All that glisters is not gold;
Often have you heard that told:
Many a man his life hath sold
But my outside to behold:
Gilded tombs do worms enfold.
Had you been as wise as bold,
Young in limbs, in judgment old
Your answer had not been inscroll’d
Fare you well, your suit is cold.
From ‘The Merchant of Venice’, William Shakespeare
It takes great sensitivity and discernment to be able to see through the many illusions of life. We chase after many things in life, much as we might chase after water in a desert, only to find that it was a mirage or a hallucination. How many failed attempts will it take before we realize that all that glitters is not gold?
Unfortunately, everything in today’s world is about image and appearance. How often have you been deceived into buying fruits or vegetables in a carton, only to find that the large glossy ones at the top are hiding the small rotten ones at the bottom. It has also been discovered that in some fancy showrooms the original designer bags are displayed in front whilst at the back there is an exact imitation that you will be taking home! Branded electronic goods are sold in the same way. Some extra virgin olive oil was recently discovered to be not so virgin after all! Food presentations are immaculate and perfect on restaurant tables, whilst the kitchen at the back may not be of the same quality. And how true is it when they label products with the words ‘organic’ and ‘natural’?
The same may be true of people. ‘Clothes maketh the man’, so they say. In this material, physical, visual world, more focus is given to how we are on the outside than to how we are on the inside. It’s a common belief that blondes have more fun(!) and that tall and fair people get more job opportunities. Yet how many times have we misjudged a book by its cover and lived to regret it?
We also manage to deceive ourselves by continuing to be in denial of ‘our stuff’. We are so well trained at putting on a good face, even though the inside does not feel quite as good. The same is also true for others. This is not to say we should feel the need to display our ‘dirty laundry’ to all, but the point is it’s hard to guess what’s going on inside each one, and we should not judge someone at face value.
Many of our disappointments are not other people or things, but rather our own perception, and our expectations of them. Just as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so too, is the ‘glitter’. We need to renew our sense of what is glitter and what is gold.
Shakespeare may quite be right when he described, ‘gilded tombs do worms unfold’. If we were to look into our ‘gilded tombs’, how many ‘worms’ will we unfold? How many people and things are we holding onto, thinking and believing they will give us that pleasure we so seek, when instead they give us the pain we so dislike.
Beauty is only skin deep. When we fail to look beyond the surface in terms of someone’s face and fame, titles and accolades, or wealth and material worth, then very often we can be deceived. We are looking for one thing and we receive another, very much like buying those big juicy peaches and finding the mouldy ones below.
We live in a world of mirrors and mirages. Although we can never be too sure about anyone or anything these days, the important thing is not to jump to immediate conclusions and even more importantly, not to give our power away to the object of our passion or delusion. For this we need to develop the power of discernment.
When, through meditation and practiced self-awareness, we connect with our true inner self rather than the ‘creation’ which is the ego self, then we can stay in our own truth and therefore recognize the truth ‘out there’.
It’s time… to pay heed to our old friend Shakespeare. To be ‘as wise as bold, young in limbs, in judgment old.’ Learn to acknowledge, with humility, that all that glitters is not gold and you won’t be deceived so easily. Take some time; learn to develop the power of discernment. As you recognize the truth within you, the truth out there will become easily apparent.