Couple finds angel in tree rings
You look long and hard, squint your eyes to the point of straining them, and finally, as your eyeballs cry for mercy, the giant blotch starts looking like an angel. No, this isn’t a Rorschach inkblot test, although in retrospect, it might as well be. Instead, this is a couple in Georgetown, Illinois who claim to have cut down a tree with an angel face in it.
Sherri and Jerry Conklin, whose home was threatened by an old oak tree, cut down the soft maple to avoid further property damage. When they were finished, they discovered that one of the wood grains displayed the image of an angel. Their local newspaper, suffering from a lack of any pertinent news, thought it would be a good idea to feature a credulous couple who believe the image of the cherub appeared only after the tree had been cut down.
Now, I don’t want to be a buzzkill, but when I looked at the image, I thought I recognized one of the helmets from the Lord of the Rings movie (the fancy elven ones). Of course, Mrs. Conklin and I share have one thing in common; we are both individuals with active imaginations who see patterns in a seemingly innocuous blotch of stained wood; in fact, most normal human beings do. It’s called pareidolia, which is a physiological phenomenon whereby a vague visual stimulus triggers the brain to interpret a particular pattern or recognizable image.
This would all be fairly jovial and innocent if we could all laugh a little, and remember that the significance of such a find is no more impressive than looking up at the sky and seeing a cloud that looks like a teddy bear. The faithful droves, however, regard these kinds of finds as proof positive that their particular deity exists, and rationality, free inquiry, and objectivity fly out the window. It is in these instances we should remind ourselves there is always a powerful need to rationalize our beliefs, no matter how illogical they might be. By claiming to see angelic messages in tree trunks, grilled cheese sandwiches, and plate glass windows, we assign a pattern to nature that does not exist, and further our own ignorance. We should instead come to realize that it isn’t the outside world who’s trying to send us a message, but the internal one. Speaking of which, maybe I’ll pop in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy.