One of the more interesting things about getting older is you begin to realize how often you have been lied to — all your life — and frequently by the very people who most claim to tell the truth.
When you are younger, you might think lies are the exception. But then, around 50 or so, you look back and — perhaps astonished — see truth is the exception. At that point, you may feel like you are at a party where everyone has gotten the joke of the moment and is laughing except you.
I think Mark Twain must have felt that way as he got older because — if you notice — he writes quite a bit about lies in his old age — and even tries to be cynical about it — yet there is always this sense that he’s a bit shocked people lie as much as they do.
I myself often — not always, but I sometimes suspect more often than not — try to tell the truth. And it’s hard. I sometimes think it’s harder than lying. You’ve got to think through everything you say at least twice or three times. “Is this really true?” “Am I lying to myself and thus lying to others?” “Do I have an agenda that I either know or don’t know about?” “Are my words misleading?” And so forth. Time and again I catch myself saying what I want to believe is true, rather than saying what, on reflection, I know or at least suspect is true.
At best, our species struggles to tell the truth.
Half the reason the scientific method is so powerful at getting at truths is simply because it quite significantly reduces the number of blatant lies scientists can get away with telling each other (the other half is humans are prone to errors even under the best circumstances). And I think that says a lot about human nature that we would actually need to rely on a special method — and a rigorous one at that — to guarantee some reasonable chance we are telling the truth.
I suspect that many of my readers are inclined to higher than average standards for telling the truth. I get that sense from the comments on this blog. But have any of you guys considered that you might be in a minority?
Please don’t misunderstand me. I love our species of chimpanzee even when I haven’t been drinking tasty microbrewed beers (which is what I’ve been drinking tonight). But no matter how much I love our species of chimpanzee, I must admit at my age that we tell a lot more whoppers than truths. Maybe — just maybe — our “default option” is not truth but falsehood.
Does anything I’ve said here have the ring of truth to it, or should I drink another beer and try again?