Nothing is quite what it seems


Nothing is quite what it seems - by P.K.Odendaal - June 2013 

There is a saying that one cannot judge a book by its cover, and yet that is exactly what we do every day.
I think that the thing we do most every day is judging some item, thought, person or action and that is our life. At least it is mine, but I am sure it is the life of many other people as well. And then some people have the nerve or audacity to say that we should not be judgmental. That is like saying we should not live. I can, off the cuff, think of at least over a hundred judgments, even if they are only value judgments, which I make every day. I judge whether the things I, or people around me, or in the news, are valid, morally correct, politically correct, true, good, bad, expedient, prudent, important, considerate, enjoyable, fattening, equitable, life threatening and a host of other things.

The other side of the coin is that we should judge nothing and take stoically what comes our way without discrimination and suffer the consequences regardless. That is a life I am not interested in at all, although I will live stoically through my own faults and errors, because they are of my own making. They did not just come my way. I was the author of it.
In its most simple form it is the case where the mother tells the daughter, on a hot day, to wear a jersey or sweater because the mother is cold today. There is a judgment of value necessary for the daughter to make on the instructions of the mother, and to then refuse the jersey in order not to be smothered in heat. The other way out is to comply with the instruction and then carry the jersey in her hand wherever she goes. That is called material or physical baggage.
After which she will leave it inadvertently at some place while she minds other business. The location of the place where she left it will of course be forgotten by then. When she gets home she will have to explain to her mother where this jersey is, especially if she visited places the mother does not like. She may opt out of the responsibility by lying, ignoring, blaming or back chatting. That is called emotional baggage.
So we see that anything has the capacity to load us with unnecessary stuff - whether it be physical or emotional - and physical baggage can be manifested in the soul, if not treated properly at the physical level. And this mark or wound in our soul comes without us actually realising it or its origin or its result in our lives.
And that is what is simply known as carrying too much or unnecessary baggage. It reveals itself in material things, but even more so in emotional things, and as we are not materialists, we will pursue this on a more general or meta-physical level, although we are not restricted to emotional baggage.
Conventional wisdom, our old enemy, is always there to let us take a quick look, to let us take a quick decision, and to let us suffer the consequences in a lethargic way, and so the adage says 'Act in haste and repent at leisure'. And I am sure you smile at yourself now, for having taken that extra burden because you did not think. Mea Culpa.
Sometimes I visit the offices of colleagues or other business men and I often see the plaque on their desks which says THINK. Shocking! What should I or they think? Most people I know only think of tea and lunch time and the women of what they will wear tonight. George Bernard Shaw once said: 'Few people think more than two or three times a year; I have made an international reputation for myself by thinking once or twice a week'.
That is not the ambit of my monologue here.
I have conditioned myself, as you may well know by now, not to take the first road which shows up - I try to take the one less travelled. Many times in my life I have been approached by people who bemoan their fate due to the indiscriminate, hypocritical or inconsiderate actions and ways of other people, instead of straightening it out with the guilty person themselves.
If we listen to them, then we will only hear the one side of the story and agree with the injured person that it was a bad thing for the offender to do, we sympathise, and we will be regarded as good listeners or passionate people. What we should rather have done is to have considered the case of the offender of the injured party. Many times you will find that the offender also has a case to complain about, and mostly a better case, because you only heard the wrong one and probably less than half of the case of the offended.
It reminds me of a well-known case described by one of South Africa's well known writers, C.J.Langenhoven. He was a parliamentarian, advocate, writer and genius of inventions. Once he had to defend his client against a claim on water rights in the Water Court. After two weeks in court, he won the case for his client. The plaintiff's advocate then came to him to congratulate him on his victory, on which he said: 'Thanks my learned friend, but you know; if I had your client's case I would have won him the case in one day'. He once said in parliament that half of the members are donkeys. The Speaker commanded him to retract that insubordinate statement to which he said - Ok, I will retract. Half of the members are not donkeys. It seems that he looked at both sides of the coin.
It all comes to the point that nothing is quite as it seems. It is mostly presented to us in camouflaged form. In fact, most of the time the other side is more right than we think we are or we are more right than they think they are. Likewise the truth and the fiction lie close together and well concealed under layers of cosmetics, jargon and prejudice. It is for us to do some abstraction. The adage about statistics is well to heed: 'What it reveals is interesting, but what it conceals is vital.'
Shall we take some time and consider the thing before us properly or even take counsel on it? No, we do not have the time for that - we are too busy and it is not so important. Let's just do it - like Niké would have us do.
So, if we really want to look at all angles of the case we will be known as indecisive persons. So we bend under peer pressure and let it be. I used to be very indecisive, but now I am not so sure about it anymore! And it is here that the famous Murphy's Laws come in. They were generated from an idea that nothing goes quite as it should and nothing is quite as easy as it looks. They are all paradoxical laws - as life is.
Let us take the first one: 'If anything can go wrong, it will'. I do not believe in Murphy's Laws at all, as I call it the cry of the incompetent. The person did the thing and he thought that all would work out well. Where has this ever happened? Had he but the time and inclination, he would have considered the alternatives of which one would certainly have been that things could go wrong. He never thought it through or made provision for the inevitable - as the inevitable is mostly that something can go wrong. A case in point is the wars of the USA. Most of the wars which the USA has started with vigour, ended in catastrophe, and the few that it started in apathy, ended in victory. I mean - that is on a grand scale. And you and I are much less informed than the USA is.
And that is why I never believe the scoops or breaking news of the newspapers and television, although they boast that they give you the story behind the story. It is clear to me that they give us the story as they see it, and the best way they can put spin on it to be credible, which is of course not quite what it is. History (and news) is written by the victors, not the vanquished.  
What shall we do?
I will pursue the other side of the coin, the other person's case, the opposite of conventional wisdom, the deeper meaning and implication every time. I know there is more to it than meets the eye.