by Ashley Lister
Liars. Don’t you just hate them? Whether you call them liars, bullshit artists, fibbers or romancers, it all boils down to the same thing. It’s describing a person who doesn’t tell the truth. And if there’s one thing that sticks a lit firecracker up my arse, it’s people who don’t tell the truth.
Admittedly, as a professional fiction writer, I’m predisposed to lying. I tell stories about imaginary people enjoying fictional adventures that have only ever happened in my imagination. It’s all lies. But lies in fiction are acceptable. Fiction couldn’t exist without lies – otherwise it would just be dull and boring facts. Lies in fiction are acceptable. Lies in reality make me furious.
I’m not talking about the usual lies: your cheque’s in the post; I won’t come in your mouth; of course I love you. Those are necessary fabrications intended to facilitate the smooth workings of reality and are acceptable deviations from fact.
I’m talking about the pointless lies.
Like the guy I used to work with who claimed to own a fleet of glamorous cars. Porsches, Ferraris, Lamborghinis, limousines etc. Flash cars? He’d driven every type and owned all the best ones.
It wasn’t true. He drove a metro. And it was his only car. But still he maintained a fiction of owning all these glamorous vehicles. The most irritating part was that he expected acquaintances to buy into this lie. If you wanted information on any sports car, you had to consult with him as the source of all prestige vehicular knowledge.
Why? It was a pointless lie. He might as well have claimed to have invented the colour cyan.
Like the friend of my son’s who claimed to have a life-threatening illness. He even spent some time in a wheelchair. He told me his central nervous system had disappeared. Now, I’m not a doctor, but even I could smell the bullshit on that line. Occasionally this guy would leave his wheelchair in the pub whilst he got up on the dance floor to boogie the night away. His central nervous system seemed to return around the third pint.
Why? I have no idea. How do you challenge someone on a lie of that magnitude? You can’t. Try telling someone in a wheelchair that they’re lying, and that they should just get up and walk. You look like a stroppy version of Jesus. And not in the good way.
There are others. Too many. Lies about success, affluence, recognition and acclaim. Lies which, when you hear them and foolishly believe them, they make you wonder why you’re not achieving the same level of success, affluence, recognition or acclaim. When you realise you’ve been sucked in by a lie, they make you feel self-contempt for your own level of gullibility.
I believe that people lie like this because they’re disappointed with the reality they inhabit. Creating a fiction is their way of coping with an unsatisfactory real world.
Now, I’m all in favour of linguistic determinism, even though it’s a theory that’s been repeatedly disproved. (Disproving a theory means nothing. I’ve spoken with creationists who can disprove evolution. And evolutionists who can disprove creationism. Those have not been the most interesting conversations of my life).
Linguistic determinism, for those who didn’t have the pleasure of studying this subject, is the belief that language limits and shapes human thought, and therefore affects the structure of our reality.
I believe in that.
However, I think the liars I’ve been talking to are oversimplifying this theory. If I call myself “the immensely wealthy sex God Ashley Lister” it does not put extra girth on my wallet, or anywhere else where extra girth could be perceived as an improvement.
I’ve tried creating variations of my own on the lies that these people have thrown at me. I own my own fleet of state-of-the-art trains. I’d give you a lift in one of them but I’m waiting for new tracks to be laid. My circulatory system has disappeared. That’s why I’m sitting here motionless. If I move all the blood in my body will dribble into the soles of my boots.
The lies just make me look stupid and they don’t seem to offer any advantage over reality. No matter how many times I claim otherwise, I don’t own a fleet of trains and my circulatory system is exactly where it’s supposed to be.
I’ve probably missed the point of this week’s topic. Because of that I’ll apologise to my fellow grippers now. But with a subject like ‘fiction and reality’ I know that I prefer the two to remain diametric opposites. I love reality. And I love fiction. But I don’t think the two should be mixed without a damned good reason. Especially not by bullshit artists.