Darling, fetch the caviar for our guests, won’t you!

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by L. G. William Chapman, B.A., LL.B.

Some people enjoy the privilege of an exceedingly charmed existence. One can only hope for their sake that such generosity continues for a lifetime. Yet not all are so lucky. The subsequent loss of social face through the unanticipated changes of fortune can trigger some bizarre and unhappy results. In an effort to cling to the past, people sometimes re-enact polite niceties which have virtually no foundation in fact, though they certainly sound obliging enough: "We simply must have you for dinner sometime soon!"

Not all misrepresentation is of course the product of social disgrace. Sometimes it is merely the preferred course of conduct. Self-deception, while not exactly a model to be counselled, can for example, cushion the blow of unmitigated and uncomfortable reality. Some may consider it nature’s way of insulating oneself from the surpassing perils of life. To the casual observer, however, the picture can be anything but the delight which such falsehood may conjure in the mind of the exponent. Very often, the outsider sees only the pathetic result of cumulative collapse and deceit. For the performer, on the other hand, these genteel fibs enable one to participate in the social network without having to do anything more than talk about it.

Retiring from the world of participation to the world of inactivity is by definition a reclusive project, a venue normally reserved for those who collect stamps or newts. Historically, the plight of people like Howard Hughes was unapologetic, but for the most part, others who suffer from the same urgency tend to want to preserve at least a life-line to the other side by maintaining a pretense. Such involvement is of course always upon the terms and conditions of the fraudster. It would be unthinkable for the illegitimate to lay claim to anything other than the mendacity, a decision which naturally promotes only further illusion.

The mind is clever enough, especially when practiced, to maintain a level of pervasive falsehood which, if dissected and analyzed point by point, would never be sustainable. But, as I say, given enough time and rehearsal, even the most pragmatic person can become accustomed to such scheming and knavery. One has to ask how many little white lies, that collection of taradiddle, each of us cultivates and maintains over a lifetime. We gradually condition ourselves to believe what we want to believe. Given that most of these fabrications are innocuous, it hardly seems worth the effort to contradict them. Who, for example, is about to criticize the octogenarian woman for having dyed her hair black! Or the shrivelled old man for cruising in his new Chevrolet Corvette? I ask you, are these not patent lies and fabrications! But what harm are they!

The unfortunate result of prolonged paltering is that it succeeds eventually in putting more and more distance between oneself and reality, an effect which may in the end be nothing but a curse. It is one thing to fudge; it is another to elude. The real crime is not the damage that is caused, but the loss that is suffered by estrangement from one’s real world, beliefs and experiences. After all, the texture of life for each of us is only that which we live; and surely any camouflage we may employ for whatever reason does nothing more than estrange us from the essence of our life. Besides, lies are such an awful lot of work!