I find it interesting that we go out of our way to not lie to folks, yet we lie on a daily basis.
In this vein, I found it interesting growing up having adults tell me to always tell the truth, to never lie, and to be forthcoming in my faults. While I appreciate the sentiment, the truth is lying is a part of human nature at its fundament. Let’s explore this, shall we?
First, the classic example:
Someone you care about (romantically or otherwise) asks you a question regarding their general appearance. Often, the question posed to you is phrased as something like:
‘Do these dragon wings make me look stupid?’
Naturally, you’d want to let them know that dragon wings went out of style a long time ago, and that Jesus rode dinosaurs. However, you will inevitably be corralled into saying:
‘No, those dragon wings make you look badass. Can we LARP sometime?’
The problem with the question is in its inherent ability to make the inquisitor feel like a jackass, otherwise bring them down. What’s more is these questions often have a followup statement to the tune of ‘Be honest.’ However, if you were honest, they would likely be hurt as they probably spent an obscene amount of time and money making said dragon wings. To tell them that they make them look stupid would also be an assault on their taste, purchasing savvy, and/or craftsmanship. As for anyone who takes pride in what they use to represent themselves, it would be a devastating blow to their ego.
So, we opt out of the hurt and let them find out for themselves. The individual posing the question confides in you, and the opinion of others is not nearly as hurtful (at least in adulthood under the guise that they can handle outsider criticism).
We are aware of the caveats and choose to avoid them for the sake of someone else’s ego. Lying is the path of least resistance, and oh so practical.
Now let’s examine a second instance that is a little more abstract and, in this author’s opinion, far more pertinent.
Memories. They may be like the corners of your mind, but that mind mutherfuker is humongous. In attempting to recall a memory, we ask ourselves the who, what, where, when, why, and how. The end result will always be a lie. This time, it’s not you protecting someone else, but rather it is you trying to do yourself a positive service. Unfortunately, remembering is a fool’s errand.
Some years ago, I came to a metaphor that I visit frequently as an explanation of memory and memories at large. The memory is a virgin patch of skin. It is free of marring, blemish, and stain. Our recalling of memory is a heinous, ragged shard of glass. As we recall a memory, the glass approaches the surface of the untouched skin. And them moment one begins recalling the detail of a memory, the glass digs in. The more details we attempt to excavate from underneath, the more violent the search becomes. The shard rips and tears at the skin, leaving it bloodied, torn and scarred. The aftermath is a permanent array of scars and gouges that will never heal, and the memory is forever defiled.
I look at memory this way in light of how large a myriad of stimuli are attached to any one memory. Detectives will tell you that witness recounts of details are often skewed, hardly accurate. Instead of taking a witness’ statement as fact, it is more of a guide that will hopefully lead to the truth. The fact is, we will never remember each tiny detail about a moment in time. We are bombarded with stimuli every fraction of a second. From the color of someone’s shoelaces, to the temperature of the atmosphere outside the body, it would be impossible for us to remember exactly where we were, what we saw, tasted, smelled, etc. As a result, when we attempt to recall a moment in time, we betray it. Our brain fills in the gaps presented by our lack of sense comprehension, and that moment in time is no longer a truth. Instead, it is a fabrication that is supported only by a smidgen of real recall. So, when you tell the story about the time when you were pulled over by a police officer only to be let off with a warning, you are really only telling what your mind perceives to be the overall theme of the story. Which brings us to the final metaphysical mind-eff.
Perception is a dirty, dirty thing. Through the Allegory of the Cave, we can appreciate that what we experience is passed through a host of filters presented by our brains. The end result is only a part of what is truly experienced, and is merely an interpretation of our functioning senses. So, can we say that what we experienced is true, or real? That is a question for philosophers to scrutinize. Moreover, this author would suggest it your job as a human to approach this question in earnest. In the end, your perception colors your memory, and is a major detractor from genuinely revisiting a moment in time. Perception changes the zero-point in time where an experience occurs, and fundamentally changes what one remembers of a moment from then on.
Ultimately, it is absurd for us to expect to recall a moment in perfect clarity. And if we attempt to remember something, we are lying to ourselves.
I don’t expect this to reveal some profound truth to you, the reader. Instead, I am urging you to carefully consider ever deterring yourself or an outside party from lying.
We do it all the time.