There are two things that make us us. Those two things are very beautiful. And I think that they are exclusive just to us humans. And those two things are Pareidolia and Anthropomorphism, and these two things are what I’m going to talk about today. Let’s begin with the first thing first, what is Pareidolia and why does it matter?
If we break the word into its constituent, parts we get para and eidolon. Para means beside or along with, or instead of, and, Eidolon, means image or shape. So, put together Pareidolia means “instead of image or shape”. Pareidolia is not something that it is a disease, but it’s an inbuilt innate ability of the human brain for the incorrect perception of stimuli. What does that mean? Let me give you an example. And you’re going to instantly recognize what I’m talking about right here. Have you ever seen that image taken by one of the rovers and by NASA, of that Face on Mars? Many people say that that image is actually proof for alien existence because it looks so much like a human being and conspiracy theorists theorize that alien species existed on Mars at some point and they carved a face on the side of a mountain, on the top of a mountain, I beg your pardon. But when we send other rovers, but on Mars, we could not find the same face ever again. And what conspiracy theorists say is that NASA is trying to hide aliens from us. And NASA doesn’t want us to know that aliens exist, and so on and so forth. But what is actually happening is that they there wasn’t a face on the mountain, to begin with. It was just a mountain and the light fell on the mountain in such a way that we ended up seeing a face that wasn’t there. There are countless examples of pareidolia and you, personally, have faced many of them.
If I draw two dots, and a closed bracket or an open bracket in front of it, you are going to tell me that that are not two dots and brackets which tell me that that is a smiley face because we tend to see human faces everywhere. Now, why do we have it? Let us just get done with the boring stuff quickly out of the way. Why do we have pareidolia? When we used to live in the wild, it helped us understand that there is a predator nearby. If we looked into bushes, and we saw just bushes and nothing else, we wouldn’t see the animal hiding behind it who was sneaking through the leaves of the bush and who ultimately ate us. But because of pareidolia, our brain went to this form of having safety before then having conformity and thus we see faces everywhere now, even when they are not. Precaution is always better than cure. And it’s always better than that in the case of predators, so, brain decided to show us faces, even when they are not just in case it is a predator. Now pareidolia is not limited to just faces, it is just spread everywhere. For example, there is a Jim Carrey movie by the name of The Number 23, which talks about people having a regular faith in themselves in finding the number 23 everywhere.
It is a real condition. And I know that the Jim Carrey movie received terrible reviews and it has just 8% on Rotten Tomatoes, but the condition is actually very real. People do end up going crazy because they think they can link everything to the number 23. That is another example of pareidolia. Another very popular example of pareidolia would be people seeing hidden meanings in songs when they are played backwards. There are Beatle songs that say John is alive. There are Him songs that say Save me from Satan. Things like that and so forth. That is another example of pareidolia in the case of auditory stimuli. We can also say that UFOs are also a form of pareidolia.
But coming to the matter at hand, how does it make us human? Let me give you an example. If you have seen the Pixar movie UP, you know that it’s a very beautiful movie about a man doing something very beautiful for his wife who has passed away and is accompanied by an eight-year-old child and a golden retriever. A very cute film indeed. But during the first five minutes of the movie, it takes a very sad tone. And if you have seen the movie, you know what I’m talking about. But what I’m talking about right over here is that when Carl and Ellie, who are the characters in the movie, go to a picnic on top of a hill, when they were young, they tend to see animals in the clouds because they were very fond of adventure, and wildlife. But when they were planning to have a baby, all they could see in the clouds was babies. And first five minutes of the film, the film doesn’t have much dialogue. It tends on cues to tell us what is happening and in that scene what they are trying to tell us is how human Carl and Ellie are. And that is an example of pareidolia in the form of the animation telling us through pareidolia that the animation itself is so human. And even though we know that these are just characters drawn on paper, and it is nothing but CGI, we feel bad and we cry when Ellie dies, no matter how cold-hearted you are. That is one of the saddest openings in any film ever. This makes us human because it gives us a form of projection. When Carl and Ellie are trying to have a baby, they see babies everywhere, even in the clouds and when we are sad, we think everything around this is sad. We find rain to be sad because of pareidolia.
This enriches life with a sense of life being everywhere around us. This makes us very human. But the second thing that makes us human is anthropomorphism.
Now, what is Anthropomorphism? -ism is a linguistic term which converts a word into a noun, to its peculiarity. But let’s leave that out of the way for now. Anthropo- meaning human and morph means to change something. Anthropomorphism is to change something into a human. And I know that you are a little bit confused with all these definitions that I’m giving right now, but you have had personal experience with this one as well. For example, how many times have you found yourself talking to nothing but the soft toy in your room and I know that this is an odd example to give but that is an example of Anthropomorphism in itself. In Hindi, we have the sayin, “Chaho to pathtar bhi bhagwaan hai.” Which means that if you set your heart to it, even a piece of stone turns into God. That is because many times we chip away at rocks, marble and create statues and in the case of Hindus, we just pray to oval pebbles themselves because we think that that is one of the forms of our deity. And we treat the piece of rock like a human. We treat that rock so much so like a human that we take good care of it, we talk to it, we wash it, feed it, and everything in between.
Another example from an animated series would be the Plank from Ed, Edd and Eddie. You remember that cartoon its very 90s and I’m sure you do not know it if you were born after 2005. But in that show, one of the characters used to have a wooden plank on which he has drawn eyes and the mouth in the form of a smile. He carries that everywhere he can, and says that this is my friend by the name of Plank. That is an example of anthropomorphism in animated series. And I’m sure now you can relate to things in your very own life yourself. If I take a puppet, you are going to say that it is a puppet, right, you’re going to say that it is a human, you’re going to talk to where if I move its mouth with my hands. If I take a sock in front of you, and I put my hand on it, if I take two tennis balls, draw big black circles in the middle of the balls, and then put the balls on the sock and then move my hand and my thumb to make it talk… You are no longer going to agree with me that this is just so you’re going to give it a persona yourself you’re going to say that this is a human being now. Then this is a sock puppet now. And this is what makes us human.
Why am I bringing this up? I lost my fish today. I had a fish which I had affectionately named phisie, but it was spelled phi-siE. fishy busts away this morning. And I was genuinely filled with sadness. I, at some point, went to my room and I was in tears because I had lost my fish. It’s nothing that has happened. That hasn’t happened to me before. I have lost pets before. I have lost a dog before. I have lost many fishes before. But this was the first time that I went ahead and saved this fish from someone who was mistreating it. I fed the fish many times myself. I named the fish myself. And that is the root cause of almost sadness today because I have trouble more faced by fish. If you have ever had a dog, or a bird or a rabbit, any animal if you have ever had a pet, even if it was a pet frog, you can leave it with this. You have named your pets before you called them by the name and you talk to them you give them food properly. If you step on its foot, you apologize. And if you see the sad image of an animal trapped in a cage and if you look at those big eyes, you feel sad because of anthropomorphism.
This is exclusive to humans. No other animal treats other animals because the thing that that belongs to their own species, this is belonging just to us it is an innate ability that we have within ourselves. Only we anthropomorphize. If you have had a dog, you call it by a name that is human. I have seen dogs with more human names and have meant humans with more dog-like names I kid you not. I had a dog And I named it Rambo because whenever the movie Rambo was on the telly, the dog would sit on the sofa and he would actually watch the film. Now, you know I know deep into my heart that the dog did not watch the movie but it seems to me like the dog what’s the movie and that is what anthropomorphism is all about. I took the dog and I converted it into a human. And I left it like a human. I lost fishy today. And I took fishy which was a beautiful gourami and it was not a gourami, by the way, it was a Shubunkin. I’m sorry. She was a Shubunkin. And as soon as I said that sentence, I have a huge smile on my face right now because I didn’t mention fishy as “it” I mentioned fishy as a “she”, which is again, entrepreneur facing her. If you have ever lost a pet, you felt sadness. And it’s a sadness unlike any other. Trust me, that is something that everybody is going to face. Sooner or later, right? Nobody’s immortal. And death is sad. If it’s that a human being we can say that that’s justifiable because humans are humans and we feel for them, we have a real connection with them. They must have helped us in the past. They are related to us by blood genetically we feel for them. But when you lose a pet, you lose a pet because you have formed a relationship with the pet. After you have anthropomorphized them. You have a real connection with the pet because it took the animal as the animal, you converted it into a human being, and then love that like a child, which essentially makes it a child. And I know that it makes no sense that I am making the stand for my fish… like my own child? Even I know how absurd it sounds, but at the same time I know how real it feels to you as well. I am always going to miss fishy, fishy he was very near and dear to me. And every time I would go to her and I would put my lips on the walls of her fishbowl, fishy would come up to me and she would kiss me through the glass and it was such a beautiful thing to see and have had in my life.
Phishie is irreplaceable because I have anthropomorphized her and loved her like a human being. It’s you are a human being. Right now I’m talking to my phone, I can see the numbers moving up, it’s 18 minutes and some seconds. And for a second they forget that I am just in an empty room talking to phone and not talking to you in person. And till the point that I don’t remind you that you are listening to my voice on your phone through plastic and metal in your ear, that I’m not right in front of you talking to you, because you have taken the voice and had pareidolia with it. We’re all humans. And these two things are what make us human. These are the things make us kind of make us gentler with things, with animals with plants. With inanimate objects as well.
I have been known to anthropomorphize everything ever since I was a child. When I was a baby, I got this pillow from family friends, and I had for the longest time and I had a name for this pillow. And it was my best friend till third grade, which is way too old to have an imaginary friend. But even today, last year, I was given a pillow as a gift by someone very special to me, and I call it Small Boss. And when I ultimately tore the pillow that I had that I was a giant, I felt sad and I cried because I had anthropo-anthropomorphized the pillow. We’re all humans. We’re all in the same boat. Going down same lane, heading towards the same final destination. But pareidolia and morphism make our life much more beautiful and meaningful. As we project ourselves into everything and feel everything as human as us. I want you to look around yourself and look at things that you might have anthropomorphized or have had pareidolia with. I want you to look at the thing and look at it not as an object. For example, I have this pen with me, because I use ink pen and I never throw away pens I always end up losing them, and they never run out of ink. I can always refill them so they are like Immortals in their own sense. And I have named one of my pens. I want you to look at the objects that you have anthropomorphized. And I want you to recognize how much you love it. This is the Adwitiya Dixit. And I don’t know how to end this episode now. I have nothing more to say. So I’ll see you in the next one. Bye!