BEFORE STUMBLING ON pictures of this extraordinary orchid while looking for a suitable name for a new blog, I have to admit my only knowledge of the phenomenon called pareidolia was a vague idea that it was some sort of psychological curiosity.
In popular terms pareidolia is the thing that explains how a celebrated cinnamon roll could bear a striking resemblance to Mother Theresa and that a certain toasted cheese sandwich, with a bite out of the corner, could look a fair bit like the Virgin Mary.
Remember those? The toasted cheese sandwich that sold for $28,000 on eBay; and the cinammon roll, dubbed the “nun bun”, that proved a publicity bonanza for the LA bakery it came from (it was eventually stolen never to be seen again).
There was also the “face on mars” as well as the discredited Rorschach test, the psychodiagnostic method which had psychiatrist’s patients looking for shapes in amorphous ink spots.
The monkey orchid* is a probably a lesser known example of pareidolia (it being a phenomenon whereby our minds can read meaning into things — it could be a sound or something seen — that isn’t actually there).
Meanwhile the fundamental reason that the cinnamon roll and the toasted sandwich became internationally famous was the profound significance that some people who saw them — notably those of Christian faith — placed on the likenesses.
The objects evoked such intense feelings for some people that they were utterly convinced the objects were imbued with mystical dimensions.
The orchid, on the other hand — although not of any religious or inconographic significance — seems entirely more amazing for its naturalness (as opposed to being a pastry or a toastie), but it’s just not so easily sensationalised.
It’s also the perfect mascot for a new blog that has perception as one of its central themes and I reckon it has also inspired an infinitely more evocative name for a fresh enterprise — namely monkey flower — than cinnamon roll or toasted cheese sandwich.
*I’m no botanist but the monkey orchid pictured here’s correct name is apparently Dracula gigas. A couple of other orchids are also commonly called monkey orchids and, just to confuse matters more, “monkey flowers” are another diverse genus of flowers entirely. Some of these monkey flowers bear the outline of a cartoonish ape — and this, indeed, is what the monkey flower‘s stylised logo is inspired by.
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