Monday, October 27, 2008

You Just Have to See, Even If You Aren't Looking


When I returned from Germany, I had waiting for me phone messages and emails from my cousin, a guy I always thought of as the big brother I never had. He had been traveling for work and was in a hotel room in New Orleans, drinking Dr. Pepper out of a plastic bottle, when he discovered what struck him as an image of the Virgin Mary holding baby Jesus. Now, my cousin does not go to church, but he has heard me go on and on about these Madonna of the Toast stories. For as much as I can ramble on about these things, I just assume most people, especially my family, are nodding politely but then getting on with their lives: jobs, significant others, children, hobbies, friends, etc.

But here we see how that intrinsic human trait of seeing recognizable forms in unexpected places is in all of us, no matter our motivation, or lack thereof. We’ve been playing phone tag, but I can assure you that my cousin was not thinking about how he could find me something to blog about. He was just sitting there, watching TV, maybe checking email, quenching his thirst, thinking about anything any of our minds may land on during those quiet moments of aloneness: tomorrow’s meeting, an old pet, politics, the best friend from high school that you haven’t seen since high school, what to have for breakfast, death, the meaning of life. And suddenly, manifesting in some alchemy of condensation and carbonation, a form that looked to him like a scene from a medieval miniature painting: the gowned Virgin swaddling Jesus in the manger.

It’s one of these examples that makes you squint, but it doesn’t really matter what we see. My cousin saw it. He didn’t call any local television stations and you won’t find this bottle being auctioned on eBay. He was surprised to make the discovery, however, because it was not something he ever expected to find. If you sift through previous posts, you’ll find that many of the people were looking for something to help guide them, but just as many were shocked, the same as my cousin. How any of us see and filter the world we inhabit is subjective – and that’s the point. Meaning, or a lack thereof, can be found just about anywhere, even if you’re not looking for it.

Speaking of finding images in unexpected places, I came across this tidbit on what seems like a great food blog: Bread and Honey. The image above is a photograph of a bag of frozen organic broccoli – a vegetable an old buddy of mine always calls the “virtuous veggie.” Obviously, these tiny faces in the florets are the handiwork of some rogue graphic designer, but it just goes to show you: when you take the time to look, you never know what you might see.

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