Saturday, February 14, 2009

We Are Liars

All the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players.

That’s what Shakespeare told us. I think he’s mostly right. But what can that mean for us? Stangely, I think it means that we’re all actors and actresses and that as such our task is to lie to the world. And to lie big and bold. Because the bigger and bolder we lie to the world the more honest with the world we will be. It’s just like Wilco says in their song Misunderstood. You’re honest when you’re telling a lie. So you and I owe it to the world to lie our fool heads off and to discharge the debt of honesty we owe to the world.

Just as our task—our godly task!—is to lie to the world, it is the task of the world to tell the truth, and in so doing dishonestly describe the world we inhabit. Our task is to lie—big and bold—and in so doing to honestly describe the world we inhabit. I know this all sounds crazy, and it is. It’s ridiculous. It’s lunacy. It’s foolishness. But, of course, the wisdom of God is foolishness to the likes of us.

If you listen to news reporters, politicians, and marketing executives they tell the truth: the world is a mess, and so are we. Greedy men bilk investors out of billions of dollars; selfish little countries consume disproportionately large amounts of the earth’s resources, while other parts of the world languish; middle eastern nations terrorize each other while we ordinary Western men and women amuse ourselves numb with entertainment and the acquisition of stuff, believing as we do that this is what it means to be human and to flourish. This is the truth. And yet this description of the world is less than honest even if it is true.

All the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players.

You and I, as Christ-followers, are called to be liturgical actors on the stage of the world. We are called to theatrically enact and incarnate the big lie—The Eschaton—the lie that the world and we human beings are not as the newspeople, politicians and advertising executives truthfully describe. The lie is that there’s another world, a new reality, another way of doing business with each other, a way characterized by peace, love, collaboration and unselfishness. And we’re being honest when we’re telling this lie.

Just as we answer the Divine invitation and gather around a table one day a week to dramatically enact and anticipate the eschaton—the heavenly meal where differences don’t divide and where though many we are nevertheless one—so are we called as liturgical creatures to go out into the world and to theatrically incarnate and anticipate this absurdity in the warp and woof of our daily lives, and so honestly describe ourselves and the world, as we quite literally put the lie on display for all the world to see.

We’ll fail of course, at this calling of ours to lie. That's because the truth is we’re horrible liars. Still, even though failure is certain, lie we must. It’s our calling.


themethatisme said...

I'm not confident that an inverted Platonic duality is quite what the bard was getting at. Nor do I think that the hard definition of truth and lie in that respect is very useful unless one can be ascribed an absolute objectivity.
That our hope and belief is absurd I can certainly agree with.

Sarah Kay said...

To begin, I would like to give a disclaimer: I am not a philosopher. I do, however, like to think about various topics, and this one caught my eye.

How can it be that we are called to lie as Christians? I would argue that we are called to speak Truth, as in "the Way, the Truth, and the Life." Though the world is full of a different truth, the truth of trouble, pain, suffering, our Truth is just as powerful and just as real. This Truth will portray the same idea as the "lie" which you have put forth. But we must not call it a lie! It doesn't match with the truth of this world, but it matches up to the Truth of God.

(sorry if this sounds like a "satellite location of Grand Rapids" answer...I promise I thought through it. Feel free to correct me!)

Kevin said...

Hey There Sarah,

First, I bet that only ONE of your MANY virtues is that you're not a philosopher!!!

Second, I guess I was thinking of the difference (say) between fiction and non-fiction. One might think that non-fiction tells it like it is whereas works of fiction aren't true but are "made up" as it were.

Yet often it is the piece of fiction that more honestly represents the world than the non-fiction even when the non-fiction tells the truth about the way the world is.

Likewise w/actors and actresses in a play. The actors and actresses are acting; they're not really who they're pretending to be. Yet a play can more honestly represent reality than (say) a news program.

My point is that we are called to create pieces of fiction or little plays that imagine a different world than the world described by news reporters, politician, etc. Often what they say is empirically true. But we're called to incarnate represenations of reality that contradict what those folks say. And that is what I am calling a lie.

Fred Preuss said...

So you believe because it's absurd?
Do you think that you're a better person because of this?

Kevin Corcoran said...


To answer your first question: No.
To answer you second question: Huh? First, I'm not clear what the referent of "this" is. Second, whatever the referent of "this" is, better person w/respect to what? A better person, morally speaking, than you? I doubt it, and I don't even know you. But, honestly, I don't understand your question or what on earth may have provoked it.