What you see in this shape is more important than what this shape actually happens to be.

What you see in this shape is more important than what this shape actually happens to be.

With Spring just a few weeks away, the allure grows for warm afternoons unencumbered by coats and hats. In not many more weeks Winter’s pale grey skies will yield to Spring’s suspended azure scrim, splotched with thick clots of whipped cream. 

Do this: on a warm, clear, spring day in the next few months, go outside with your family or your boyfriend or girlfriend, lie back in the grass and look up. Do not check your phone. Do not plan to be anywhere else anytime soon. Look up and let your mind drift. It may take you a few minutes to notice the obvious above your head.

There are clouds in the sky. They float, oblivious to the cares of our churning thoughts below. You’ve seen them a million times before, of course. TheY bring rain, they block the sun, they even provoke moments of wistful poetry and beauty. Today you should consider them more seriously.

The person next to you sees the same things. These massive structures are little more than accumulations of water droplets and ice crystals. They’re evidence of a breathing, circulating planet, changing eternally in a complex dance that regulates all functions on Earth. They appear seemingly out of nowhere and they disappear like the dawn. 

Stop and consider them without judgement and you might think that one looks a little like a chair. And that one looks like Yoda. Or, you might see something else.

This is not a non sequitur: which cell phone OS do you prefer? It should be obvious, right? Android or iOS has a clear advantage over the other (to say nothing of Windows OS or Blackberry or Symbian) and the proof is simply in observation and use. How could you choose differently from me?

Now do you see a chair in that cloud above your head? 

We often observe the same things with our senses as those around us and still come away with surprisingly different assessments of what they mean. Judgements about larger cultural trajectories depend on our ability to see into superficial shapes of things. The ability to see something different from the person directly next to you on that grassy hill offers clues about how you might regard acts of creative invention, or at least appreciation. The fact is, there’s no definitive answer to the question, “What do you see in that cloud?” But the fact that the person next to you probably sees something different is evidence enough that looking for the right answer is likely pursuit of the wrong question. 


Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Subscribe in a reader