As I lay happy in the grass today by the side of our community pool, watching the clouds spin a kaleidoscope, enjoying the hope and promise emanating from the complex physical and emotional entanglement of two teenagers sitting on one towel near me, I thought about my life as a liar. I’ve been at this lying thing for a long time. My great promise and potential as a liar manifested early when one day during my pre-school Show and Tell period, I manufactured a moving and tear inspiring story simply because. Because I’d forgotten to prepare and bring or think of anything real, when the spotlight shown on me I promptly stood and expressively shared how my mother had a baby and spilled coffee on it and it died and was buried in the cemetery now. Imagine my grandmother’s surprise when my pre-school teacher later approached her to offer condolences and say she’d had no idea this tragedy had recently befallen my family. What can I say? I’ve always had an active, creative, and decidedly morbid imagination.
A link to an article my muse, Tara, posted today, ARE ARTISTS LIARS? (http://moreintelligentlife.com/content/ideas/ian-leslie/are-artists-liars?page=full ), has me reflecting on my life as a liar. Seems I’m one of those people just compelled to tell stories. Instead of channeling this compulsion into a lucrative career as a swindler or sociopath, I’ve preferred to spin out my fictions on paper. But not fictions. All truths wrapped in lies. Even the coffee swaddled baby story undoubtedly told a truth about my life, my family, my sense of sadness and loss, and a broader truth regarding being the youngest of four children in family with financial and serious emotional struggles.
As Ian Leslie writes in the Are Artists Liars? article, “Of course, unlike Aitken, actors, playwrights and novelists are not literally attempting to deceive us, because the rules are laid out in advance: come to the theatre, or open this book, and we’ll lie to you. Perhaps this is why we felt it necessary to invent art in the first place: as a safe space into which our lies can be corralled, and channeled into something socially useful. Given the universal compulsion to tell stories, art is the best way to refine and enjoy the particularly outlandish or insightful ones. But that is not the whole story. The key way in which artistic “lies” differ from normal lies, and from the “honest lying” of chronic confabulators, is that they have a meaning and resonance beyond their creator.”
I do believe, or at least fervently hope, my life as a liar/artist is best explained by Leslie’s concluding thoughts, “The liar lies on behalf of himself; the artist tell lies on behalf of everyone. If writers have a compulsion to narrate, they compel themselves to find insights about the human condition.”