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September 21, 2007 Leave a comment Go to comments

I really should be used to this by now, but this kind of thing still floors me:

RIO GRANDE CITY, Texas – An acacia tree that started sprouting a foamlike substance on its branches after its owner died is drawing hundreds of people a day to see what some believe is supernatural ice.

To the naked eye, the white stuff about 20 feet up in the tree looks like ice braving the South Texas heat.

Not likely, say insect and tree experts who viewed photographs of the substance. They said the “miracle ice” is probably nothing more than a spittlebug nest.

Yes. White stuff. On a tree. Must be Jesus.

Family members said they noticed the yellow-tinted froth and the puddles of liquid around the trunk a day after they buried the 92-year-old matriarch. They say she loved the acacia tree and spent days beneath it while coloring the cascarones – confetti-filled eggshells –she sold each year.

The tree has been “weeping” ever since, they say.

“We feel like that tree is now missing her,” her daughter, Mary Lou Sanders, said. “Where it’s coming from, I do not know. It is something I cannot explain.”

I can understand grief and overdeveloped sentimentality leading to wanting to believe the loss of someone who had an impact your life had a similar impact on the world. I do. So I’ll resist mocking the family. The other people?

People begin arriving as early as 7 a.m., mostly from neighboring border towns, to see the “ice” first-hand. They snap pictures and gaze in awe. They kneel before it and pray. They stand, patiently extending their open palms or clutching Styrofoam cups with hopes of getting some of the “holy water” drops.

“I drove up here to see it for myself. You can actually feel the cold breeze when you get close to the tree; it’s something unexplainable,” said Elaine Solis, who drove some 40 miles from Mission. “You have to come out here to believe that there is actually something on that tree.”

Or, it was just the wind. Or, you’ve built this event up in your mind and linked it to a very powerful and ingrained belief system and it’s having an effect on you.

This just annoys me. If you look at nature and know very little about it, you’ll find something you can’t explain. On any other day, most of these people would walk under that tree, see that substance, and probably not think twice. Someone says it’s happening because someone died and now that same person has a spiritual experience. It’s transparent nonsense. Yet, these things are incredibly popular. I realize our brains tend to push us towards these kinds of beliefs, but can’t we resist just a little?

Categories: Religion
  1. September 22, 2007 at 5:55 am

    I wanted to make a snide comment here, but I find that I can’t really make a comment more abusive to these people’s intelligence than the story is instrinsically.

  2. Bob
    September 22, 2007 at 9:41 am

    Our brains don’t “push us” towards anything. They basically “follow” instructions, including from cultural conditioning. Most such conditioning consists of biased information concocting a “story” about life that is antithetical to information the brain receives from within the human organism itself. The brain is a processor of information, both from within and without. We are really quite intelligent beings when not operating under the influence of delusional cultural conditioning.

  3. September 22, 2007 at 10:56 am

    Push may have been the wrong word, but our brains are don’t simply follow instructions. They have functions and biases that evolved for one reason or another (or no reason). We’re not culturally conditioned to see patterns and agency where they aren’t, though how they manifest themselves is affected by culture.

  4. Bob
    September 22, 2007 at 12:43 pm

    “Follow instructions” is probably as poor a choice of words as “push.”

    I relate your comment:

    “We’re not culturally conditioned to see patterns and agency where they aren’t, though how they manifest themselves is affected by culture.”

    with mine:

    “We are really quite intelligent beings when not operating under the influence of delusional cultural conditioning.”

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