What is an appearance?

Things are not as they appear, but…what is an appearance?


When circling is not just circling…

On my walk today, a brisk, windy fall day, a glance upwards gifted me with something new: the sight of hundreds of seagulls flying around each other, high in the air. The first thought was “They are playing, flying so crazily around each other,” followed by “Really? Maybe its warmer when they stay closer together,” followed by, “Well it’s warmer higher up, maybe that’s why they are so high up.” Then came, “Maybe they are riding the air currents,” which I know circle.

First, the birds appeared to be playing. Then they appeared to fly in random chaos. Then they appeared to be staying warm.  So what is an appearance, but a thought?

No wonder appearances come and go. Just like thoughts.

Just watching more closely, I noticed that although they at first seemed to be flying in total random chaos, each bird was actually sort of circling, on its own course. Yet they moved together as if one, circling, but appearing to move together as a group, in a direction, and fast, actually.

Suddenly I saw it–rather than seeing birds fly as a group, I was seeing the wind fly the birds. It was a shape I could not have otherwise seen without the birds, and without a shift in perspective.

No matter what thoughts thought gave as a reason “why,” no matter how things appear to be, they are just appearances. They are not what is. As such, there is always a polar-opposite appearance possible, a 100-degree reversal in perspective.

PS–Seeing the shape of the wind reminded me of this poem…

When You See Water

When you see water in a stream

you say: oh, this is stream water;


When you see water in the river

you say: oh, this is water of the river;


When you see ocean water

you say: This is the ocean’s water!


But actually water is always

only itself


and does not belong to any of these containers


though it creates them.

And so it is with you.


–Alice Walker

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