When people are limited to clear and cautious truth, they often have very little to say. I know, because in much of my professional life I am limited in that way.
Here is a typical exchange from my work:
Me: “… we’ve seen incidence rates going down now for the last four years.”
Them: “Why is that?”
Me: “I don’t know.”
Them: “What do you mean ‘you don’t know’?”
Me: “We’ve been able to eliminate some theories as to why this is happening, but we do not as yet know the underlying cause.”
Them: “Well, then, what good are you?”
Me: “I don’t know that, either.”
We human beings love cause-and-effect relationships; in fact, we often see them when they aren’t there, like some sort of ex-lover we mistakenly think we see pass in the streets. To some people, this might seem depressing; I find it hilarious, for whatever reason. In fact, I like to find faux cause-and-effect relationships wherever possible.
Her: Did you notice the neighbor’s recycling bin was in the street?
Me: Yes. I think maybe they’re protesting.
Her: Protesting what?
Me: The plight of recycling bins, abandoned to the streets, far too young.
Her: You are weird.
I get interesting reactions whenever I post any (other) of my wife and my bizarre, stream-of-consciousness sort of conversations. Reading back through them, we often are playing with whole concept of “causation”, which is slippery at best, and widely misused. Deliberate misuse seems a logical next step.
And I’m all about logical next steps.
In a former career, I worked for the United States federal government. I’m not sure if it was a coincidence, but I found myself one day, at work, standing with some coworkers and trying to see if we could come up with better euphemisms for “lying” than those we were currently hearing from various people higher up in the governmental structure. Here are a few stray bits of that conversation that I still remember:
- “It’s not lying. We’re creating ‘new truth’ where there was no truth before.”
- “Don’t think of it as lying… think of it as recumbent truth… just, you know, having a lie-down.”
- “Nothing that beautiful could possibly be a lie.”
- “This is war. Truth is a peacetime luxury.”
The first one of the above list was mine, and was based on something I heard an acquaintance of mine tell his girlfriend when she caught him cheating on her. He actually said, “I wasn’t lying, it’s just, there was some new truth out there I hadn’t gotten around to sharing yet.” She (thankfully for her) left him shortly thereafter, “shortly” here meaning about 1/2 second later.
I always loved the second one listed; the woman who said it was originally from Norwich, England, and she was employed as a writer. The word “recumbent” isn’t one you hear in this United States very often.
The third one was a guy who had formerly worked in the oil business, so I assume he had some experience with dissimulation, either as a purveyor or observer.
The last one, reminiscent of the quote “truth is the first casualty of war” was the one I found most disturbing, at the time, because I’m pretty sure the young man who advanced it, meant it.
It’s hard to achieve anything without honesty, because problematic situations can’t be bettered if we won’t see them for what they are.
While we’re on the subject of honesty, I want to talk for a moment about platonic male-female friendships. Here is what I’ve learned, from real-life experience: these can be easily maintained, as long as both parties want to, and are impossible to sustainably maintain otherwise.
Where honesty comes into play, however, is in realizing that what we “want” is often a set of conflicting wants, some one of which is “winning” at the time we are asked: some combination of circumstance, opportunity, and (often) alcohol may change what we want.
I have always been from the “no means no” school of interpersonal relationships. To use the language of mathematics, physical relationships have an asymmetrical risk distribution, therefore the greater power should always lie with the female. Young men (and I know, I was one) often find this to be frustrating and unfair. Too bad. We have to get over it.
If boys are not taught to protect girls before sexual madness kicks in, then these same boys (as men) are unlikely to protect women, and will often abuse them. “Protecting” here means protecting them even from us – especially from us.
So, what do cautious truth-telling, bizarre husband-wife conversations, sort-of-euphemisms for lying, and male-female friendships have in common?