What a busy week it’s been, on and around apoplectic.me.
- I’ve put Broken Mirror – The Collected Bird’s Fate Posts back up on the site. These posts have been absent from the site for a while, as they’ve been presented in other forums. But now the true story of how I met Susanne Whyte from Bird’s Fate, and found out heroes are just people like you and me, is back in one piece.
- Doing that was inspired by the posting of The Prof’s liner notes to an awesome cover of Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christmas is You over at nerdbaitband.com.
- Meanwhile, my short story Phoenix Park went live over at The Dublin Inquirer. It’s part of their Christmas special fiction issue, which collects stories about superheroes set in Dublin. Pop over and have a look. And if you like it, please do leave a comment.
Of course, if you’re on the distribution list for the Apoplexy Newsletter, you’ll be aware of all of this.
So, how could anyone possibly remember where we were last Monday, at the end of Lies, Lies, Lies, Pt. 1…?
I’d been listening to an episode of BBC Radio 4’s The Philosopher’s Arms, in which Matthew Sweet (the writer) examines philosophical problems with a live audience in a pub. This particular episode on lies and misleading began with Sweet relating a discussion he’d had with Gladys the Landlady. He had asked for a pint of Schopenhauer Ale. She told him there wasn’t any, because of a hitch in the supply chain. Sweet subsequently discovered that what had happened was, Gladys had forgotten to order any in.
This kicked off a discussion as to whether Gladys had lied on not, and what the consequences of a lie and/or a deception might be, and why. Sweet was joined by Damian McBride, a former special adviser to Gordon Brown, the philosopher Jonathan Webber, the psychologist Bruce Hood, and Stuart Watkins, a magician who goes by the nom de guerre, “The Welsh Wizard”.
Webber explains early on in the show that consideration of lying enters the field of ethics relatively late in the day. The ancient Greeks did not contemplate the issue much. Then, the Ninth Commandment gets into bearing false witness, and later on, Saint Thomas Aquinas attempts to marry Aristotle to the Bible. Hood explains how a child learning how to tell a lie is demonstrating something quite sophisticated.
The ability to implant in someone a false belief; which entails understanding what is true, what [that person thinks] is true; and manipulate that content in order to achieve your ends.
One of the things that McBride notes is that, the role of the person who is telling a lie or attempting a deception is important. A magician utilizing what Watkins calls “professional distraction”, or a singer lip-syncing, is one thing. But McBride suggests we wouldn’t accept that behaviour from people of whom we expect better. Like doctors. Lawyers. Politicians.
McBride also notes that a problem for politicians is that they spend so much time dissembling, it seeps into the rest of their lives. It becomes easier to lie to colleagues, and staff, and family. About alcohol. Affairs. Gambling. Drugs. Lying becomes part of who they are, and becomes acceptable to them.
I wonder if there’s something in this. Spending all day and all night, every night and every day, in negotiations with other lawyers has to have some kind of an effect. Oft-times, the rules of the legal game will dictate that it’s up to the other person to catch your bullshit. But I guess that a huge perspective readjustment in the form of a massive haemorrhagic stroke militates against have the time, the ability – and dammit, the energy – to indulge in that bullshit.
Yet here I am now, trying to sell stories that are made up.
I want to write “totally made up”, but of course that’s not true. The exercise, as I see it, is to stitch together a beautiful, technicolor quilt of burning honesty from a patchwork of lies. Except the lies aren’t totally lies, either.
As you look to fill the remains of that dead week between Christmas and New Year, I hope you’ll consider reading the items in the numbered list that begins today’s post. It’ll keep you occupied during one of the days claimed to be the most stressful of the year as couples fight against a backdrop of money worries, returns to work, and the like.
Also, they’re the three most fabulous pieces of art you’ll ever experience.