Billy Joel was talking about wanting honesty from his partner – don’t want a pretty face to tell me pretty lies – but I’m thinking more about how we live as people. I’ll fully admit that I’ve not been a completely honest person in my life. I like to think of myself as a reformed liar – someone who has learned that youthful fibbing was something better left in youth.
But, as I’ve thought about it, I realized that there is so much subterfuge going on in the world today that it is hard to imagine what we would be like without it.
There is the obvious outright lying – making up a story to avoid a problem, saying you’ll do something when you know you won’t. Those are obvious and certainly problematic. Despite their simplicity, outright lies are almost always based on a complex set of variables. You tell a lie to avoid being caught in an embarrassing situation. Essentially, a lie to hide a truth about yourself that you would otherwise keep hidden from the world – a kind of lie within itself.
Then there is being honest with yourself. How many times do we think we are better or worse than we really are? How many people continue to “lead lives of quiet desperation” just to avoid facing the reality that life sucks sometimes?
The aforementioned hiding truth from the world is a tough one too. It is lying because it is, in essence, a sin of omission. This isn’t to say there aren’t good reasons to keep things private or that there are things that people don’t really need to know, but that’s not what I’m talking about.
I’m talking about purposeful avoidance of anything even though getting it out would be an improvement on the current situation. Our concern over how others will feel seems to be an overriding reason for hiding things and I understand and am guilty of it. I often wonder how much it compounds problems and no doubt it does when you have to cover your deception with some other story that has little basis in truth. Most of us do it and we pretty much all know we shouldn’t, but we do it anyway.
Then, there are the lies that seem like no big deal because they are encouraged by society. Hairpieces, makeup, flattering clothing, the right lighting or camera angle, padded bras, carefully timed publicity, throwing all the dirty clothes under the bed when company comes over, making your job titles sound important on your resume …the list goes on and on.
George Carlin talked about how we have changed even the way we talk to avoid real truth going, for example, from shell shock to battle fatigue to, ultimately, post traumatic stress syndrome. They are the lies we tell ourselves and others to pretend that we are more than we are. As Morpheus said in The Matrix about the machines playcating humans to keep them docile, “It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth…that you are a slave.”
We are slaves to how we appear to others, to what they think of us and to what we think of oursleves. All because we don’t want to just tell the truth.
And if we are this bad as people, imagine how bad it must be for people who have to sell you crap for a living – the constant deception to trick you into buying a piece of shit or believing a lie that any normal person under truthful circumstances would instantly recognize for what it is: bullshit.
To be honest (and, yes, that was intended as irony), I think that no one in our society can be completely honest. We are so saturated by half-truths, hype, opinion passed as fact, outright deception and double talk, that it would be nearly impossible to separate ourselves from it. We are linked to those lies to the point that we don’t even believe the reality any longer. But, why would we want to believe it when the lie seems so much better?