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Seeing the obvious

July 30, 2008

As a school girl, I loved reading Edgar Allan Poe’s short story, “The Purloined Letter.” How clever, I thought, that someone would hide something so valuable in plain sight. I thought again about “The Purloined Letter” after discovering a trove of quotations by American journalism legend Edward R. Murrow that included this gem:

“The obscure we see eventually. The completely obvious, it seems, takes longer.”

Maybe we don’t always see the obvious because we think the truth can’t be so…obvious. Or maybe we’re trying to be fair, thinking there must be more to “x” than meets the eye. Of course, often there is more…but sometimes, what we see is exactly what we get. Maybe we’re persuaded by the first interpretation we hear about “x”. It’s like the optical illusion in which we can see either a chalice or two faces in profile. If someone tells us that it’s a picture of a chalice, that’s what we’ll notice first. Or maybe we’re afraid to see the obvious because it contradicts one of our cherished beliefs. I think it’s easiest to miss the obvious when we tell ourselves that, because we believe it can’t be true, it’s just not true.

And maybe that’s why Poe wrote his story — to remind us not to over think. Sometimes, the answer is obvious.

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