We have consistently expressed disapproval and personal annoyance regarding the reductive and arrogant pseudo-wisdom presumed by aphoristic statements; instead, we have always respected and encouraged the practice of empirical reason in making judgments and decisions. Lazy, “group- think” wisdom, albeit phrased in snappy down-home folk jargon, has the potential to initially sound wise and tempting, but should on no occasion, whatsoever, be exalted by a reflexive response.

The targeted “aphorism du jour” is “What you see is what you get.” This ignorant, lazy and reductionist statement is grossly misleading and is conceivably responsible for uncountable instances of error and injustice. A possible corollary is, “If it looks like a fish and smells like fish, it is a fish.” Such “badda-bim, badda- boom” reasoning is particularly reprehensible when applied to judgment making and decisional thought concerning human beings. Its limited value may reside in simple optics, such as a bowl of oatmeal, a bicycle or an umbrella; in such cases, what you see is what you get. Notably, regarding experience in the social arena, one soon becomes confirmed in the eternal validity of this admonition.

In the Hindu tractates, the word “maya” is employed to refer to the false and distracting detail of life’s surface impressions. Things, it advises, may appear to be present but are really not what they seem.

Added to the daunting challenge, to fairly and accurately evaluate others, we are confronted with the statement of William Shakespeare, who famously wrote, “All the world’s a stage and all the people in it actors.” We would hazard our personal sense of the statement, that it does not mean we all live on a theatrical stage with scenery, costumes and an artistically written script, but rather that the particular setting of our life, situationally assigns to each of us a part, or a role, to play (well or badly). If this is so, to what extent, are the perceptions of us, by others, as well as our own self-identity, affected by the traditional stereotypical images associated with that role.

The use of time-worn stereotypes to analyze others, of course, simplifies the challenge for those of lazy and superficial inclination. Additionally, it is a double-edged sword, useful in the manipulation or misleading of others.  The strategic false acquisition of the trappings of a well -known role or persona can be used to mislead a hapless dupe who relies on appearances, viz.,”what you see is what you get.”

Far more costly, as a result of such short-sighted perception, is the populist undervaluation of those individuals who are possessed with unique qualities of creativity and advanced intellectual prowess, who are  gifted with the potential to enhance the development and further progress of society.

It is exclusively the individual’s development of mature sensitivity and acquisition of sufficient wisdom, enabling the wise evaluation of his empirical experience, which makes possible a fair and accurate evaluation of others. As we have often suggested, great literature is a primary resource for the acquisition of such requisite wisdom by the acquisition of insight and an understanding of man’s universal nature and his eternal experience.


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Retired from the practice of law'; former Editor in Chief of Law Review; Phi Beta Kappa; Poet. Essayist Literature Student and enthusiast.

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