Sunday, January 24, 2010


I've been thinking about how deceptive appearances can be. In South, Sir Ernest Shackleton mentions the hopes some of the men had of boarding a solid-looking iceberg that seemed to be heading in the right direction, toward land, instead of staying on the floe they were on. His explanations of his misgivings about the soundness of such a plan are full of the deceptive qualities of icebergs--of their apparent sturdiness, of the invisible flaws that lead to a sudden collapse, of their susceptibility to changes in current, and the difficulty of launching the boats from their steep sides.

I am not very good at reading facial expressions. I had thought that I was, but I've had it hammered into me again and again that I am not. Facial expressions always seem more negative than they later prove to have been, and I have been guilty too often of trusting the interpretation I've given the face over the actions of the person. I've finally had to realize that I don't read faces well, and it is a strange relief to be able to remind myself of this when I get, I think, a negative reaction. Or maybe none of this is right, and it's simply a lack of understanding--the facial expressions of people may have nothing to do with what they are talking about! What a strange thing to discover, all of the sudden, as if it were new. That others speak, just as I do, about one thing, while they are often thinking of another.

But it isn't really this that has really come home to me today. It's the emptiness of jealousy. I have realized today, that someone I had envied years ago, once but intensely, was not to be envied at all. I would snatch my troubles to me and never release them rather than have hers, and I'm so sorry. It's amazing how easily I assume from appearances, that everything is going well. And this must apply to how people talk and act, to the currents underneath, the hidden flaws, the fragility of great strengths, the sudden great drops into dangerous waters. I don't mean that people are deceptive in that they aren't to be trusted, only in that they aren't what they seem, or, at least, what I see. I haven't been looking hard enough. People are so fragile and so strong in unexpected places.

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