Allowing Ambiguity

When doodling to relax the other night, I stumbled into drawing an image that I noticed makes sense the way I drew it and also upside down. Then I discovered more images in it when I turned the paper other ways.


One side up it looks to me like a clownish person with a big nose, a fancy turban, frilly collar and a slightly crazed look.


Upside down, it could be another crazed person, this time with a round nose, mustache and complicated headwear. Not sure what is in his mouth.

Or, I can see the small central oval as a woman’s face–no facial features drawn in–with carefully arranged hair (around the spirals), wearing a bandana across her forehead, a flamboyant headdress above that, and sporting an elaborate collar and button placket.



Turned on either side, it looks like some kind of sea creature to me.

You can probably see other things too.

I like this drawing but it makes me slightly uneasy. How can it be three or four things at once? Which way is up? What is it really?

I’m disappointed in my unease.

Can’t I let the drawing depict three or four things simultaneously without needing to make a judgment as to which one is right or preferred? Without creating a hierarchy of the images? Especially since I actually enjoy all of them equally. Can’t I let the drawing be ambiguous?

It strikes me that this discomfort–with ambiguity, with not knowing “the answer,” with allowing several realities to coexist without putting them in a hierarchy— might be perilous now.

So much is changing, so fast. The old ways don’t work. Might we need to refrain from reflexive judgment, so we can instead tolerate more ambiguity, hear more voices expressing their points of view, turn issues over and over to find all that is hidden there? (Within us, perhaps, as well as without.)

Of course many judgments we make, such as what is morally right or wrong, what is true or false, are vital.

But not everything involves inherent right or wrong. So much is simply perspective, personal viewpoint.

I think my drawing is reminding me that sometimes an image opens to reveal many images within it, and that’s where the beauty lies. And the more we can hold them all in our hearts simultaneously, the more mysterious and compelling they become.

What do you see in my drawing?

How comfortable are you with ambiguity?

I’d love to hear.



  1. Hi, Annie,

    This is so timely. I highly recommend Van Jones’ new book, Beyond the Messy Truth: How We Came Apart & How We Come Together, for your long cold evenings. Hearing him talk about it was one of the first rays of hope I’ve had.

    Love & miss you!

    • Anne Peek

      Thanks for the recommendation Marcia! I miss you too!!

  2. Anne, what I appreciate so much about your blog this time is that it gives permission to change perspective on something we have created. As creators of art, writing, or any other endeavor, we can sometimes get stuck thinking that our original perspective is the only one. Thanks for unsticking me!

    • Anne Peek

      That’s a great point Leslie. It is easy to get stuck that way, and yet, how fun if our work can open up to more than we imagined.


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