Hidden In Plain Sight

From time to time, I am greatly amused and intrigued by the matters of secret societies, despite not being the most obvious choice of person to be capable with anything involving secrets [1].  I often enjoy amusing friends of mine by wearing a family heirloom tie clip from the Society of the Freemasons, despite the fact that the Masons have never particularly sought out my company nor have I ever been an insider of a secret society myself.  For all of my fascination with the signaling that takes place among elites and the ways that symbols are used for communication among the cognoscenti, I must freely admit my own lack of knowledge in such matters and the fact that I have never seemed to strike anyone as a suitable member of any sort of secret elite.  Rather than feeling envious at those who do enjoy the confidence of others, I enjoy the freedom I have to be friendly with all who are around me, in the knowledge that people will respond to me as they are, with their own assumptions, their own fears and longings, and their own thoughts and suspicions and judgments.  It is simply my job to give the best possible material for others to work with as they think and feel, and the best possible example for others to follow, if they wish.  Whether I do that job well or poorly is something awaits the judgment.

In the Harry Potter series, England is portrayed as having a secret magical world that exists alongside the human (Muggle) world, where old-fashioned wizards live and move about without attracting the notice of most of the people around them.  One not very intelligent wizard driving the Knight Bus notes that Muggles don’t notice anything, and much of the series consists of a parallel world where a young man of complicated heritage moves from the “real” world of deprivation to a world full of imagination and danger, and where the two words eventually merge and collide in strange ways before he can find his true home among his fellow wizards.  Part of the appeal of secret worlds is that they give those who have access to them a sense of great privilege.  It is of immense pleasure for people to consider themselves above the common herd of humanity, whether they are or not in fact better than other people.  Yet all too often this sense of privilege can lead to resentment when people are seen to be favored for one reason or another, and the envy may poison the relations of people who spend most of their time in different worlds.

It is little surprise that privilege should be such a contentious subject in our world, or that throughout human history it should have been such a problem.  Much of privilege consists in distinction between people for reasons other than merit.  If I am pulled over by a police officer, for example, although I find the experience to be immensely stressful, I have also found it, in general, to end about as pleasantly as possible.  I have never ended up, for example, on Cops, and have gotten a few friendly verbal warnings about speed traps and the state of my taillights before returning on my way home.  For others, though, being pulled over may be viewed as a vastly less pleasant experience, with the tension of potential violence, all the more fearful because of the stark disparity in power between ordinary citizens and those who are sanctioned by the state to commit acts of violence against evildoers.  In many cases it is our background and personal experiences, that which we have witnessed or experienced, that colors our perspective of various interactions as they happen, as a repetition of injustices leads people to doubt the possibility of any justice in this life.

Yet much of what secret societies do is hidden in plain sight.  One may watch a music video and see signs and symbols that demonstrate a meaning without any sort of heavy-handedness in it, something that is obvious to those who know, and perhaps only a bit odd but nothing too much so to those who do not know.  One may walk or drive past a building and miss the symbols that are employed in it or their meanings.  One may read books or essays and not recognize that the words being used have layers of meaning far beyond what may be understood, but without that ignorance causing offense, because that which is hidden in plain sight is far less offensive to that which is hidden under a veil of secrecy or flaunted in public that causes immense difficulty.  Those who wish to preserve their secrets, if they have any worth keeping, would do well to keep themselves from having such a colossal ego that nothing can be done with discretion and also preserve a sense of modesty and appreciation for other people that also avoids provoking envy on the part of others.  For it is envy that is the enemy of anything that is secret or privileged, because for people whose hearts are poisoned by resentment, that which cannot be seen cannot be trusted, and that which is seen, if it is different for anyone else, it also cannot be trusted.  Our desires both to be distinctive and unique while not having anyone treated better than we are war, and our greed and envy are often at odds against each other to the point where we cannot see what is hidden in plain sight, the revelation of our character through the way that we respond to the incidents of this life, which may be obvious to those around us and yet secret to ourselves.

[1] See, for example:










About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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4 Responses to Hidden In Plain Sight

  1. Pingback: The Number Seventy-Two | Edge Induced Cohesion

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  3. Pingback: Book Review: Quidditch Through The Ages | Edge Induced Cohesion

  4. Pingback: The Light Of The World | Edge Induced Cohesion

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