Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Deception's Dilemma (part two of seven)

Intention is everything. At what level do we do not deceive? Christmas brings on a host of outright lies, especially for children. So too for Easter. And what of the boogie man, superman, or even batman? We obfuscate, purvey our predilection to prevaricate, and fib. We draw the wool over other eyes, speak with forked tongues, and make up things as we go. And yet we feel betrayed, dismayed, and fooled when others have done so unto us too. Yet what are our stories if not a series of snapshots in suspended disbelief?

"That rice-paper we were supposed to walk over, without tearing, was really butcher paper," said the movie star, some forty years later. "We couldn't find rice paper. We wet it, tried sandpaper glued to the bottom of bare feet, tried a twist of the feet in order to tear it, but it would not rip. So we just walked it, then physically tore it, and then panned back to the torn sections." The actor now smoked, ate meat, swore, and disavowed being Buddhist or being affected by his sage role, despite some 62 episodes of portraying this temperate, wise, compassionate, integrative walker in the way of the Tao. He went on to explain his ballet moves, his expertise in the Kung Fu fight scenes, and his direction of the scorpion episode. And my 'hero', with all that, became but a man.

Don't get me wrong. Judgement is not the issue here. Observation is. We have the wisdom of Epictetus at our disposal, Whitman's Leaves of Grass, Corinthians 13, Ruiz's Four Agreements, The Velveteen Rabbit, and Eckhart Tolle's Power Of Now among hundreds of tomes on wisdom and insight and compassion and care. But what of the men behind them? Did they never lie or deceive or falsify or betray? Ethics would have it that we do no harm, and many a heroic thing had been done in the interest of saving the damsel in distress, rescuing the abused child, or containing the looming danger by telling outright lies. Deception has its use, particularly on film.

"To thine own self be true" is worth examining. We so easily can deceive ourselves. We watch the projection (with the same star appearing in the lead as an entirely different person) and we suspend our disbelief and accept the story and have our very beings swept up in the emotions and scenarios and situations that in real life, well, would hardly be credible. Thing is, we 'know' it's only a movie and so we do not feel betrayed. Heck, we pay to be there! But we are deeply offended when the house we buy had undisclosed previous flooding, or the vehicle fresh off the car-lot conks out after a few blocks, or the note that gets passed around in class is an outright lie. Gangs made complicit by oaths, brotherhoods bound in fealty to others (despite our unwilling compliance) create the tension between one's loyalty to a group and the instinct to be ‘to thine own self true’. Heck, participation in things we may not fully believe in is as subtle as saying 'no I don't mind' when the guest asks if you mind if he smokes. The more honoured the guest, the less likely we are to say no; after all, it's just this one time. Deception has degrees, and it clearly is not necessarily evil. To thine own self be true, if ethical and thereby not selfish, is not about the outward manifestation of one's preferential understandings of life, but the inner realization of where one actually is at. We can let go. We flow. We allow for variables, understand the grey.

Ponerology (big word) is about intentional evil. Deception (ugly word) is about intentional misrepresentation. But we commercialize this fact, we celebrate it, we award it, and we perpetuate it. Children learn to make metaphors and parable and analogies. And adults learn to accept the concealed, the unrevealed. Now what would Santa, Jesus, or Superman think of that?

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