» N.S. Books
April 5th, 1998.
"Dare to be true. Nothing can need a lie;
A fault which needs it most, grows two thereby."
(George Herbert, The Temple, 1633.)
I remember my father once saying, "to be a liar one must have a good memory." The details of truth, if they be recollected at all, will come out much the same, time after time. This bit of paternal advise, however, goes only to the challenging job of detecting the liar; but given that a person believes in only the here and now, what is the problem with lying. Well, simply because, as Oliver Wendell Holmes said, "Lying is unprofitable." Holmes likens truth to cubes, and lies to spheres; both at which, if offered, a child will, very probably, clutch. However, "the cubes will not roll at all; they have a great talent for standing still," and stay where they are left, whereas the spheres of falsehood "are very apt to roll into the wrong corner, and to get out of his way when he most wants them." "Timidity," with her "coarse rasp," "Good-nature," with her "broad file," and "polite-behavior", with her "silken sleeve," all come along, however, and insist that truth must roll, and so, "it becomes hard to tell them [the cubes] from the rolling spheres of falsehood."
"Lying is unprofitable." How so? Most normal people, the very people with whom one should want to associate, consider lying to be an accursed vice. One can never be at ease in the presence of a liar; when dealing with a liar one can never be sure of the true state of affairs, and knowing the true state of affairs is often most critical in one's personal and business relationships. Any kind of a relationship hangs together because of trust, break that trust and you break the relationship. One can forgive most any mistake, most any fault; but never a deliberate lie. A lie by its very nature breaks trust down to a point worse than that which one starts out with when one first meets a stranger. One cannot efficiently transact business with another where there is no trust and likely will not effect business at all with a liar. Besides you will not trust your business with one whom you do not respect; it is considered that weaklings lie, only the strong and the sure "shoot straight." You should only ever trust your personal and business affairs to one who is strong and sure, to one whom you respect.
Nonetheless, John Milton thought that there are times when a little deception might be in order: "What man in his senses would deny that there are those whom we have the best grounds for considering that we ought to deceive -- as boys, madmen, the sick, the intoxicated, enemies, men in error, and thieves ..."
1 Their are two kinds of lies: The "Lie circumstantial" and the "Lie direct." (Shakespeare, As You Like It.)
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April, 1998 (2011)