Lies, Truth and Our Lives

Inspired by “The Departed.” Thanks to Joshua Rocks for listening to and critiquing these musings.

Those related to us genetically know our worst tendencies, and think they know of what we are capable. Knowledge of one’s genesis and what came before should therefore allow one to control another, if one has such knowledge.

It is against this backdrop that we lie, for to tell the truth is not the most honest thing always, but can easily be the most dangerous thing. After all, look at those who would use knowledge of one’s origins to control one: their pursuit of “truth” is a self-deception, a causing of a great harm for little purpose that makes them much, much smaller than they think they are. The critique of Death Cab yesterday, and how nihilism can come about in such clever guises, should tip us off as to a certain type of individual that revels in “truth:” I’ve met one too many people who like to say someone seems better than them, but since we’re all human, defined by the same awful tendencies, no one is really better than another.

So we lie to protect ourselves and not fall under another’s power so easily. But there’s a greater truth behind that “lie,” ironically enough: what is really happening is that we want control over our identity. We want the truth to be something we are, that we have proved ourselves.

And I think the upshot of all this redundant musing is this: when we say another is “living a lie,” what we really mean is that they have deceived themselves while retaining the power to deceive others. They have their hands on the most literal notion of truth there is. Those of us who do tell “lies,” in the tradition Plato carries over from Homer’s Odysseus, are doing so in order to grapple with our place in the world. After all, the opinions we posit to get at Truth, and sometimes fall short of the mark, might be characterized by many as lies.

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  1. I’ve been thinking about this. Notice that all those that lie, or try and control the lies, die in the movie. The only two not to die, the psychologist and Mark Walhberg, are open about their lying. She tells DiCaprio that yeah she lies to keep an even keel, and Marky Mark lies about his job but admits it’s a lie. The others all lie and are never open about it, or pride themselves on being good at it. The n Nicholson and Queenan are the lie masters. Just a thought that I have to finish.

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