Friday, September 24, 2010

gray lies

Throughout my life, I've had a strange respect for the ability to lie well, to lie quickly, the ability to dismiss the truth as merely one possible version of events. I think of this ability as access to deeper level of truth, the shapes storytelling give to identity, the way memory rewrites itself every time it gets pulled out. In my mind, the liar understands this, and works with lies to build a richer self, to give memory the space it needs to breath.

I'm thinking of someone I know whom I suspect is a great liarwouldn't the best liars be able to organize their worlds so that their lies are impossible to notice? I may be making a giant leap, but I've always associated this suspected liar's immense forgetfulness with lies. And in this light, lies seem like the saddest thing in the world; a reality that is continually rewritten, that can only be the size of a single moment, a single impulse, and the manipulations that are required, in that moment, to shape things to one's desires.

Perhaps lies are like any other tool, marked by the impulses that drive them. But I'd like to believe that lies have mechanisms that are proper to them, to how we negotiate them, whether we use them habitually or not, whether we use them as a tool to manipulate others or not.
I was listening to WNYC's RadioLab, the episode on deception. In it, a study is highlighted, in which liars are found to have more white matter in their brains, a lot more.

Ok, so the part about the white matter doesn't mean a whole lot to me. I just imagine a bit of white in there, layered between the gray. White... the secret folds of alternate truths.

I think some more about lies, I'm confronted with an aspect of lying I'd forgotten about; the liars I knew as a child. They seemed so callous, so stubborn to carve a place for themselves that they didn't let anyone else in. They persisted in their lying; I'm sure they never grew out of it—they just got better at it. They had secret worlds, worlds of white within the thick and grey world we shared. I have to admit, this frightened me. I never thought that their physiology might be offering them an approach to reality that wasn't within my grasp.

The links between white, gray and lies, they don't necessarily mean that lies burry themselves in the brain's snowdrifts. White matter is related to the ability to make connections. White connects gray, to more gray... from what I understand. Gray skies, more gray skies, more gray. Between my adult fascination with the ability to lie, and my childhood disdain for it, and my solitary anecdotal account, in which I find manipulation and forgetfulness, I'm appreciating this comparison with gray skies, silver clouds, looking for shapes in clouds, and the gusts of wind that pull them apart.

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