Saturday, January 28, 2012

Of lies, Lies, truth and Truth

This is something I picked up by reading too much Terry Pratchett: capitalizing things once they pass some certain threshold of significance. You might tell a bum that you have no change on you and that would be a lie. You might somehow end up convincing the bum and the nearest 20 people to give you $20 each and that would be a Lie. Once you step it up to a grand level, you can capitalize it.

I have known some Liars in my time. Actually, I used to be one, back in my maladjusted teenage years. I was quite proud of my ability to generate entirely plausible statements on the fly, particularly to get me out of something. I wouldn't say I was a liar -- that just implies some petty level of ability. I was a Liar. I was good at it.

And then, one day, someone did something terribly nice for me and I wanted to tell them with all available sincerity what a nice person they were. But shallow compliments are the bread and butter of the liar (and the Liar). So I got to thinking: how does one create a statement which comes across as definitely not a lie? How can truth ever beat lies?

I concluded that the problem with Lies is that they cannot be Explained.

If you want to have a Truth, you just have to take a basic truth and explain it.

Let's take a very simple example:
"I like your hair."

This could be a lie or a truth. We can't tell. Maybe it's the opening line of the common Beer Bellied Douchebag or maybe it was a simple statement of fact.

If you want it to be more of a Truth, then you'll want to Explain it:
"I like your hair. It's very chic style I understand is popular in Europe; and you've got the right color and thickness to pull it off. It's also actually a classic American style, in the manner of Bettie Page and I've always thought it stood out as a good, natural style. You stand out with it and it looks great on you."

That is more of a Truth. Lies, even capitalized ones, have a hard time standing up to scrutiny because there is no ready explanation to back them up. Lying and saying I like your hair is easy but I might be in a pinch if you ask me what, in particular, I like about it. Now I'm going to have to stumble for some reasoning and it is a good Liar indeed who can do that on the fly.

So Truth can beat Lies with the aid of sufficient Explanation.

Ponder that if you ever want to tell someone something and be certain that they know you mean it. Don't just say it. Explain it. You may well learn something about yourself as well. It's always good to find the roots of our own truths -- the Liar can never really know himself because he must necessarily shift and change to suit the latest batch of Lies, but an honest person can always dig for a bit more explanation. Truths from the heart have deep reasons with long histories. (If I really wanted to tell you the full reason for why I like your hair, I would have to start with something like, "I was born in North Carolina..." It would be a very long explanation. Lies are short lived things but Truth has its roots in beginning of the universe.)