voice, and don’t get to the end of your life and say, ‘What if my whole life has been wrong?” -Dr. Wayne W. Dyer

    “The world of my childhood was filled with wonder and magic. Enchantment was the order of the day. Mechanistic science has no place for enchantment. If it can’t be measured, it doesn’t exist. The problem is, the important things cannot be measured….”
    –Anne Wilson Schaef (Cherokee)
    Author- Native Wisdom for White Minds
    From rear cover:
    What is a white mind? White minds are trapped in a closed system of thinking that sees life in black and white, either/or terms; they are hierarchical and mechanistic; they see nature as a force to be tamed and people as objects to be controlled with no regard for the future.
    This worldview is not shared by most Native Peoples. Anne shares the richness poured out to her by Native Americans, Aborigines, Africans, Maoris and others. In the words of Native peoples themselves, we come to understand Native ideas about our earth, spirituality, family, work, loneliness and change. For in every area of our lives we have the capacity to transcend our white minds – we simply need to listen with open hearts and open minds to other voices, other perceptions, other cultures.
    Anne often heard Elders from a wide variety of Native peoples say, “Our legends tell us that a time will come when our wisdom and way of living will be necessary to save the planet, and that time is now.”

    “(American Christianity) is more Petrine than Johannean; more like busy Martha than like the pensive Mary, sitting at the feet of Jesus. It expands more in breadth than in depth. It is often carried on like a secular business, and in a mechanical or utilitarian spirit. It lacks the beautiful enamel of deep fervor and heartiness, the true mysticism, an appreciation of history and the Church; it wants (i.e. “lacks”) the substratum of a profound and spiritual theology; and under the mask of orthodoxy it not infrequently conceals, without intending or knowing it, the tendency to abstract intellectualism and superficial rationalism. This is especially evident in the doctrine of the church and of the sacraments, and in the meagerness of the worship… (wherein) nothing is left but preaching, free prayer, and singing.”
    –Philip Schaff, a Swiss theologian, analyzing American Christianity for a German audience in 1854.

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  2. Very well written, Rebecca. It’s certainly an appropriate description of what is going on when we “see” certain images in clouds, for example. We see a lot of images that people post of cloud formations that look like angels or crosses. A sign from God, they might think. I think magic and mystery can be confused. Magic can be understood as ways to manipulate our imagination to match our biases about how God works. When we don’t understand things that we intuit, I think that’s better called mystery. There’s so much of that. I think if you and I, and people in general, are open to mystery, we can think of ourselves as seers. Seeing into mystery. We know that we don’t know, and that’s OK. I like Carol’s quotes, very much.

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