Phaedrus, a Roman poet born in 15 BC, once said, “Things are not always as they seem; the first appearance deceives many.”It’s a true statement on many levels. In real life it comes to play in how we perceive or judge others, how we evaluate relationships and circumstances, or even how we view the possibility of an afterlife. We must realize everything we see and interpret is filtered through our own belief and opinion, and what we perceive to be truth about someone or something may, in fact, be the opposite.
This theme is also used with great effect in literature. Many of William Shakespeare’s plays were written using this device, as he toyed with the perceptions of his audience. But, interesting as this may be on an intellectual level, let’s leave the deep theorizing behind for a moment, since dry information was never my schtik. Suffice it to say we should never judge something or someone’s worth by outward show.
I shall now relay to you a short anecdote exemplifying the subject at hand. It opens on a warm spring day as my young children and I rumbled off to town in Ole Blue (our aged truck). We always watched for wildlife in those days — each of us for different reasons I didn’t fully understand back then. Becky and I kept our eyes peeled for the sake of innocent enjoyment, Justin scanned the landscape in order to win points for the animal game we always played, and Chris peered craftily out the window mentally sighting each happy woodland creature down the barrel of a gun. I suppose the barely audible, “Bang, bang,” issuing from his compressed lips ought to have been a giveaway, but I was just glad everyone was reasonably quiet for a blessed minute.
Anyway, each of us was absorbed in these uncomplicated pastimes as we rounded a sharp bend and saw — could it be — a bald eagle! This was at least 25 years ago and sightings of the majestic bird were less common than they seem to be now. We were thrilled. Thankfully it was a quiet road and I threw the truck in neutral and we all strained forward on the seat as the motor was silenced and we began to coast.
“Get the camera,” I hissed at Chris who sat near the glove compartment. He rummaged hurriedly in the dark depths before dragging it triumphantly forth. Excitement in the truck was palpable as we slowly bore down upon the fabulous fowl. I imagined the tale we’d later tell of the massive white head, yellowish, hooked beak and narrowed eyes as we would watch it peer down at us mere earthlings from its lofty perch.
The immense bird sat in regal repose on top of a power pole preening its feathers — or so it appeared. Did you catch the key word? As we drew closer it seemed as though the bird was struggling with some sort of inner turmoil, and it lifted one leg to its head and hopped ever so slightly into the air, spreading enormous wings. Chris lifted the camera to his eye and we all drew a sharp intake of breath as we watched the creature prepare for flight.
It took a mighty leap skyward and Becky screamed, “That’s no bald eagle. It’s a crow with an A&W chip bag on its head!”And so it was. The crow flapped leisurely away and the now empty container of french fries fluttered lightly down onto the hood of our truck. We had so badly wanted it to be a bald eagle. Sadly, our focus now shifted towards the greasy remnant lying before us. Everyone sighed loudly.
Perfect example of appearance vs reality right? Perhaps not nearly as deep and philosophical as you might have expected from my grand opening, but then I’ve never held false illusions of myself as anyone too grand or philosophical. So, as we sally forth into another week I admonish you to always keep this simple truth in mind.
Don’t jump to hasty conclusions; things are not always what they appear.
Born in Maidstone, Sask., Helen Row Toews is a humorist, author and works in education. She lives on the family farm near Marshall, Sask. Her blog can be followed at myprairiewool.com or reach her at Box 55, Marshall, Sask. S0M1R0