“It is Only Shallow People Who Do Not Judge by Appearances”
Funny and blunt opinion piece on this Oscar Wilde quotation and how it is relevant today.
“It is only shallow people who do not judge by appearances. The true mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible.” –Oscar Wilde
Some may find this quotation shallow in itself. We live in a culture obsessed with youth, style and the cult of celebrity, and such a statement seems to enable these attitudes further.
Are you not judging Mr. Wilde’s statement by its appearance? If it’s written down, it is visible, and therefore a true mystery. And there is mystery in these words. To begin, Wilde confuses us, his readers, by declaring we are shallow if we do not judge based on appearances; this immediately infuriates any reader too shallow to judge this statement.
I judge books by their covers, I do. In fact, I nearly didn’t read ‘A Picture of Dorian Gray’ (by Oscar Wilde), a birthday gift I received, because it was an older edition with a cheesy illustration on the cover. It really took me a long time to get around to. When I finally did, I was pleased to learn that the story was entirely about the concept of beauty, outer and inner, visible and hidden. Perhaps it’s because I am familiar with Wilde’s work that I chose to meditate on his quotation instead of finding one that would make me feel better about the inner beauty I possess (that is so much more powerful, of course, than my outward appearance.)
The thing is, we judge things based on their appearance every day—all day long. If you are reading this, that means you spend time online; do you not think that the links, photos and headlines you click as you search for dancing classes—at such a speed it seems like subconscious instinct—are instantly being judged by you based on their appearance? Content counts, of course, as I found out with ‘A Picture of Dorian Gray’, but I have a sneaking suspicion that, were Oscar Wilde alive today, he would not stand for an edition of his provocative book that was anything less than aesthetically appealing. Beauty is innate, yes, but presentation is how said beauty is displayed. That goes for book covers, faces, patio furniture and the girls in bikinis by swimming pools. Yours might be the most beautiful face in your social circle, but if it’s always wearing a scowl you can bet it will be judged accordingly.