June 19, 2003

Mary? Quite the Contrary.

Apparently, a number of people believe that a window in Milton, MA contains the image of the Virgin Mary. This hospital window broke a seal and condensation seeped in between the panes of glass. But it didn't cause your average garden-variety stain. This stain is super-holy and all. Check it out via Annanova.

It's gotten bad enough that WCVB-TV is reporting that during certain times the hospital is covering up the window to prevent the addle-brained from causing traffic jams and other trouble. When you believe silly things like this, you've got my amusement. When you refuse to honor the hospital's request to stay away at certain times and begin to cause trouble, then you've got my ire.

And let's take a look at this belief, shall we?

Personally, I think the image is more flounder-shaped than Virgin-shaped. If you squint hard enough, there are a lot of things you can imagine it looking like. Or, taking the unpopular path of "making sense" it could just be a stain on a window.

Pareidolia is the effect responsible for this excitement (explanation at Skeptic's Dictionary). This is the same effect which makes people believe they see a man in the Moon, a face on Mars, and Mother Theresa in a cinnamon bun. The human brain automatically tried to find patterns in randomness. It's a skill that no doubt comes in handy when you're looking out for predators, or looking for prey. And it's better to be too good at picking out patterns than too poor, lest that mountain lion get you.

However, our reason is supposed to be good for determining after the fact that what we saw was actually a window, not a person. This elusive "reason" appears to have been turned off in the brains of certain individuals. As one of the Milton pilgrims said:

"I think they feel if the lady is present, they would get a type of healing they needed -- physically, spiritually and mentally," said one visitor.
A higher power?I'll avoid pointing out what I think is the area of most need in the healing department.

This brings to mind a story from some years back, when an angel was spotted in the photograph of some clouds in New Bedford. (Link to story. Link to Image)

It prompted me to write my own story about a mysterious image in the sky...

Posted by James at June 19, 2003 8:27 PM
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hmm, funny, I have a stain on a staricase here that bears an uncanny resemblance to Jesus.

I kid you not. I will have to post a picture of it sometime.


Posted by: Rui Campos at June 20, 2003 3:05 AM

I wish someone would throw a brick through that window. I'm a little sick of hearing about it on the Boston news.

Posted by: Bob at June 20, 2003 8:48 AM

Rui, you'd better not tell anyone about your stairs. Next thing you know you'll have people lining up to have their picture taken with it.

Posted by: JP at June 20, 2003 8:53 AM

Bob - it's amazing that I had to hear about this from a co-worker. I'm so disconnected from the Boston news lately. I don't watch the local broadcasts. I really ought to check the GLobe more frequently, at the very least.

To think, I almost missed this miracle right in my own bgack yard! (insert additional exclamation points as needed)

Posted by: JP at June 20, 2003 8:59 AM

These unimpressive miracles discredit the God they are attributed to. I would think a diety could do better than that.

Posted by: Mike at June 20, 2003 11:59 AM

I'm with Mike - but I think the diety did do better.

There is something rather than nothing.

That's miracle enough for me. The fact that we are here and conscious of being here just extends the first miracle.

Of course, I don't like the concept of a diety - forme that gets in the way of appreciating the miracle, rather than explains it in any manner. I'm with Einstein when he said: "There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle."

If this is still obscure, I'm trying to say that I agree the Virgin in a window stain is pure silliness - what continues to amaze me, however, is folks can get all excited when they think something "unnatural" or "super natural" has happened, while I get all excited every time I look at all the natural things that happen every day.

Posted by: Greg at June 20, 2003 12:36 PM

I agree with what both of you are saying. It *IS* to me amazing that people elevate this window to a status above... well pretty much anything. Yes - the everyday world is pretty complex and wonderful, no matter how you believe it came about.

And that's part of why I love to keep track of those who study it, and to experience it myself.

Maybe these window-watchers ought to take a quiet walk in the woods instead of staring at a stain. You want to revel in the wonder of the universe (and possibly your god, if you have one)? Check out some of the real cool stuff.

Posted by: JP at June 20, 2003 1:29 PM

Excuse me, but isn't this a whopping case of idolatry? Last I heard, idolatry is considered a sin.

Posted by: Patti M. at June 20, 2003 2:47 PM

I just clicked the image link and I think it looks like Helena Bonham-Carter wearing a jet pack. So there.

Posted by: Patti M. at June 20, 2003 3:01 PM

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