{Of all lies, art is the least untrue - Flaubert}

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Why I Lie : How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love to Lie

I know, it is not even an original title for a post, but these are not the things one should lie about. Lying, as you will come to know in few flimsy paragraphs, is a true art form, and allows use of all the humanly possible senses and raises wide spectrum of philosophical questions involving morality (hi-brow), love (middle-brow) and friendship (low-brow), not to any depth though.

I should make this clear, before we go any further that the act of lying, which we will be discussing here, is not an act of making fraudulent lies, lying about facts, lying to back stab etc, all those big Shakespearean lies are excluded here, with due respect. The lies in question are humble, harmless, non-abrasive and innocent(?). Its a thin line, but to proceed any further, you should know the basic difference. For example, to lie to your smoke-buddy because you don't want him to accompany you to the smoking area. There can be two hidden reasons, one is - you have two cigarettes and you want to smoke both, second is you want to smoke alone today. The second one is perfectly justified, but not the first one. One more example, you don't want to discuss a new film with a friend to avoid any unnecessary tension, one reason might be that you know that s/he has very different taste, the second reason might be that you feel s/he has no taste at all. To me, both the reasons are justified. The thicker the friendship, the more they are justified, and in case of love interests, it immoral and even illegal not to lie.

I generally consider myself a truthful person, but I know I have lied more than anybody else I know, with more perfection and in the things that matter. If someone asks me, have you seen/read 'Da Vinci Code', I have developed a unique power to say yes with a blank dummy face and a confident half-smile that doesn't convey a thing but it has the capacity to stop any more discussion on 'Da Vinci Code' not only then but in future too. The complex facial expression is a victorious mixture of I-am-not-scared-a-bit, of-course-we-can-discuss, we-know-we-will-agree, I-know-what-you-know and whats-the-use-then/life-is-beautiful. The whole point is to miss the point of 'Da Vinci Code', the point that the other person wants to discuss for few more minutes. Art of lying helps us leap in time and space, it can be applied to evade, elude, to escape and jump over fences, to minimize unpleasant social times and spaces. It helps in mandatory socializing even if you have an anti-social bent of mind. Prompt lies aid to quickly 'snail in' with smile, the only refuge of confused modern man.

I vividly remember, in the late night bout of guilt reduction and being candid, I admitted to a good friend of mine about my lying powers and my liberal views about it. He felt extremely betrayed and instantaneously lost faith in me, and asked me, have I ever read 'Rich Dad, Poor Dad'. It was a horrible moment with such distrust in the room. I still lament that night. Its like even little hope has deserted me. I have heard people saying that lying is a only hope for a married man. That night, I realized that even for a lonely bachelor, its quite a thing. Also, that night I learned not to confess such things to anyone. They will not understand. Mixing two moralities always result in guilt and useless justifications.

After that night, the seed of guilt was set in my conscience. He accused me of snobbery and arrogance, which due to the condition I was in, I duly accepted. Every time my phone rang and I spoke of being busy in a meeting, my heart quivered and the clear soul of my late-night ex-friend hovered up in perfect circles. I almost lost my innocence. In an honest effort not to lie, I became silent. When you don't speak, your mind works faster and its good enough to kill a person of lower intellect like me. Those days, when asked about 'The Fountainhead', I used to wish desperately I could lie with blank face that I have read it, that could close the discussion without fuss. But not... 'Ayn Rand' yells aloud "Money is the barometer of a society's virtue" What pain and agony !

It took me months to recover from it. The breakthrough came when I decided not to lie, pick all the calls and discuss things to death. I realized that to be a truthful person in the worldly sense, one should not lie plainly but try to give reasons and argue i.e. simply talk and eventually turn more bitter. But the problem faced by people of limited intellect is quite a dilemma. They have to eventually lie. Its also less hurtful to both the parties. Also, more interestingly, lies spoken in the beginning are more terse and simple, than the meandering, complex lie that are spoken in the end, out of frustration and urgent need of self-vindication. So I understood the wisdom of one more cliché, the sooner, the better.

So, the question remains, why I lie, other than the shut-yourself-up to shut-the-world-out explanation. I know I discuss mundane things for hours but resort to lying if someone discuss their kids or car with unwarranted seriousness. I think, lying titillates. I lie because I have a thinking inertia. I don't want to think for things, I don't care, except in satirical terms. Also, lying gives rest to the lobes, especially to the frontal one, and a little quality recreation to senses too. It gives a carefree, childish pleasure which is unknown to the over-rational, civilized world. Lying gives a dual delight of a little job accomplished and a little time salvaged. Even for things I like, I hate juvenile enthusiasm (I myself show it often though). I hate if someone says 'Kurosawa-saan is sooo great'. Inattentive, inexperienced, popular fan-boyish truths are any day more dangerous than lies. I think, everyone should pass a 'Fat Girl' or 'Weekend' or 'Naked Lunch' or 'Hour of the Wolf' test first, before saying so. My better self is extremely snobbish about truths. When there are so less well-meant, non-hurting truths, one has to fall back on harmless lies to live in peace.


ராம் said...

if someone discuss their kids or car with unwarranted seriousness.

Point Noted and Accepted.


AD said...

Hi! Nice attempt to voice your views on a seemingly trivial matter.

Lying is indeed inevitable, especially the kind of lies in question.

However, do you really think that such lies are humble, harmless, non-abrasive and innocent?

In other words, can it be said that telling the truth instead of the concerned lie would be (let's say, more often than not) arrogant, harmful or abrasive?

To take the same examples that you have used - does acknowledging that you would be happy to smoke alone (or that your taste of movies doesn't really match with that of your friend's) would sound rude or may even be harmful to the relationship?

I do not intend to say that your argument is deficient due to its reasoning since I appreciate your mentioning, right at the beginning, that the reasoning may be a bit flimsy. What I am trying to say is that the assumption that such lies are ‘humble, harmless, non-abrasive and innocent’ is not completely justified.

And yes, it would be interesting to know more about “in case of love interests, it is moral and even legal to lie.”:)

anurag said...

"Accepted" .. hmmm....Ram, you never discuss kid or car... r u planning to have ?? :)

The cases of lying which I am talking are not always spontaneous or intuitive but they are certainly not intentionally harmful or rude. I am not sure they are innocent or not, but they are humble (You feel ashamed too, at times). If lies (some of the them) are humble, harmless and non-abrasive.. then truths (corresponding to those lies) must be arrogant, harmful (I think in the context the opp. of harmless is not 'harmful to the other person' should be' hurting to the other person'), and abrasive. Your mathematical transpose of the statement looks really scary :). I think we did transpose of 'intention' too. But even then, I think certain truths are so.

does acknowledging that you would be happy to smoke alone (or that your taste of movies doesn't really match with that of your friend's) would sound rude or may even be harmful to the relationship?

The point here is the other guy/gal will ask the supreme of all questions 'WHY', which I don't want to answer. And in case of films, I have felt both ways. I mean when you are on addition-subtraction and the other guy talk about integral/differential calculus, or vice versa. This gap can be perceived in terms of tastes as well. Those cases become either the justification of your simpler/complex/different tastes, or the imparting of gyaan by the calculus guy. I know, they are extreme situations (and at times you are ok with these too), but depending upon which side you are, and do you want to discuss a particular thing with particular person, you lie. Also, lying is not obsessive compulsive, truth can be used in certain cases and to similar effects.

AD, all said and done, this is not any justification for lying. I know, it becomes snobbish, asocial, immoral and even hurting, at times. We should give truth a chance :)

in case of love interests, it is moral and even legal to lie

Its an 'Experimental' (not 'Personal') post and at times about imaginary things too :)

Alok said...

In fact Proust has similar things to say about friendship and lying and being polite and extra nice... you may not be telling the truth and what you really think but there is a deeper emotional "truth" which more than takes care of the truth of facts. It is obviously not all that simple... but I agree with you, one essential aspect of any relationship is how skillfully people can lie.

i just saw fat girl, this topic was on my mind too :)

AD said...

I agree that what you are talking about is what is called a 'white lie'. But the point I was really trying to make is that can't people see through such lies? (Especially people who know you). And, if this is the case, then would such a lie still be humble, harmless and non-abrasive?

Or shall we say that a white lie still serves its purpose, which is to spare someone's feelings (for that particular moment at least)...which justifies the assumption completely.

I was just watching a movie ‘Chupke Se’ some time earlier. One of the dialogues in it is - "har jhuth ke peeche dhokha nahi hota...kabhi shararat hoti hai toh kabhi majboori."

I also agree with Alok that...it is obviously not all that simple.

I think the complexity is in:
   a) 'how' skillfully can one tell a lie, and

   b) does being skilled enough means that there would be less or no compunctions about telling a white lie.

nipun said...

Interesting views - though i kinda lost track where you argue about illegality or immorality about lying in relationships ( aka love interestes etc).
I think its a moot point whether smone who u care for lies or not... Of course they do :)
neways its really not necessary i think to lie per se cause - those whom u care for enough should get it when u wanna be alone for a smoke or u should'nt care for them. I wud'nt.

I've noticed people lying to avoid being crowded for instance, I've done it many times in fact.
I dont worry about that cause it was my prerogative( i needed my space )
but if u lie to u're girl - and seeing smone else on the side, that's just being churlish.

If u havta do it neways - lie with a passion, a complete submission ...wud'nt that be smthing ! I've met very few people have achieved that high art of lying successfully. Those half truths and embellishments go a long way towards getting your ass outa fire for one.

ராம் said...

Ram, you never discuss kid or car... r u planning to have ?? :)

Might be its high time I buy a Kid than a car, so that I can spoil him/her.

ராம் said...

Actually I meant to say that I have noted that very valid point and understood the roots of the statement. :)

The sleepy activist said...

ur blog is really commentable... not an opinion, just an observation ;) opinion follows..

"The thicker the friendship..." For me it would be a friendship that is not thick enough.. but probably worthy of thickening :D.. because i know .. and take pride in the fact that i can tell my friends on their face that i dont want to talk to them coz (rt now) i dont need their chatter.. or i want to not let them meet that hot guy yet coz things are yet to thicken :D and i know they'd do the same against me.

"and in case of love interests..." u can lie about her weight... but please don't lie about anything more important.. if its a worthy love interest.. u'd be history.

The sleepy activist said...

but all in all.. its a really nice blog.. i could almost take a printout :)

Rajeev said...

uxllunt mun! cul pust! huv fun!

anurag said...

Yes, Fat Girl makes a strong case against lying, basically lying to yourself, and forcing the other person to lie too for your comfort, like the pretty sister does when she forces her boyfriend, to say that he loves her before proceeding...

For the people you "know" really, or rather who know you, will anyway know that you lie like this. But its true that might hurt in such cases too !

ya, kabhi shararat kabhi majboori :)


I got that... was just pulling your leg...

but to decide between, kid and car is very difficult thing. In Kid, you need not pay EMIs (some ppl might argue on this too), and in car, you can always dump it... its a tough choice :))

nipun, thanks for commenting. My views on love interests are inexperienced and naive :))... the point ( but if u lie to u're girl - and seeing smone else on the side, that's just being churlish ) you quote is more of betraying than lying, I think

Sleepy activist, Thanks for coming here. You are right about the "thick friendships", but sometime it feels that you might hurt someone by being brutally truthful. I feel so at times !

Lying about weight is exactly the lie that falls in this category, not the bigger lies.

Rujuuv, thunku u lut :)

you prat ! said...

Maybe, the creativity surging in your head is making you relish lying, and appreciate the finer points of it. In which case, it may be advisable to take to some form of expression, some art(?), which is, looking at it one way, a kind of lying.

And, with regard to lying for the sake of politeness, I think one should just refrain from saying anything. People usually respect other people's privacy. So, in case of a call you do not want to take, I guess you could just say "I'm sorry, I cannot take this call for reasons I cannot explain". Or just don't take the call and/or send back sms saying "will call later". I think it is just a matter of choice. Also, I don't think we should give much importance to white lies.