Seeing is believing
The interpretation of abstract forms into a personal equivalence is a common phenomenon and yet one that when experienced still elicits a sense of wonder and revelation. Experiences range from discovering familiar shapes in the stars to the “miraculous” appearance of deities in rock formations and even food products.
and yet relation appears, a small relation expanding like the shade of a cloud on sand, a shape in the side of a hill” (Wallace Stevens, Connoisseur of Chaos)
Science tells us that we see what we know. When we don’t recognize an abstract form our mind, needing to categorise and “make sense” of the world, generates an approximation via memory. Clouds become animals, familiar symbols are “read” in the patterns of tealeaves.
Taking this reasoning a step further, it is interesting to consider the personal associations that are held within the generated image. What is seen in the shape of a cloud varies between individuals because visualization comes from the observer. Perhaps this variability is not just dependent upon the stored images within their memory bank but is also influenced by the individual’s hopes and fears? There is probably a good reason that there are more reports of people being convinced they have seen the face of Jesus in an abstract form than seeing the face of their next-door neighbour. We don’t just see what we know, we see what we hope for, and we see our individual dreams.
The suggestion of an arching tree seen by one individual may be generated by a childhood memory that in turn may be associated with a hope or a desire represented by that time in life.
Like the solitary Unicorn whose existence is a merging of reality and imagination so are our daydreaming visualisations. These moments of abandoning our regular tools of understanding and categorization allow the mind to instinctively associate and speak to us of internal things, things that comprise our very beings.