• Scott Stahlecker

A Disappearance of Appearance

The eyes can be deceiving, but they are not nearly as blurry as our misperceptions, nor as blinding as our biases.

Take, for example, the manner in which we are tempted to judge the value of the average person we chance to meet. For when we first meet individuals what we see is merely the shell of an individual. Yet, in scarcely the blink of an eye we often judge by the appearance of this shell the character of this person on the inside. Such a perception is likely to be fuzzy, especially because we are tempted to see people as we are and not as they are. We are also inclined to value what a person says and does according to how their actions mirror our own ethical framework.

This is, regrettably, the setting in which most human interaction occurs especially within the age of social media. These days we are all engaged to a degree in building and maintaining an image of who we are, and some people simply express little or no interest in engaging with strangers or even loved ones that do not share their own interests, beliefs, or values. Fortunately, we can choose to value all individuals equally, but this does require, however, learning how to “see” without the biases of our beliefs, and arriving at a more rational way of understanding others.

When you think about it, we really have no control over the shell we were cast in when we began our journey in life. Skin color, body type, facial appearances, genetic dispositions, physical attributes or handicaps, our gait, the tone and quality of our voices—all these physical characteristics and much more—are just a shell. To stretch the analogy, we are made up physically of chemicals, elements, minerals, and about 97% water. And if we really took the physiological understanding of what we are made of to a microscopic level we’d accept that we are just comprised of atoms and energy. Through the awesome stages of conception and birth atoms of matter and energy mixed resulting in the spontaneous duplication and evolution of cells into various body parts that form our physical shell. Yet, we can think even more deeply, and consider that before conception we did not exist, and after death our bodies will be retransformed back into “dust,” or the elements we are comprised of. Now, the nice thing about recognizing this "fact," that our physical forms are merely shells, is that this intellectual epiphany has a way of piercing through our illusions and eradicating the misconceptions, biases, and prejudices we manifest towards others.

How does the disappearance of appearances work on the practical level? Fundamentally, it means to give no value whatsoever to a person’s physical appearance and attributes. One of the best ways to do this is to disregard any social customs or mores, which influence how we treat people based on appearances. For example, we can dispense with the idealized Hollywood version of beauty. The reality is, there really is no such thing as a beautiful or ugly person. We are all uniquely beautiful individuals.

The trick when engaging individuals is to literally act as though we are blind to outside appearances, but rather, we use our powers of empathy and understanding to see into the true character of those whom we come into contact with. This is best accomplished by really grasping the reality that the faces we all wear have an illusive quality. For on the surface our appearances do form a complete image—albeit, literally in a state of flux at the atomic level—but nevertheless, an image we were born with. When a person can embrace this reality, as well as dispense with any cultural biases that influence perceptions of beauty, then he will be in a better frame of mind to discover the true person that dwells within.

Photo Credit: Rakib Hasan Sumon's Blue-Eyed Boy



© 2020 by Scott Stahlecker