Tree Stump Visions

Limerick Tree Stump Virgin

Last night, after watching the BCS National Championship game, I sat back in my chair to search for two coherent thoughts for Top Sites Tuesday #133.   Perhaps I haven’t completely recovered from the holidays or maybe my brain was anesthetized by the boredom of the game … but nothing turned up.  Two games of Minesweeper and one of Word Mole didn’t help, so I surfed the web until 11:15 then went up to bed.   Muri was already asleep but the local news was featuring a human interest piece about the appearance of Our Lady of Guadalupe in a tree stump in L.A.   People were holding candles and kneeling around a tree stump which … even close-up … appeared to be a just a tree stump.   That’s it, shouted my Inner Curmudgeon.  Let’s Post.

In my younger years, I would have written a scathing satire of people who worship tree stumps.  I would have referenced Saturday Night Live’s Father Guido Sarducci and his Pope in the Pizza schtick.  I still could if I let my Curmudgeon loose, as you can see.   But this is the kinder, more spiritual Bud who’s stood with the Mormons against the play, The Book of Mormon and with Tim Tebow in spite of the silliness about the numbers associated with his game winning performance on Saturday.  I spent some time trying to find the news clip on ABC News website with no luck … perhaps they decided it would be politically incorrect to post it.   But it turns out that this isn’t the first time the Virgin has appeared in a tree stump.   The most famous Tree Stump Virgin, in Limerick, Ireland, continues to draw believers to nightly prayer vigils, years after its discovery, even though the local friary says, The Church’s response to phenomena of this type is one of great skepticismIt was the perfect shape of the figure of Our Lady holding the baby, said the discoverer.  Really? says I.  It’s only a tree, said local parish priest Father Willie Russell.  Tree stump Virgins have turned up in Bayonne, NJ and in Salt lake City, UT as well.   Seeing the image in either is much easier for nonbelievers if a picture of the Virgin is nearby.

Being the Rational Scientist for a moment, Wikipedia says that seeing religious imagery in natural phenomena is generally characterized as a form of pareidolia. This is a false perception of imagery due to what is theorized as the human mind’s over-sensitivity to perceiving patterns, particularly the pattern of a human face, in otherwise random phenomena.  Gregory Price Grieve, professor of religion at the University of Chicago, says, What you see is not always what you get. Instead, what we see depends on mediation. That is, because our descriptions of religious images are culturally located, our “naïve” descriptions are neither innocent nor objective. Rather, all social objects are mediated by intervening socially grounded, culturally generated, and historically particular mechanisms.  In other words, we see what we believe or want to see.   Perhaps that’s why I see my faceless God in the roaring surf but not in a tree stump.  C. S. Lewis went so far as to argue that people’s ready ability to perceive human-like forms around them reflects a religious reality that human existence is immersed in a world containing such beings.

I still think it’s silly to be leaving candles and holding prayer vigils at tree stumps … and it gives comedians and cynics easy fodder for anti-religious jokes.  In the end, though, it doesn’t matter … Thought Number Oneif you can find inspiration in this life, go for it.  Who cares what the cynics … my Curmudgeon included … say?   Which brings me to Thought Number Two: There is an angry chicken in the grain of our bathroom floor.  No, really.  Here it is.

If we see what we believe or want to see, what does this say about Older Eyes?  Am I destined to work at a Chic-Fil-A?  Am I the reincarnation of Colonel Sanders?  Or destined to join the Great Chicken Religion?  Or am I just afraid that his is my strangest post ever?  Let me know what you think … after you press my button … gently … to make me Number One on Top Sites Tuesday #133.

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18 Comments on “Tree Stump Visions”

  1. territerri Says:

    I don’t see an angry chicken. I see a cartoon-ish, storybook-type rabbit. 🙂

    The whole time I was reading, I was coming to the same conclusion you did. What does it matter whether the vision actually exists or not? If people are finding God in the everyday things around us, more power to them. Though I question the wisdom of leaving lit candles around a tree stump. They’re going to make a bonfire out of their vision!

    p.s. There was a knotty pine ceiling in the church we attended when I was growing up. Instead of paying attention to the mass, I looked for pictures in the knots in the wood. There was a “baby” right above the pew where we always sat.

    • oldereyes Says:

      Yes, I’ve seen things like that all my life, too. Maybe it’s the product of a great imagination. Almost no one saw my chicken, by the way. It’s got its mouth (beak) wide open to the right (your bunny’s ear is the top of the beak) and your bunny’s face is the chickens comb.

  2. marjulo Says:

    I couldn’t agree more with you. If people find solace and God in visions, statues and everyday things, why should we interfere? I didn’t see a chicken in your bathroom floor, I saw a squirrel. There is an old-fashioned monk hidden in our powder room floor!

    If you think everyone outside of Denver think Tim Tebow has mystical powers, you should be IN Denver. It’s rather refreshing, actually, to have someone of his caliber become a hero in football. We’ll enjoy it another week anyway.

    • oldereyes Says:

      The sports talk guys around here are losing their minds talking about it. In a way, it’s silly … Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Aaron Rogers are pretty good guys too and having even more amazing years. Go figure.

  3. “I still think it’s silly to be leaving candles and holding prayer vigils at tree stumps”

    That makes two of us, Bud.

    But I also agree with your point when you said, “if you can find inspiration in this life, go for it.  Who cares what the cynics say.”

    And now I want some fried chicken!

  4. I see your chicken.

    I think it’s God’s way of answering the age-old question.

    The chicken came first.

    You’d better preserve that plank.

  5. I don’t think this is the craziest post I’ve ever seen -although, to be honest, I can’t at the moment, cite another post that was crazier. (Mainly cause I just can’t remember stuff like that thanks to my ever-encroaching bouts of senility. But the seeing things or people in things, etc., does remind me somewhat about a cousin of my Mom’s who wasn’t always totally operating on all cylinders and was known for a family reputation of always seeing how various family members looked like various people totally not part of our family. The one I recall the best is when he announced that my Grandpa’s sister, Aunt Esther, looked like Martin Luther. Everyone sort of chuckled over that one until my oldest uncle happened to see a copy of Luther’s catechism on the dining room table. Said book had a cover on it with a “photo” of a statue of Martin Luther and my uncle remarked about the cousin’s declaration with one of his own in which he said “By golly, I do believe he’s got a good point there! She does look like Martin Luther!” I’m inclined to believe too that if someone thinks they see this or that, let them have that sighting to appreciate for whatever it’s worth to them. To each his own, ya know.

    • oldereyes Says:

      I was mistaken for Dick Cheney for a number of years, but it only happened when I was traveling in the Washington DC area, so it certainly has to do with both the context and your expectations.

  6. angelbaby1 Says:

    I can’t see the chicken but I have a lot of candles! I think I see something else but I am not going to hold a vigil for it, no way! LOL!

    i did see the latest virgin Mary in a tree last night on the news but I could not see her so I put my candles away until the next one comes along.

    Here’s your click ………..

    Love and Blessings,

  7. Wolfbernz Says:

    Hi Bud

    Live and let live, if people see religion in their own way that’s cool. You won’t find me there though.

    As for the floor… Good one, I have been staring at it to see what I could make out of it… LOL


  8. Trina Says:

    I think we all see things that are relative to our lives and beliefs. Its really cool to see people being made happy by something so amazingly simple.

    Happy Tuesday

  9. Bob S Says:

    Angry chicken; my tail feathers. That is clearly a very cute bunny (or maybe a squirrel). Come on now, certainly you can see it looking to the left. It just goes to show how “older eyes” have difficulty seeing things clearly. ;>)

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