Let’s face the music (and dance)

I have had some fun at the expense of the truth lately. I have been telling tall tales. Making stuff up. At one point, I had to start telling outright lies in order to cover up some of my previous stories. And then I started to lose track of some of the things I said.

I realized that I needed to reel this in before I did any real damage. Unfortunately, every time I opened my mouth, trying to set the record straight, words started coming out, and they just wouldn’t do what I wanted them to do! “Represent!” I would say to the words, but the words wouldn’t listen to me.

I decided to take a vow of silence and spend a day in meditation. A well-timed ice storm facilitated my solitude. It was very restorative; the threads of my various truths started to weave themselves into a healing tapestry. By stripping away the confusing influences of the outside world, I started to see a light, but just before I could bind up the seam, I got interrupted, and the whole thing fell apart, unraveled like a plate of spaghetti.

“Hey,” the voice said.

“Ugh!” I said. It was my cat, Rocky. “Why you gotta bother me right now, kitty cat?”

“I was starting to wonder if you were still alive, and I am hungry,” he said. “It is time for you to give me fish.”

He was right. I couldn’t argue with him. It is part of his contract. When he took the position as my cat, his agent negotiated for a plate of canned fish at least six days a week after his 12th birthday. It was a reasonable provision. I was clearly getting the better part of the deal. Talking cats are rare, and Rocky has a degree from Harvard.

“And you know how much it bothers me when you call me ‘kitty cat,’” he said. “I have a name, and I expect you to use it.” Indeed, he does have a name; his full name is Rocket J. Toebiter. That’s what it says on his diploma. He has a bachelor’s degree in physics.

Then he looked at me like he was trying to do one of those Jedi mind tricks. It made me laugh, and when I laughed, he looked away with what was like a smirk or a sneer, or a little of both. Then he looked back at me.

“Ugh!” I repeated, “Can you wait just a minute? I was so close to resolving this problem. I’ve gotten the Truth all mixed up, and I need to fix it.”

“You can’t fix the Truth,” he said. “The Truth is absolute and perfect. There isn’t anything wrong with it. You can tell lies all day long, it doesn’t change the truth. All you gotta do to see the Truth is open your eyes. Some people can’t see it, and some people will tell lies, but, ultimately, people will believe what they want to believe regardless of what you say.”

Yes, I thought Rocky may have been onto something. It seems the noises that come out of our mouths are simply part of the whole of existence, whether they represent an accurate description of the speaker’s experience or not. The meaningfulness of any utterance is limited by our agreements regarding the definitions of words, our innate appreciation of body language, the tone of the voice as it is heard. It all adds up to the sound and fury described by Shakespeare, ultimately signifying nothing. Then again, Rocky really only wanted me to give him some fish.

“Ahem,” he said, “I still don’t have any fish,” and then he looked away again. That move always makes me laugh.

And then as I put his food down, I had another thought. Was I to understand that this philosophy provided a license to lie? And what constitutes a lie? I have told my son that Santa Claus is real, that he exists whenever a person chooses to give something to someone else without expecting or wanting anything in return. And I believe in God, not as an omniscient entity, but as a concept, the definable but realistically impossible goal of perfect communication. I always thought this meant I had to embrace the truth with my whole heart and that honesty was essential, but while I don’t mean to endorse dishonesty, it seems like a little untruth adds magic to the mystery.