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."

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