Friday, March 23, 2012

Blade and Fang

The part of a recent-ish English paper that I liked. Except the pictures, because I don't know how to make blogger actually re-size. (As opposed to saying it re-sized the image.)
Lies. The word hisses like a venomous serpent. We are told from a very young age that honesty is the best policy, that we should not emulate the boy who cried, “Wolf!”

Then, as we grow, we are taught of ‘white lies’. These are lies that we may tell. White lies protect lives, secrets, and happiness. The white lie to keep a secret is a tame snake: the little one is your pet, but it is yet reptilian, and close enough kin to the hissing striker of a black lie to make many uncomfortable. Still, we feed these snakes; we let them in our homes. They are not dogs, to sleep at the foot of our beds, but we live happily enough with them. Some may even enjoy the company—a lie told gives closure in a way that, “I can’t tell you,” does not. Yet still. It is odd to allow them too close. Strange to like them too much.

Last, we have the shining white lie. This is no serpent-kin, but a knight in shining armor, forever at the ready to protect others from horrors which might be too much for the poor things’ constitution.

When lies are wrong, they are a failure: A black lie is a failure of conscience. A white lie is a failure of creativity. A shining white lie is a failure of empathy. As Elizabeth tells Will in Pirates of the Caribbean, and Will spits back at her, “It wasn't your burden to bear”—each decided the other would rather not know a secret, and each was wrong. The speaker pities the listener enough to withhold information. Or, sometimes, it is a failure of courage: the inability of the speaker to face the truth, and so the inability to speak it. Or the inability to admit to a secret by saying, “I can’t tell you,” or, “It is not my secret to tell.”

All lies have two elements: the living half and the tool half. The living half has a mind of its own—a serpent-lie may come back to bite the liar; a knight-lie may slice into someone the liar did not intend. The living half comes into being once the lie is told, and then cannot be taken away completely, not even by telling to truth. Truth means little without trust. The tool half, on the other hand, remains whether or not the lie is told. The sword rests sheathed on the knight’s belt; the serpent’s venom rests in a vial. The important thing to remember is that lies need not destroy. Next to the sword rests the shield—a shining white lie is assuming another’s weakness; the liar need not be wrong. And, though we are right to be wary of snake’s venom, the venom is its own antidote. The trick is that we need someone with a clear head to wield both sword and shield, and to measure out the venom. Lacking that, a liar may slice off a limb without meaning to, or poison someone who needed no antidote. The liar needs to understand the situation.

Put it simply: Liars should not lie to themselves. A liar who breaks this rule is trying to self-apply an antidote while delirious with fever. One who tells a shining lie without facing the truth strikes at a dragon while blind and deaf.

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