The Lies We Tell
Humans are odd creatures. Deception seems to be a fundamental core part of our existence. When we’re sad, we mask our feelings with happiness. But we don’t allow ourselves to become too happy. When we’re rich, we tell everybody we’re poor and then buy fancy cars. When we’re angry, we either pretend to be happy or overreact to get our point across.
Our entertainment is full of bold lies. Star Wars is an entirely made-up story set “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.” Of course, we accept that Star Wars is fiction. Yet, people buy into the lie. They even go so far as to have Star Wars themed weddings, clothing, YouTube channels, parties, and even religions.
We even lie to ourselves. This lie can be as simple as a pep talk. “Hey, losing that job is just a setback.” Or a bold-faced deception. “My brother truly deserved to get hit.”
Why do we lie? There are hundreds of reasons that range from a minor personality fault to being a full-blown psychopath. From harmless entertainment to a career in grifting. Is it bad to lie? Of course, it is. However, many lies are “socially acceptable.” Star Wars is a good example. Technically, it is “accepted fiction of the highest caliber.”
A big part of our minds seems to contain a built-in lie generator. The basic core of this mechanism makes our days go better. “Hey, Sam, what did you do last night?” “I went to a restaurant with some friends.” Sam actually sat at home and watched television. Sam lied to feel better about his life and the lie gave him something to talk about. When further questioned, Sam invented more lies about the events that occurred at the restaurant including the girl he met. Soon, Sam has created an entire fictitious backstory. Is that bad? Probably. It made Sam feel better, and it entertained the person he spoke with.
Of course, there are consequences to Sam’s lie. Sam now has to remember the lie, and this does not come naturally because the event never happened. Sam’s friends might find out about the lie and get angry for being included in the lie. The lie will continue to spread and entangle his life.
Is Sam proud of his lie? At first, he enjoyed lying was and now he regrets it. Is Sam going to lie next week about a different restaurant? Perhaps.
There is another class of liar. The people that truly believe the lie. For example, the flat earth believers. They use any means to keep the lie alive including deception, corruption, and even physical violence. One could explain this class of people with psychology and other mental issues. However, at their core, these people know the lie is a lie and yet, they still believe.
Where did all this lying start? As a child, we don’t have a lot going on in our lives. Our parents made all the decisions, and we were along for the ride. We obtained freedom on the playground. There, we met our friends and together, we embellished the truth. Perhaps we did it to rebel or perhaps to entertain our friends. Lying is a skill and we get better with age. Most people grow out of bold lying and limit their half-truths to a minimum. Some people embrace lying and take it to impressive levels. Con artists for example.
Are fiction writers liars? In a way, they are. The majority of them put a disclaimer at the beginning of their work to indicate their fictitious status. However, some go out of their way to fool people and others cannot tell the difference.
It’s easy to write a lie. “Sam decided to tell his friend that he went to a restaurant.” The reader, of course, knows that he stayed home. The reader does not have to be set up as they all can relate to lying. This is because they know what it feels like to deceive for the purposes of feeling better about themselves.
It’s also easy to write fiction with the full awareness of deceiving the reader. “The vampire walked into the room.” There have never been vampires and there never will be. However, that simple statement didn’t anger anybody. Readers know there are no vampires and that lie instantly became acceptable. Now, if I walked up to you (being fully honest) and said a vampire had just been here, then you would clearly know that I had lied to you. My lie wouldn’t be acceptable and there would be consequences.
Is it ethical to be a fiction writer? Or are they simply liars? I suppose the ethical questions can be answered in how the work is presented. If a writer fully acknowledges the fictitious aspect and they don’t pass their work off as real, then they are ethical people.
Of course, we still want to believe the lie. For example, the early rocket pioneers dreamed of going to space just like their comic books.
What about me? Of course, I am guilty of lying to others and myself. I regret any harm that may have come from my lies. However, I fully acknowledge that my mind contains a fantasy world and I use this material to write. I enjoy my fantasy as it keeps me entertained. I would like to think I have come up with some creative plots as a result.
In my opinion, I keep my lies in check and I do my best to be an honest person. Or am I lying now? Hard to say because the thing that invents the lies is telling me not to lie about lying. There is one thing I do know for certain. I’ll never tell.
You’re the best -Bill
April 10, 2019
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