Pareidolia is a psychological phenomenon in which a human observer perceives significance in a vague or random stimulus (often an image or sound). When ancient man gazed at the nighttime sky, he discerned patterns in the stars and named constellations after the images he perceived. In Ursa Major man perceived a Great Bear, in Ursa Minor a Lesser Bear, in Taurus a Bull, in Scorpio a Scorpion, in Sagittarius an Archer, and so on. People see images of faces, people, or objects in clouds and hear hidden messages in recordings played backwards. The desire or need to define patterns in those things inherently without pattern is a distinctly human trait.
And so, being human myself, I find it interesting that in the same week that many await the return of Jesus the Christ and their Rapture to spend eternity with him, it has been widely reported that Stephen Hawking, the celebrated English theoretical physicist and author of the best-seller A Brief History of Time, has declared that the concept of Heaven or an afterlife is a “fairy tale” for people afraid of death. Is there a pattern here? Could it be that our Creator employed a noted intellectual and inspired the news media to publicize these comments in juxtaposition to His plan for the conclusion of human history?
As the hours grow short until May 21, 2011, I find myself thinking about many things – but primarily about the nature of God and of His creation, Man. I wonder about the criteria that God employed in selecting those whom He will save and those left behind. I wonder how it is that humans, cut from the same cloth, can have such diversity of belief and opinion when presented with the same information. Primarily, however, I think about the interplay of all of the individual stories of all of the people who have ever lived in the creation of humanity’s story.
As the world devolves into a morass of moral, ethical, and spiritual decay, I truly believe that there has perhaps never been a time when the world more needed God to intervene directly into the Story that He began those millennia ago – to wipe the slate clean and start over with a new Creation absent the flaws of this current one. And, I observe that there are great multitudes of people whose heaviness of heart belies their implicit acceptance of the premise that this world is coming to its end.
But, perhaps I am just falling victim to pareidolia, perceiving a pattern where there is none. Nonetheless, I can state with 100% certainty that, over the last number of years, I have grown weary with this world. And, it brings to mind St. Paul’s valedictory declaration in 2 Timothy, “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”
Whether I can say those things about myself or have any assurance about my state of being on May 22nd is uncertain. Yet, I anticipate God’s imminent intervention – in whatever way He chooses and hope for the promised new Creation.