The Great Pretenders
by Jake Block
“Would I lie to you?
Would I lie to you honey?
Now, would I say something that wasn’t true?
I’m asking you sugar
Would I lie to you?”
— Would I Lie To You (Eurythmics)
One thing you need to know in life is that “people lie.” Your parents lie. Your siblings lie. Your lover lies. You lie to yourself. We can’t help it, and it seems as if we are hardwired to lie in difficult situations and it’s so ingrained and automatic that often, we might not even realize we’re doing it.
Now not all lies are BAD lies. Sometimes lying can be kind. For example, if your child has contracted a serious disease, and in their pain and suffering, they ask you if they are going to die. What loving parent would confirm their worst fears, even if they were at death’s door and they would never see another morning? Soldiers lie when under torture to protect their brothers at arms. Spies lie. Lies can be patriotic, and lies can be comforting and lies and be simple vehicles of literary construct to move a narrative along in the furtherance of a story. Some of the best novels and even historical references ever written took literary license…that is to say, they lied; embellished the truth.
There are indeed times when lies are simply that. You’re late for work for the third time, and you have a boss who is a stickler for punctuality. Having been warned about tardiness twice and needing your job, are you really going to pop in the door and chime in with, “I’m late again, boss! I’ll clean out my desk and be out of here by noon?” Probably not. You’re going to come up with some plausible and totally unavoidable reason why you punched in 30 minutes late. “There was an accident on the I-5 that held up traffic. Your bus was late. You had a flat. A giant wombat blocked the road way. Power outage at home, your clock alarm didn’t work.” Who wouldn’t come up with a “little white lie” to save their job?
There are lies and half-truths, which are “kind of the truth, and kind of not.” Sure. There WAS a traffic jam on the I-5 that held up traffic that’s the half-truth, because that accident and traffic jam happened at 5:30 AM and by the time you were supposed to be on the I-5 and on your way to work at 8:15 AM, it had been long since cleared up, and traffic was flowing normally. You DID have a flat. It was on a Sunday, somewhere near Pomona. The bus was late, somewhere. It could have picked you up on time if you hadn’t overslept. The giant wombat? Sorry, Charlie. That one’s on you. Maybe somewhere in Australia, but there aren’t any giant wombats in LA.
We lie to our enemies and we lie to our friends. We tell “John” that nothing is happening over the weekend, when in actuality, it’s going to be the party of the year. John just won’t be there because John has proven himself to be untrustworthy and a bit of a sneak. The truth is, you just don’t want John around to spoil the party. Tom tells us that he just lost his job with the widget factory and that he is afraid he will never find another good paying job like making widgets again. The truth is that the widgets are becoming obsolete and are being replaced by cheaper and more efficient computer chips and Tom’s job as a widget specialist simply is no longer needed. We see how despondent he is, worried for his future and his ability to provide for his family. We know that at 58 years of age, changing careers is going to be difficult at best. But we tell him, “It’s ok, Tom, something will turn up any day now.” Compassion sometimes involves lying to friends.
Malicious lies are damnable lies, because they are most often borne out of jealousy or greed or lust for power. We’ve all had that one co-worker who would lie through his or her teeth to make themselves look good, most often at the expense of another co-worker, so that if anyone was going to get ahead, get that next promotion, or more office perks, it was going to be them, whether they honestly deserved them or not. We’ve all heard about the woman who “fucked her way to the top of the corporate ladder.” Well, it does happen, but statistically, it’s a hell of a lot rarer than those corporate suck-ups who steal ideas, tattle on their co-workers or just plain lie about their accomplishments to get ahead. People who maliciously lie cost others their jobs, destroy relationships and take food out of the mouths of the families of co-workers, all to bolster their self-image and job status.
We lie to ourselves. Lies to oneself are “doozies!” The kinds of lies and their number are legion, and we tell them to ourselves every waking moment of every waking day. These might be the most insidious and at the same time, the most emotionally acceptable lies uttered by probably every human being in existence today, and every human being who ever existed in the past, and I dare say, 10,000 years into the future, man will still be telling these same lies, more or less, to justify personal failures, promote a healthy mental self survival mechanism, and help us build and maintain the alternative world in which our minds live, in that place where we dare think ourselves unique in a world where “uniqueness” is itself the most all pervasive lie.
“Uniqueness,” truth be known, is a commodity much rarer than gold, and comparable to the unicorn or holy grail in the minds of the intellectually honest. The concept of uniqueness is very much like the concept of the unicorn or holy grail, in that while it is highly improbable that they ever existed. the mere thought of them is so ingrained into our species as thought forms that it becomes almost blasphemous to entertain even a whisper of their unreality within one’s mind. Trying to be that “special flower” in the world makes “ stretching the truth,” and dealing in lies from the “fib” to the “whopper” the stock in trade of us all! In the end, we see that for each and every lie we from which we apply a layer of protection with which we protect ourselves in our diaphanous bubbles of individual sovereignty, we also create, like anti-matter to matter, a truth to make it all as useless as the proverbial “knife in a gun fight.”
in conclusion, lying to ourselves is so all-pervasive that we even lie to ourselves about it! We’re “faking it until we’re making it,” “blowing smoke,” spinning yarn,” and a thousand more euphemisms for what is, at its core,lying to others and lying indeed to ourselves. You do it, I do it, they do it, so do we all.”
“Too real is this feeling of make-believe
Too real when I feel what my heart can’t conceal”
— The Great Pretender (The Platters)
The Orders of The Sect of the Horned God