When driving my son home from school this afternoon he declared,
“Look, mummy, that cloud looks like a dragon!”
And so it did. There it was with its long nose breathing out smoke, as clear as day over the skies of Worthing.
“Yes, but it could also be a dolphin,” I pointed out.
“Oh yes, I see the dolphin too”, he said.
He’s a much braver child than I was. At six, I wouldn’t have dared tell anyone I could see pictures in inanimate objects through fear of them thinking me nuts. Up until university I often saw images were there clearly weren’t any, but just put it down to me being a bit on the crazy side.
I think university managed to bleed me dry of creative juices while I focused on analysing other people’s works of literature, which is probably why I stopped seeing these things – or perhaps stopped trying to see them.
After spending four years studying other people’s works of literature and trying to figure out why they wrote what they did, I eventually came to the conclusion that if these miserable literary lot were anything to go by, creative = weird = unhappy = untimely death.
Poor old Goethe’s creative abilities didn’t do him any favours in the end, and Kafka didn’t appear to be the cheeriest of souls – writing about a bloke turning into a giant beetle, we-eird.
Maybe that’s why I choose to write happy ends. Surely there’s enough torment in life without having to read about it in entertaining fiction? Same reason perhaps I choose to listen to happy songs (none of this dreary stuff, thank you) and watch funny films (sad endings? Good God, no!).
So, turns out it’s not just me who can see these pictures, it’s my son too. Maybe it’s just our nutty gene, I thought. But apparently not. I looked it up and it’s called pareidolia. Some people are more prone to it than others but it’s very common (not sure if I preferred it when I thought I was crazy, rather than common).
Some of the examples on this website flummoxed me though http://earthsky.org/human-world/seeing-things-that-arent-there. If you can see all of these I reckon you’re a proper pareidolic (or whatever the term is).
If you’re one of the people who can see these things be careful who you mention this ‘talent’ to though. I was in the garden the other night with my husband looking at the moon (sounds very romantic but we were actually hanging out washing), when I said that I could see the man in the moon.
“Never been able to see that”, he said. “Think people who say that are just making it up.”
Whaaaaaaat? How can he not see the man in the moon? It’s bleedin’ obvious!!
When we went indoors and I pointed out that the yet-to-be decorated wall in our house had images in its patches of old plaster, he looked at me like I’d just turned blue and grown an extra head and asked me to point them out.
“You see”, I said. “Here’s a butterfly, or it could also be a bird, and this one here’s a knight in armour holding up a sword.”
“You’re totally cuckoo,” was his only response as he looked at me with shock and pity and shook his head, clearly wandering what the heck he’d married.
I was going to inform him that the correct term was actually pareidolic but I wasn’t sure how to pronounce it.
Instead I kept quiet and for once felt quite smug about my craziness. While he saw an ugly wall that needed decorating, I saw a witch sitting on top of a flying elephant on her way to do battle with the sword-wielding knight. Who wouldn’t take that option, even if it did mean they were slightly unhinged?