Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Lie

Food for thought about lies, truth, reliability of narration, declarative sentences, and that grand old bugaboo, defensiveness.

1.  The relative length and complexity of an explanation of some kind of behavior determines the degree to which the explanation is judged to be a lie.

2.  Truth is not always simple.  However complex they may be in presentation, excuses can be reduced to basic declarative sentences such as:

I was wrong.

I forgot.

I was busy.

I didn't feel like it.

I didn't look.

I didn't think it mattered.

3.  Characters within fictional narratives are more concerned about truth than you are.  This is a certain metric whether the characters are in a story you are reading or a story you are writing.

4.  The closer you sit to your own motives and agendas, the less thought you are required to spend on truth and the more energy you will have as a consequence to devote to your immediate and long-term agendas.

5.  The less thought, the greater the likelihood of honesty.  Thus the door has been pried open to admit the relationship between length of explanation and suspicious behavior and possible ulterior motive.

We find humor in an imagined, fanciful explanation of self-serving behavior from a young person because we are playing off the layers of defensiveness coating out own intentions.  I was going to the store to buy the milk you gave me the money to buy, when I was set upon a group of cranky older boys who forced me to in stead by chocolate-covered marshmallow cookies, which they then forced me to eat, knowing you would be upset I did not return with the milk or the money you gave me for its purchase.

How often do you find yourself essaying such explanations for behavior which could be described in more simple, direct terms?  In addition, how does the density of truthfulness increase with the simplicity and directness of your explanation?

Do you have any helpful clues to measure the degree of variation your reliability as a narrator undergoes as your explanations gather more complexity?

Given your understanding of the metric described and arrived at through indirection in these previous paragraphs, can you see any possible effects resident within your decision to tell one or more lies about one or more subjects?

While on the subject, what are your thoughts about loud, verbal or written insistence?  Don't you in fact consider such outbursts to be tells of defensiveness?  I said I didn't do it, dammit.

But there is truth, isn't there, in the inference that defensiveness raises suspicions that the truth is somehow being distorted or occluded?

Now comes the stopper:  Is an excuse a defensive lie?  Do we make excuses to avoid recognizing the dread the truth causes us to recognize?

You were too busy to look.

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