Another Question for the Group
This one will be easier. Really.Metafilter has recently posted a discussion about an Esquire writer practicing Radical Honesty.
And OK I'll be honest, I read the first paragraph of the article and skipped to the comments. I'm not done with all the comments, but it occurred to me that some thought I had recently on the Truth and Lying would dovetail nicely while you all wait for the Paris Diaries.
I used to work with a guy who seemed to practice Radical Honesty. I know more about his intestinal gas issues, where he had sex with his girlfriend (her desk at the housing office), as well as his propensity to buy women vibrators than any person should know. He was proud of the fact that he "had no boundaries" and thought he was supremely helping everyone towards a better understanding of the Truth with every one of these revelations. But here's the thing, his "honesty" never extended to major issues. There was no serious discussion brought about by his radical honesty about say racial relations or even how our ability to process sensory information has changed because of the internet and digital cameras. Or even why he thought owning a vibrator was so necessary to the Women of the World.
I, on the other hand, am an admitted liar. Not only am I liar, but I believe in lying. I shall explain.
For those of you unfamiliar with Henrik Ibsen's the Wild Duck let me give you a little lesson. Ibsen was a wildly popular playwright. So much so that clubs grew up where people just sat around and argued about the philosphy his plays espoused. One of the beliefs some Ibsenites developed was that he one should always tell the Truth. Well, you can imagine how a playwright who wrote fantasical works like Peer Gynt might re-act to such a claim. He wrote the Wild Duck in which a naive young Ibsenite ruins the lives of all around him by exposing the Truth. One of the central ideas presented in the play is the idea of the Life Lie or essentially that there is an illusion which is as necessary to your existence as air or food or water. Each of us has a different belief, but shatter that illusion and the person is literally crushed by the weight of unmitigated reality. Now I think most of us have more than one necessary Life Illusion, but I agree with the idea of it. Illusion is necessary and if you don't agree, I suggest you examine how much money and time you spend trying to escape reality through books, movies, television shows, video games or even drugs and liquor. Illusion is perhaps the largest growing American Industry.
But I'll go one step and further. Playwrights and fiction writers are in the odd position of telling lies that reveal a basic Truth and more importantly a Truth, rather than say the factual truth of intestinal gas or sexual disclosure. To me, it seems that the focus on "factual truth" was really just laziness. The follower of RH didn't want to think about those around him or censor himself, it was simply the easiest path for him and it gratified his ego in the process to think that some of us actually cared about these non issues. On the other hand, if he bothered to spend the energy censoring himself, he might have then been able to direct the conversation to more important but buried Truths. Or he might have spared me years of Post Traumatic Shock.
And there's one other thing, most people beg you to lie to them. I discovered this years ago. I refuse to fake orgasm, but I'll lie about it. I was in bed with a guy and hadn't bothered to fake. Afterwards he said, "Did you come?" Well, when I come, it's hard to miss. And he knew it. He wanted me to lie to him, so I did.
People often point out that I don't tell the Truth here as a criticism. Well of course not. I don't even write under my real name, but also it's because I'm a storyteller. I re-organize events to make more sense, add details from other events, erase others to keep the narrative focused and of course let's not forget add the artificial construct of the narrative arc. Even if I did tell my Truth, most people would see some lies as my perspective is skewed.
Strangely, despite my beliefs, OE once commented that I was the most brutally honest person he knew. He couldn't quite reconcile my beliefs with my behavior. "Well, sure," I told him, "I believe in the value of lying. I just don't believe that most people are worth the effort."
Labels: illusion, lying, radical honesty
Bad Bunni posted at 9/06/2007 09:20:00 AM