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Reflections-By Dr Rajan Philips

Judging a book by its cover


( This motivational article was published in Oman Observer , one of the leading Newspapers in Oman. The article is reproduced with the permission of the author )


REFLECTION -By Dr Rajan Philips -Iron pyrite is a mineral that is nicknamed fool's gold, because of its metallic lustre and pale brass-yellow hue. Chemically, it is iron sulphide and has nothing in common with gold. Incidentally, real gold in its raw form appears dull and lacks glitter. This goes to show how wrong we would be to judge the quality of someone or something by the outward appearance. That is why the wise warns us: ‘All that glitters is not gold; and ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover.’

We are thus advised against jumping to hasty conclusions. We should save our judgment until we take a closer look.
This is of vital importance in social and personal relationships. We lose out in two ways when we make impulsive judgments. We get entangled in ties that we may regret or miss out on others that could have enriched our life.

Literary historians believe the expression ‘All that glitters is not gold’ originated in or before the 12th century. Its variation can be found in William Shakespeare's play, ‘The Merchant of Venice.’

Obviously, appearances are often deceptive. We should have the capacity to discern the reality concealed behind the glittering facade.

A foolish man may fool people for a while pretending to be wise and maintain a studied silence. But he cannot usually remain so for long. Likewise, the wolf in sheep’s clothing gets unmasked sooner or later.

The serious consequences of relying on appearances to judge true worth are illustrated beautifully by this fable.

Once, a stag, drinking water in a pool, saw the reflection of his attractive antlers and felt very proud. But the sight of the reflection of his legs, made him feel ashamed. Just then, he heard the barking of a hunter's dogs. Now the ugly legs came swung into action to attempt escape from the hunter.

However, along the way, his antlers got entangled in a bush and cut off his escape. The horns he admired became his enemy and led to his sad end.

The birth of the famous Stanford University is another illustration. Years ago, a none too elegantly dressed couple walked timidly, without an appointment, into the Harvard University President’s outer office. The secretary tried to turn them away. After a long, long wait, the President condescended to meet them. When the couple talked of raising a memorial in honour of their son who had studied for a year at Harvard and was now dead, he was rather scornful.

When they informed their intention to put up not a statue but a new building, the President remained skeptical and mentioned that total worth of all the buildings on the campus was over seven and a half million dollars.

The lady turned to her husband and said quietly, “Is that all it costs to start a university? Why don’t we just start our own?”
That was exactly what they did when they returned to their home in Palo Alto, California and thus was born the reputed Stanford University. The President totally misjudged the intrinsic value of the couple, being blinded their superficial modest appearance.

There are of course situations where the ‘cover’ or the ‘first impression’ matters. In a book shop we don’t get to delve deep into a book before buying it. If a company desires to recruit staff, it shortlists candidates for interview based on a quick glance at the CV and the ‘cover letter’ which amounts to judging by the cover!

But this approach is hazardous when it comes to choosing friends or a life partner. Such choices based on ‘judging a book by its cover’ may result in severe setbacks and heartbreaks in life.

( Courtesy: )

Articles by Dr.Rajan Philips

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