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The Value of a Good Lie

I have learned that lying to oneself and others is a sin, but it can also be a boon for the artist. Furthermore, an imagined reality that is shared by many can have a powerful effect on the world.

Now let us see what the word impeccability means. Impeccability means “without sin.” Impeccable comes from the Latin pecatus, which means “sin.” The im in impeccable means “without,” so impeccable means “without sin.” Religions talk about sin and sinners, but let’s understand what it really means to sin. A sin is anything that you do which goes against yourself. Everything you feel or believe or say that goes against yourself is a sin. You go against yourself when you judge or blame yourself for anything. Being without sin is exactly the opposite. Being impeccable is not going against yourself. When you are impeccable, you take responsibility for your actions, but you do not judge or blame yourself. (Location 303)

According to the author of The Four Agreements, lying to oneself (and by extension, others) is the offense that can be done. But there are other ways to look at lying, including a boon for the artist:

In his 1891 book The Decay of Lying (‘decay’ is translated ‘decadencia’ in the Spanish edition…), he articulates this anti-mimetic vision of the artist. The artist is a creator par excellence. The artist brings new realities into being and changes how we see and experience the world. Wilde believes that lying—“the telling of beautiful untrue things”—is the proper aim of art. It’s “an art, a science, and a social pleasure,” and its decay is responsible for the decay of literature. Today everyone is obsessed with representing reality as accurately as possible — with facts and accuracy. But “if something cannot be done to check, or at least to modify, our monstrous worship of facts,” he writes, “Art will become sterile and beauty will pass away from the land.” The artist endows things with beauty and is the reason why attention is paid to some things in the first place. Wilde writes about the fog in London as an example. It has always existed. But its wonder and the attention paid to it happened because “poets and painters have taught the loveliness of such effects…They did not exist till Art had invented them.” The older I get, the more I realize that most of life is a matter of what we pay attention to — of what we attend to, with focus.

Lying is n = 1, shared delusion is n = n

Unlike lying, an imagined reality is something that everyone believes in, and as long as this communal belief persists, the imagined reality exerts force in the world. (Location 542)


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