I believe in lies. Not lying, just lies. And I don’t mean that I’m gullible. I mean that I believe in lies.
The great thing about lies is that they become my own personal truth. If I want to say that I’ve written a collection of short stories, or have hiked one of the Rocky Mountains, or have met the manager of the Atlanta Braves at a gas station, I can. And maybe you’ll believe those lies. Or maybe you won’t. But, either way, for a split second, I’ve spawned a truth.
I love books. Especially novels. But, in essence, all of those works of fiction, they’re lies. And the narrator – be it first person (like he or she is speaking directly to me) or third person (like some omniscient, detached speaker) – the narrator is always an unreliable narrator. Now, the term “unreliable narrator” is a vocab word that English majors – like myself – use to sound smart. Here’s an example: If you’re hearing a story told from the point of view of a CEO who just pled guilty to embezzlement, chances are you may not take everything he or she says at face value. This narrator, then, is an unreliable narrator. But what I’m saying is that all narrators are unreliable. They all lie. Because we all lie. I lie. I try not to on a frequent basis, but I still lie. It’s human nature to lie. Even if it’s just a little embellishment to make myself sound better. Or a white lie to make someone else feel better. We lie. To ourselves and to others.
But what I said before, about believing in lies, that was a lie. Because what I really believe in is the truth. Those “lies” before, about writing a collection of short stories, or about hiking a mountain, or about meeting the manager of the Atlanta Braves, those were actually all true. But I have to support lies for the same reason I support the truth. We like to think of them as opposites, as polarities, but, in essence, I see them as closer together than we might think. Because somewhere in the root of every lie is a truth. And somewhere in the root of every truth is a lie I’m trying to avoid. And in this way, what used to be on two separate ends of the spectrum suddenly meet in the middle. In me. In you. In everyone. But hey, what do I know? I’m just an unreliable narrator.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.