Thursday, February 7, 2013


So Lance Armstrong lied. And I recently read an Associated Press article that consults "experts" on deception--college professors--and they say everybody lies. I didn't consider myself a liar, but they gave examples of parents lying by pretending the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy exist. And, I suppose, Santa Claus. House says everybody lies, too, and he's a doctor. Is maintaining the Easter Bunny myth lying? I like to characterize it as pretending, but maybe no difference exists. Pretending just sounds more benign. Kids get to the point at which they know the truth soon enough.
I have had people lie to me. Who hasn't? I don't know if my mother thought she was lying or if she lied to herself so much that she actually came to believe what she said. Still lies, though, whether or not she considered it so. In this biography of Leonard Cohen, his friend, the poet Irving Layton, is quoted as saying that genius is "the ability--a very rare ability--to see things as they actually are. You are not fooled." But maybe the real genius lies in bending what is to what you want it to be.
Perhaps there are good lies and bad lies: "No, you don't look fat. Yes, I like that haircut," as opposed to "Yes, I really am a physician" and "No, I didn't murder that bitch."
Some of this stems from another book I recently read, "Fooling Houdini," about magicians.and mentalists. Those people take pride in lying, or using trickery, and maybe no harm arises, in the absence of victims. Such trickery can be entertaining. But street hustlers basically deploy magic tricks to take people's money, demonstrating the fine line between this form of entertainment and thievery. The author mentions that tracing the history of magic produces persuasive evidence that Jesus might have been a magician and that turning water into wine and multiplying loaves constituted trickery. He also cites similarities between gospel rites and Egyptian spells and rituals and says they suggest that Jesus may have studied under Egyptian wizards during his missing years.  As John Prince describes it: "One of the most influential and controversial figures in the history of mankind, and nobody knew where he was for 18 years." Might Christianity be predicated on a lie, even though one of the Ten Commandments says not to lie? I find that more intriguing than just buying into the notion of actual burning bushes and and parting seas.
Some betrayals leave scars that influence future perceptions by making people more prone to cynicism. An avalanche of lies that buries good faith and trust. Being fundamentally lied to as a child, even if the architect of such lies didn't consider herself to be lying, can take an especially harsh toll, with lies in adulthood rekindling memories of such early deceptions.    
A self-preservation instinct seems to kick in for children when the potential for trouble exists, and they instinctively lie. Not me. When the priest asked me if I had smoked pot on the seventh-grade school trip to the amusement park, I said well, yes indeed. Then he psychologically tortured me for weeks by hanging over my head the notion that he would tell my mother, whom I couldn't disappoint. The priest mind-fucked me, as opposed to actually fucking me. I should get damages for that, just like the kids who endured physical molestation. I again find it baffling that adults do that to kids, mind or physical. We don't really grow up. We lie, therefore we are. Maybe one of the most nefarious aspects of lying concerns the toll it takes on the person lied to, who then questions the value of ever telling the truth in the first place. Funny how my mother lied but nevertheless stressed to me that I shouldn't.
At any rate, kids lie because they think they won't be found out and therefore won't get into trouble with their parents. (My kids face more severe punishment for lying to me than for whatever the actual transgression is.) This tendency to lie for self-preservation appears to carry over into adulthood for, in my experience, most people. If you want an example of some epic lying, check out Jodi Arias. Guilty or not, she has recanted two tales of what transpired. From what I have seen, the people who step up and take responsibility and say they did it make up the minority. When confronted with incontrovertible evidence, they break out the justifications and rationalizations. I can understand that, since most people care more about themselves than anyone else, sometimes with the exception of their own children. And I don't know which does more harm, betraying oneself or confronting the sorrow head-on. My mother seemed to fare better throughout her life than I have in some respects, primary psychologically, though nobody can know what really goes on in another's head. Many prevarications seem to stem less from malice than self-interest, and, hey, everybody lies. Maybe even Jesus.

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