Never let the truth get in the way of a good story
I was having a conversation with a girl I met, and she asked me: “I’ve heard you play in a band!” To which I replied: “No I don’t”, and proceed to explain why she might have gotten mixed up. She stopped me right in my tracks and said: “Hold on there. Could you just say yes, instead of ruining my mental picture?”
I was taken aback by that response, but after a while I understood. She was right. She wasn’t asking for information, she was asking for confirmation.
She didn’t give a shit about my life, she just wanted to meet a guy that plays in a band, but I was selfishly talking too much and spoiling everything. That’s what I do best.
That got me thinking. We humans, need stories and heroes. Both, are nothing but a fraction of reality embellished with a lot of fantasy.
It’s not what you know, It’s what you don’t know that stimulates your imagination.
Have you ever wonder why we fall in love with people we hardly know? We are all suckers for mystery. The less we know about somebody the more fantasies we can project onto them. They are our empty canvass.
One way to keep this up, is by saying very little, give less away, give them room to fill up, and you’ll become a hero (or a villain) in their eyes. Or, even better, talk a lot of nonsense without actually saying anything. I’m pretty sure that’s what politicians do.
One thing I’ve learned, is, that you should not force your truth onto people. If you detect a leading question or an expectation of an answer, let them believe what they want to believe. Even if you try to convince them of other ways, they will not listen.
For example, some people assume I am intelligent because I wear glasses, and no demonstration on my part of how thick I am, would convince them otherwise. They have already made up their minds. I always thought people wear glasses to compensate for poor eyesight but hey, I guess I was wrong.
Now, I just nod and keep quiet.
There are many situations in which it is obvious you need to lie; If your bed-ridden aunt asks you if you love her, what are you going to say? That you are only there to make sure she puts you on her will?, or, are you are going to do the right thing and lie?
We do this all the time when we are in the receiving end:
You don’t want to know the flaws of your heroes.
You don’t want to find out the details of your parents sex lives
You don’t want to know how your favorite food is produced
You don’t want to know that your cat will eat you when you die
You don’t want to know that your clothes are being made by children in sweatshops in third world countries
You don’t want to know your president is corrupt
You don’t want to know that the money you give to charity never reaches the children
You don’t want to know that mother Teresa and Gandhi weren’t nice people at all
You don’t want to know that the guy cooking your pizza is hygiene shy
You don’t even want to know that you are going to die!…but you already know! FFS!
There is an expression for this.
Too much information
You can live happily after, without knowing the ugly, boring and harsh realities of life.
So, you should be careful about how much information you give. Err on the side of less. Allow their imagination to run wild and don’t crush their dreams.
Take religion for instance. I often see rational people arguing with others about their religious beliefs. That’s never a good idea. You are never going to convince them anyway because they don’t care about the truth, they just want to hold on to their truth, not some scientific theory about the origin of the universe.
The reason people believe in God is that that makes them happy and gives them some solace in this life full of suffering. There is no room for truth there. So next time you find yourself proselytizing about science and rationality, just quit, nobody is listening anyway.
I remember a conversation with my grandmother. I asked her: what if God doesn’t exist? To which she replied: “That’s irrelevant. All my life I’ve believed in God, I’ve talked to him, I’ve seen him everywhere and He has taken care of me. Even if it turns out to be a false belief I rather keep believing than live in a Godless world”
Now, next time your girlfriend asks you: “Does my bum look big in this?” I hope you are not stupid enough to say the truth! You lie through your teeth and make her happy. Same thing when your boyfriend asks you about his performance in bed. Just lie.
All bums are tiny and all men are great in bed. That’s the world we want to live in.
Another area where we reject the truth and decide to embrace fantasy is politics. It’s easy to spot supporters defending a candidate despite all the obvious lies. There are people out there still defending Venezuela as a freedom paradise, I wonder if they got the memo.
We live in the era of post-truth and fake news but, as Harari says in his books, there is nothing new about fake news. Since the dawn of time we’ve been telling each other stories for which there is no objective reality.
We are suckers for fiction. History, the Bible, nationalism and ideology are nothing but stories we tell ourselves and choose to believe in. These stories help us navigate the world and give us a false sense of security.
We need these stories.
Imagine a world where there was only objective reality — a tree is a tree and a mountain is a mountain — a world without mental constructs. That would be a world without myths, fantasies, love, freedom, friendship, beauty, family, self, soul or identity. A world without words, without language. Animals inhabit such a world. Would you like to live in that world?
Well, every time you force others with your truth you are pushing them into that territory. I’m not advocating here for liers, I believe that lying is despicable when done with bad intention or for personal gain, but we need to differentiate between telling the truth and brutal honesty.
For that we need empathy.
We need to understand how does it feel to be in other’s shoes.
Too much information is harming you
You don’t want to find out details about your hero, you just want to live in a world where there is some magic.
Do you still believe in Santa? I wish I could.
I still remember the day I found out Santa wasn’t real. The girl that blew the whistle at school became very unpopular afterward. We didn’t want to stop dreaming, we didn’t want to wake up. We were happy believing in magic.
I’ve managed to replace Santa with other stories, I know these are just fantasies but life without magic is just…
Too much reality can kill you, watch out.