Thursday, July 22, 2010
The Invention of Lying
Lying is implying a perception that does not align with our deepest understanding of reality. It can be created through action, words, or withholding either. We can lie to ourselves and others.
The Invention of Lying (2009) shows a creative version of humanity in a modern urban setting where people lack the ability to imagine alternates to their understanding of reality, and therefore don’t know how to lie. It takes a closer look at how motives and foresight play a part in judging the merits of a lie, and about where the virtues really lie in the truth-lie scale. Unfortunately, it also fails to get the concept of lying precisely right.
The first lie in this world happens when the protagonist, Mark, in an amazing a cognitive leap, decides to tell the bank teller there is money in his account when he knows there isn’t. The bank teller believes him and ignores the conflicting number on the computer screen. The logic fails here. This first lie should not be accepted as gospel truth by the teller. She might be unprepared to anticipate a deceptive mind, but surely she’s dealt with people who have been mistaken about their money in the past. A very honest and well-meaning man can be just plain wrong about his account balance. What she should have said when the numbers didn’t match was, “What makes you so sure?” If his continued lying appeared to factually trump the computer, she could have bought it.
The other problem with this film is it assumes religion is a lie people tell themselves and others to feel better about death, which I think points to atheistic writers, or at least the spiritually disillusioned. While religion does calm nerves about mortality, it is far more than just avoiding that dread. Spiritual experiences and even visions have been scientifically proven to appear as real to the recipient as normal sensory interaction with the real world. They feel real to believers, and are therefore a very large part of the deepest understanding of their perceived reality. To deny their gospel would actually be the lie, as it does not align with their experiences and what they, on a gut level, feel is real.
I don't know how the writers of this screenplay could have had such a spiritual experience and then project it on the screen as a mere comforting lie. I think they are seeing religion from the outside and trying to figure out why it works for so many people.
In the movie, the antagonist Brad throws subjective insults at Mark, and Mark replies with, ‘That’s your opinion.’ Mark’s perception of reality does not agree with Brad’s, but they both speak their own truth. I feel the same perspective difference exists between me and the makers of this movie. My perception of reality doesn’t match theirs, which is fine. I’m not adopting their view because my experience tells me otherwise, and, in my opinion, that’s the best source of truth out there.