Friday, December 17, 2010

On the Decay of the Art of Lying, Mark Twain

"Children and fools always speak the truth. The deduction is plain—adults and wise persons never speak it."
This was a short story; each paragraph dripping with cynicism, irony, and humor. I chuckled throughout, approaching LOL a few times. As our grandchildren attain verbosity, this truth telling shines like a new chrome bumper. Young children not only tell the truth but their perspective on the facts is enlightening. How do they know what the truth is? They see it and they say it. How then, are we sometimes embarrassed by the light and understanding now exposed? I should like to hear more truth. Twain in his story believes it does not exist. I quote:
"None of us could live with an habitual truth-teller; but thank goodness none of us has to. An habitual truth-teller is simply an impossible creature; he does not exist; he never has existed. Of course there are people who think they never lie, but it is not so."
"Observe, I do not mean to suggest that the custom of lying has suffered any decay or interruption—no, for the Lie , as a Virtue, A Principle, is eternal; the Lie, as a recreation, a solace, a refuge in time of need, the fourth Grace, the tenth Muse, man’s best and surest friend, is immortal, and cannot perish from the earth while this club remains. My complaint is simply concerns the decay of the art of lying."
Twains seems to castigate those who tolerate the dishonest through insightful humorous sarcasm:
"The man who tells a lie to help a poor devil out of trouble, is one of whom the angels doubtless say, “Lo, here is an heroic soul who casts his own welfare in jeopardy to succor his neighbor’s, let us exalt this magnanimous liar.”
If Mark Twain was an author of “adolescent literature”, writings such as these make him a philosopher and commentator on society. I should like to include the entire text with the hope everyone would read it but at least, let me finish with Twains summation on the decay of Lying.
"Lying is universal- we all do it. Therefore, the wise thing is for us diligently to train ourselves to lie thoughtfully, judiciously; to lie with a good object and not an evil one; to lie for others advantage, and not our own; to lie healingly, charitably, humanely, not cruelly, hurtfully, maliciously; to lie gracefully and graciously, not awkwardly and clumsily; to lie firmly, frankly, squarely, with head erect, not haltingly, tortuously, with pusillanimous mien, as being ashamed of our high calling."

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Man Who Would Be King. Rudyard Kipling. 1888

"It's good to be the King”,says Mel Brooks. Does anyone recognize that not very obscure movie reference? Does everyone wish to be rich, famous, or the King? I'll discuss that in the next paragraph. I don't believe this book was intended or written as a children’s book, although by today's standards, it is remarkably absent violence, sexual content, inappropriate language, and overtly frightening elements. It could be read, ala Princess Bride to any adolescent.(It is rather short) I read it because I liked the movie, of the same name, made several years ago with Sean Connery and Michael Caine. The book follows the movie rather closely although compromises must be made when compressing a book into two hours of celluloid. It read well although knowing the ending in advance did remove a little bit of the suspense. I had read very little of Kipling and thought this might be a chance. I did enjoy how the life of the English in occupied India was depicted; a small open window gives look inside. Also, as an aside, for those following the blog, Free Masonry played a part in securing the Kingship.

I can't decide if this was a just an interesting story or if there is a "moral". It does seem that greed, currently a political metaphor, always leads to misery. In this story, the money was irrelevant as it could not be spent. To spend the fortune meant leaving the Kingdom. If they left, Peachy and Dan could no longer be Kings of Kafiristan. Of course, if we are going to quote, it is the “love of money “which is the “root of all evil”. Eventually and predictably, the riches were not enough and although the partners had made a pinky swear, a woman was their demise. Stop me if you have heard that before. It may be the love of a woman who is not your wife is the root of all misery.