Why Things Are Not Always What They Seem

“Why things are not always what they seem; first appearance deceive many, the intelligence of a few perceive what has been carefully hidden
Phaedrus, c. 444 – 393 BC

The mind is strange in the way that it picks and chooses what it wants to see. The way people let their emotions, conditions, and state of mind guide their perspective ultimately decides who they are as a person “
Maya Reed, 2002 – present

Phaedrus, whose name translates to ‘bright‘ or ‘radiant‘ was an ancient Athenian aristocrat who enjoyed the company of philosophers. Remembered as an especially attractive young man, details in Plato’s writing point to Phaedrus’ interests in mythology, science, and the nature of ‘reality;’ do we see things how they are or only how they seem to us? Is seeing believing? Can we trust our senses? How do we know how something really is?

Joanne Reed, Author of This Is Your Quest
Maya Reed
Why things are not always what they seem
Mother and Daughter Double Act

Last year, my eldest daughter, Maya, asked herself these questions in a paper she wrote for her AP Seminar (Advanced Placement) class. I published her essay in my book because Maya captured in a very eloquent and poetic manner the notion that ‘Why things are not always what they seem’ better than I could have myself.

The view from my window – by Maya Reed.

No matter a person’s race, gender, status, or health, everyone has a window that acts as their unique glimpse into the world. However, this window varies greatly from person to person, and any aspect about someone can determine what he or she sees out of it. The view from these windows are in a constant state of change and can be altered by something as substantial as how we are raised or our lifestyle, to something as trivial as how we are feeling on a particular day. When looking out of this figurative window, things such as the time of day can reflect a specific state of mind.

In times of happiness, the beauty of the world hits me like a truck. This is when I look out my window and see a bright sunrise marking the dawn of a new day. As the sun makes it steady ascent, it brings the excitement of new possibilities with it. Light bursts forth from the horizon in an onslaught of colors, forcing the darkness into a hasty retreat. In these moments, everything is picture perfect and it only magnifies with the growing light – the world radiates alacrity.

The sky is painted in stunning streaks of red, pink, purple, and blue, and the birds sing their delight to the heavens. With sunlight already streaming through the window, my eyes turn to a world blanketed in tranquility. Leaves dances in the wind, taking my mind with them. People amble down the street, content clear on their faces. I see a couple as they walk by my window. They stroll hand in hand, simply appreciating each other’s touch. Birds soar through the sky with effortless grace, trees sway gently in the wind, and everything is infinitely beautiful.

I can see all the wonder the world has to offer. Somewhere, in the distance, a newborn takes its first breath. Elsewhere, jobs are being offered, vows are taken, homes are found, love is declared, sickness is overcome, and countless more bring a smile to my face. It is as if the sun’s rays illuminate anything and everything worthwhile and lifts them up on a shining pedestal. In this merry state of mind, negativity is easily overpowered, but the light that ensures this sanctuary is not constant.

Light brings wonder to people’s lives, but it is not possible for light to exist without the darkness. I once again find myself taking a moment to properly look out my window. However, after a long and strenuous day, the sunset is upon me, and as I watch, the sun is slowly but surely beat back under the horizon. My eyes scan what’s below me and a vague familiarity resides beneath the layers of dense darkness, but my optimism died with the sun.

The light is gone, and with it, the happiness it brought. Now, all the wrongs the light refused to expose become painfully clear. In my mind’s somber restlessness, the shadows jump out with murderous intent, and the darkness is suffocating. The same couple walks past my window, but this time I notice the strange tightness in which he grips her hand, and her refusal to look him in the eye. The amblers’ steps are reduced to depressed plodding, and even the breeze seems to whisper threats. It soon becomes achingly clear that the songbirds fled long ago, and the silence they leave behind is defeating .

The glass is the only thing that separates me from the world where evil lurks around every corner, but the darkness threatens to break the seal. In an instant the darkness thickens, and every shadowed window hides a depressed, overworked child. It is far too easy to notice that every second, a driver’s mistake becomes a death sentence, tears run like rivers, blood taints the soil, someone takes the fatal jump, maledictions are hurled at one another, lives are shattered, and the savage reality of this world cracks down like a whip. In the same way the light blinded me to anything I didn’t’ want to see, the darkness is enough to suppress everything worth seeing.

The mind is strange in the way that it picks and chooses what it wants to see in the world. Some days it will go through the terrifying, disheartening, and even confusing process of freezing to gawk at the shadows. Other days it will inexplicably decide to turn its back to what lies in the darkness and instead ogle at the brilliance of the sun. In fact, the true nature of the world is rarely seen. Constantly fluctuating emotions act as lenses for our window. They can taint, brighten, dull, enhance, blind, illuminate and change the view of different surroundings. The way people let their emotions, conditions, and state of mind guide their perspective ultimately decides who they are as a person.”


Phaedrus’ quote and Maya’s essay both make interesting and similar observations. Perception creates our experience of the world but every person perceives the world and approaches life problems differently. Perception is important, and largely in our control, I hope that you will question yours!

Joanne Reed, Author of This Is Your Quest
Why things are not always what they seem
Joanne Reed – Author of ‘This Is Your Quest”

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  1. Another great post. I’ve been seeing a few of these lately; about windows of perception, setting aside victim mentality, etc… Maybe there’s hope for humanity after all, LOL.
    Your daughter is a sharp writer too. She’s going to give you a run for your money before too much longer. 🙂 Not a bad thing though, as I’ve always had the Japanese mindset there; a teacher is only truly successful when the student surpasses them.

    1. Thank you for your comment 😀🙏! You are right, I have very stiff competition 📝! Maya is definitely going to give me a run for my money! But as long as it 📖 stays in the family we are all good😀

  2. Homeostasis – n. (physiology) metabolic equilibrium actively maintained by several complex biological mechanisms that operate via the autonomic nervous system to offset disrupting changes
    Homeostasis – n. (psychology) the tendency in human beings to adjust their perceptions of the external world, esp. their interpersonal relationships, to maintain a self-image; a reflection of the aversion people have to looking at the objective components of their personalities and character traits. Ex: Grumpy old man: “Hey, you kids; get offa my lawn!” GOM’s self-perception: proud property owner, who “justifiably” feels that others should respect private property and avoid trespassing on it. Objective facts: GOM “looks” for opportunities to ventilate his spleen and uses trespassing youngsters as a great chance to say his piece to the world. Reality: GOM is feeling that younger, more energetic people (read: “the world”) are passing him by, so he uses his verbalized rages as an attempt to get people to pay attention to him so he can still feel important.
    So, when people discuss perception, that is what motivates their drives in negotiations between and among people. In the law, we have a talismanic phrase: “Justice must not only be done, but it must be seen to be done.” Unfortunately, when people have their own agendas, they refuse to “see” that justice has been done, and they operate on the basis of their perception of the circumstances, not on the realities thereof.
    Moving to your post: Joanne, you are the tree, and Maya is clearly the apple. Were I in your shoes, I, too, would be so proud of the young lady whose mental abilities and communication skills are demonstrably beyond her years. I suspect that in your family—as it was in mine—having a mother with consistently-displayed excellence in thinking and writing about important things has triggered the nascent literary career of Maya. You should be proud and encouraging. Let the student stand on the shoulders of the giants who came before her, and let visions of a new world greet her with every waking day.

    1. Thank you Steve for sharing your insight into this subject from a psychological and legal point of view. Very interesting! Thank you also for your kind words. I appreciate😀🙏 the ‘tree and apple’🌳 🍎 metaphor . It fits and resonates with me!

  3. Your daughter has a very good head on her shoulders and I’m sure her essay made you super proud! How true her words are. Life is truly all about perception and balance and so many factors can influence how we see the world around us, even ourselves. This was such a beautiful and inspiring post, as well as a great reminder that there’s always two sides to everything.

    1. Thank you for your kind words 😀🙏!My two daughters are making me proud every day and I am feeling blessed to be their mother. So glad to hear that this post resonnates with you!

      1. You are so very welcome, Joanne! This was a beautiful post and I’m sure it touched so many! Hope you have a beautiful day/night! ☺️

    1. Thank you 😀👍! So glad to hear you enjoyed Maya’s writing. She keeps surprising me in so many ways. She has a very mature outlook on life and she is able to articulate her thoughts very well. So happy to be able to share that with my readers.

  4. Great essay.. Nice writing 👍worked as a reminder for me today which I was looking for. Sometimes you struggle with your thoughts and cannot decide what to do next, when suddenly a message or text or a phrase pops up on your screen or in a book you are reading, which you completely relate to and feel like ” Bingo! I needed an answer and this is it.” Your post and your daughter’s essay worked for me in the same way. Thanks to both of you!

    1. Your comment and how this post/article resonates with you really warmed my heart 😀🙏. Maya feels the same way. She is slightly bemused to see how her essay struck a chord with people.

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