Seeing Faces in Unexpected Places

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What’s the happiest place in the solar system?

Disney World notwithstanding, it appears to be the Galle Crater on the surface of Mars.

As you can see from the image above, this 134-mile wide impact zone seems to answer the age-old question:  Does God communicate with emoji’s?

Of course, there might be another explanation.  It’s called pareidolia

That’s the scientific term for the human tendency to see human faces in seemingly random places. 

For years people have seen the Man in the Moon.  And smiley faces on the grilles of cars.  And angels, demons, and religious figures in cloud patterns and tortillas.

A North Carolina woman discovered the face of Jesus on her grilled cheese sandwich.  A homemaker from Glendale, Arizona, was shocked to see the Virgin Mary on a pancake.  And a resident of Splendora, Texas, is certain that the head, hair, and cloak of Jesus appeared to her in a pattern of bathroom mold.

“People say my house is blessed,” she told ABC News – perhaps the first time anyone has been genuinely grateful for bathroom mold.

People tend to see faces in the most interesting places.  What’s going on here?

Scientists theorize that pattern recognition impulses like pareidolia are a key human survival mechanism. 

Babies are magnetically drawn to people who smile.  From our earliest hours we yearn to look into human faces and be assured of safety, friendliness, and care.

We’re hard-wired, in other words, to respond to images of grace, even if they’re in the splatter patterns of meteor impacts on the Red Planet.

The Bible’s first chapter makes a startling claim: Every human being is stamped with the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27).  

There is something inherent in every person we see that should lead us to conclude that we’re encountering more than just a fellow human being.  We’re looking at the indelible fingerprints of the Creator. 

Sometimes we become blind to God’s image in other people.

Our stubbornness, our biases, or our wounds may prompt us to look at others and see losers.  Or competitors.  Or outsiders.  Or mortal enemies.

Jonathan Sacks, the former chief rabbi of Great Britain, once observed: “The Hebrew Bible [the Old Testament] in one verse commands, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ but in no fewer than 36 places commands us to ‘love the stranger.’”

He adds: “The supreme religious challenge is to see God’s image in one who is not in our image.”

If we ask God for the gift of fresh eyes – for the ability to see God’s own face in ourselves and in others – something wonderful can happen.

The places where we live and work can become the happiest places on earth.