The Cambridge English dictionary defines Pareidola as “a situation in which someone sees a pattern or image of something that does not exist, for example, a face in a cloud”. I often say that we are meaning machines and this word which was not in my vocabulary till a few days ago, was a happy find. It added layers of meaning to the week that went by. I stumbled upon the word at the American Visionary Arts Museum in Baltimore while admiring some lovely pieces of driftwood. The one that caught my attention first was a cute little ‘Finding Nemo’ fish that had found its way into the wood.
Coincidentally the morning before I found the word Pareidolia, I found what is now named my #puffthemagicdragon cloud. I had stepped out of the house to say goodbye to my son as he was leaving for the airport and this amazing cloud formation came together. Later in the day as I was going through my pictures I wrote this post “Just for a few seconds the magic of life reveals itself and dragons became real and sea horses swim in the blue sky. Hellos and goodbyes are what make the chapters of life and memories are the pictures. Cheers to more magical family time of togetherness.”
I made meaning from thin air and I think that is what makes us humans so special. We have the power to imagine and see things sometimes even when they are not there. When used positively this pareidola is so powerful. We often say beauty lies in the eye of the beholder. Each one of us has a unique perspective and we see the world through different lenses.
Creativity and art and vision are about seeing the invisible and bringing it to life in special ways. The cloud I saw helped me find a way to say goodbye to my son. I gave it a shape and that shaped my reality. It gave me the power to shed a silent tear and power on, grateful for the time I got to spend with him. Dragons can also be scary and dangerous but #puffthemagicdragon is a special kind of dragon a friendly one. The ability of the human mind to connect these unconnected dots and stitch them together with the melody of Peter, Paul, and Mary’s timeless classic playing music in the background is beyond my comprehension.
“You see things, not as they are, but as you are” – Eric Butterworth. For all the good and beauty that pareidolia can provide, there is another darker side to seeing things that are not there and giving them meaning. One example of this is the ‘Blue eyes, brown eyes social exercise’ that Jane Elliot is the author of. It shines a light on the subject of racism making the invisible, visible in a very experiential way. If you have not seen this before do spare a few minutes to watch or read about it.
All of this reminds me of the power of storytelling and the responsibility that we as PR professionals carry. From blue skies thinking to come up with new ideas to being the blue-eyed winners of awards for the work we do by PR is a powerful arrow the reputation building quiver. In this business of curating and creating experiences that bring brands alive, we have to be the moral compass and custodians of actions that define images. Perspective and values define how we see the world. How we see the world defines how we act and react.
The next time you look up into the sky and see a cloud that speaks to you, remind yourself that you are really looking inwards. Maybe it will change what you see.
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