It was still pretty close to a full moon last night, which meant the moon was still up when I went to work at o'dark this morning. Groggy, bleary-eyed, and not altogether on time, I still had to stop for a moment and look at the moon. The craters didn't make up anything that looked like a man in the moon. Or even a rabbit in the moon (which I learned to see a few years ago).* Instead I saw a yin-yang symbol. It was so obvious that I wondered why I didn't make the connection before.
Anyway, here's Wiki about The Man in the Moon. Turns out there's a word for making something out of nothing: pareidolia.
"Common examples include images of animals or faces in clouds, the man in the moon, and hidden messages on records played in reverse."
I was thinking about something similar the other day. When I hear someone's voice, I will try to figure out whose it is -- until I decide it sounds like a voice I can identify. If the voice doesn't belong to the person, I'll be fine, because I know it's like that familiar voice. Familiar voices, even if they are incorrectly identified, are reassuring.
I think our reaction to the unknown, in general, is similar. The unknown is discomforting (even on as non-threatening a level as "Is that actor in kids' show X the same as the one in show Y?"), but as soon as we're able to put a pattern on the unknown (or make some kind of identification), it becomes less threatening. I would guess that this is true even for things that turn out to be even more threatening than originally supposed -- there's a reason that "better the devil you know" is a cliche, I think. Also, if you're watching a horror movie, once the monster is revealed (or a pattern of behavior, like, "Oh, it's a Chinese vampire"), it almost always becomes less threatening.
Personally, an exception for me would be the aliens from the Alien movies. Normally, when a "jumpy" horror movie reveals the critter, I'm okay (if still jumpy). "There it is," I say. "I can see it." But with the aliens, it's not enough to be able to see them. They're fast, relentless, and leave behind hidden horrors; you can never be sure when you really know what's going on. And they're so familiar, somehow, it's almost as if they're my personal homicidal clowns. (Back when I was having terrible (unidentified) sinus infections combined with adolescent hormonal craziness, I would see these distorted white shapes out of the corner of my eye -- and I would feel like something was trying to crawl out of my skull, so no real surprise there.)
Ah, and on the subject of nightmares, I think I'm trying to tell myself something. Twice this week, there have been two "gates of horn"-type dreams with pretty scary implications:
1) I spent an entire dream cycle trying to get ready for zombies. It was Lee and I (Ray didn't exist, in this dream), and we'd escaped the first onslaught and were taken into an older couple's house. They helped us find the supplies we needed, which included very large gardening shears and a chain-saw, the kind you use to saw high tree branches.
2) I was at Pearl Harbor before the attack, in a diner that has started to recur in my dreams. (I know it's a diner, but for some reason they serve margaritas in these heavy green glasses with blue rims, and they always leave off the salt, which disappoints me.) I kept trying to leave the diner, but I never managed to do it. (Ben Affleck was in the movie; oddly, so was Matt Damon. Neither one of them would listen to me. I even tried to explain to Mr. Damon that he wasn't supposed to be in the movie, but it didn't do any good.)
How do you know whether you've had a meaningful dream vs. meaningless garble? Well, I know because I know. Sometimes I don't remember the dream, I just remember that I had a meaningful dream, and I'm like, "Well, crap. I hope I figure it out before it happens." "It" being whatever it is I'm trying to tell myself.
A while ago, about six months ago, I had these dreams where gray mice kept showing up. Every time they showed up, something horrible happened shortly afterward, either tied into the mice or not. I knew those dreams were important, too, but I never figured out those ones either.
Full moon, pareidolia, or message from the undersoul? No idea. But if I could fit it into some kind of pattern, I'd probably feel better about it.