I never seem to have to wait long for another example of pareidolia making headlines. This time around, the Daily Mail (among others) has reprints of an American tourist’s photo of the cliffs of Moher and if you stare at the picture just right, a face does appear to be looking out at the camera. It’s Jesus’ face, of course. And to make sure you see what Sandra Clifford saw, they provide you with the image of a painting of Jesus as he probably didn’t look in real life anyway.
The 42-year-old pilot from San Francisco couldn’t believe her eyes when she spotted an imprint of as she visited the famous County Clare tourist attraction.
She told Irish Central: ‘To me it was Jesus Christ straight away.
‘I am a pilot, so I am always skeptical of what I see, that is why I started grabbing people and asking them what they saw
Breaking in to note how completely opposite of skepticism Ms Clifford’s reaction to the rock formation was. Instead of, “hey, that kind of looks like a face. I should take a picture of that. It’s cool.” She immediately convinces herself it’s Christ she’s gotten a special look-at and can’t wait to tell the world about it.
It had been raining prior to the sighting and the pilot said it had been ‘a day of rainbows.’
And as everybody knows, at least everyone who thinks like this woman thinks (and atheist bloggers who do a bit of Googling), rainbows are considered visible proof of God’s mercy. It comes from the story of Noah and the ark and God rewarding the passengers with a rainbow after He killed every other living thing on earth by drowning them. The rainbow is supposed to symbolize God’s promise never to do it again, no matter how riddled with sin humans might be. Every rainbow is supposed to be interpreted as God reminding the world of his power and his grace.
And Ms Clifford is not alone in thinking her sighting is completely genuine.
Later that evening Ms Clifford, who was holidaying with her friend Fiona Fay, went to Gus O’Connors Pub in Doolin, where locals whole hardheartedly agreed with their diagnosis.
Teresa O’Flaherty, who owns the bar with her husband Patric, told IrishCentral that they couldn’t believe their eyes when they saw the snap.
‘I was like, wow, I actually thought it was a picture of a picture, I was shocked,” she said.
‘It’s very definitely an image of Christ,” she said.
Ms Clifford maintains the images are 100 percent legitimate and points out the original photograph are still in the camera, which she passed around in the Co. Clare pub that evening.
This is a case of skepticism and sense going the way of the dodo. I don’t know why these are the conclusions people want to jump to all the time. What does it say about their mental state? I don’t mean they’re nuts or anything, I just wonder why they think they see what they see. Why didn’t she see a troll in the cliff face? That’s what it reminded me of and I didn’t even have a troll folklore upbringing. I did see Return to Oz, though, so it also reminds me of the Nome King who wanted to steal Dorothy’s ruby slippers.
So I suppose that’s my answer. People see what they see because they’re building it out of past experiences. They see Jesus because they’ve been inundated with imagery of Jesus from a very young age and it’s become automatic for them to holler, “It’s Jesus!” as soon as they see anything that remotely resembles their remembered idea of what Jesus looks like.
It reminds me of something…forget when it would have been, but I’m assuming university. I was shown a picture that was just black and white but the shape of both on the page made it resemble something very “familiar” and I blurted the exact same thing, even though I’d never been anything remotely like a true believer. The person showing me the picture said something like, “Are you sure?” and I remember taking a mental step back and changing my answer. “Sorry, right, it just looks a bit like a man with a beard.” I don’t think I really thought of the image as an image of Christ, but no one’s truly immune from cultural conditioning. A few years of Catholic school + a few relatives with bible inspired art on the wall + a random face with a beard = Jesus Christ. Sad, really.
It was kind of eye opening for me, though, how quick a person can make an assumption based on fuck-all for evidence. That’s probably why I like finding these stories and writing about them. I think more people need to have the same kind of eye-opening/mental step back that I had.