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Posts Tagged ‘The Catcher In The Rye’

pinocchio_shrekI’m the most terrific liar you ever saw in your life. It’s awful. If I’m on my way to the store to buy a magazine, even, and somebody asks me where I’m going, I’m liable to say I’m going to the opera. It’s terrible. 

J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye

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I’ve been thinking a lot about the truth and lies lately.  It’s hard to not do so given the current administration’s adoption of using falsehood as the most important component of their strategy in dealing with the press and public.

Every day we are hearing numerous statements and “facts” that are bewildering to behold in that they are so easily proved to be false. I think they are basing this strategy on the old adage that says a lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.

The lie moves out there into the great unknown and remains even after it is proven to be false.  The very existence of the statement, even though it is absolutely a lie, is proof enough of its reality for the uninformed.

These are lies that have purpose. These are not innocent misstatements or poor word choices. There is motive. They are meant to do damage, to create effects such as confusion and division.

This is some high level lying, my friends. It’s a world away from the adolescent lies that Holden Caulfield spoke of in the passage at the top of the page.

And a world away from the many, many lies I have told in my life.

You see, I ‘m a confessed and dedicated lifelong liar.

If you ask most people if they lie, they are going to say no.  Most likely it will be an indignant NO! that comes with a glare and a little spittle on their lips like you just tried to stab their baby with a fork.

But if I am asked that question I always tell the truth–Yes, I am a liar.

I heard many lies early on from well seasoned and highly convincing liars.  It was an apprenticeship of sorts.  I learned to fib to get what I wanted, to avoid blame and responsibility, to make others feel better and to cover my inadequacies and my shames.  Sometimes they were petty lies like those of Holden Caulfield, lies for the sake of lying where I would do it simply because I could.  It was just a small thrill to create a false reality that I knew would most likely go undetected.

To the kid’s mind, there was no harm or consequence involved. But of course, that is only a lie we tell ourselves to make it all seem okay. It did damage. Even those little fibs stressed my moral boundaries and acted as a gateway to a higher level of larger, more harmful lies as I moved into adulthood.

Along with this came that ability to rationalize the falsehoods that would temper the sense of shame I began to feel as my life progressed. Every lie became part of bigger construct, an ever growing tower built of lies. I am not going to get into specifics here but I will say that there came a point when when I didn’t know if the words coming out of my mouth beforehand were going to be the truth or another addition to my tower of lies. It came down to whatever was the easiest course through the situation at hand.

Fortunately, and this is not a lie, the shame I felt in living this way prevailed. I became a born again believer in truth, even the hard ones that I once avoided with all sorts of lies. It was liberating in so many ways.  Life became simpler with truth.

My tower of falsehoods was disassembled and I now reside in a snug and modest bungalow of relative honesty. I say relative because I have found that in dealing with my father’s dementia there are acceptable lies that we allow ourselves to tell so as not to alarm him and to ease his anxieties. That rationale does make it any easier to accept and I often find myself wracked with guilt.

I also use the term relative because lying is like a monkey on your back that will not let go.  Once in a while I feed the monkey exaggerations ( I think a million or a million and a half people came to my last gallery talk) and meaningless and ridiculous fibs such as saying that I got out of bed at 6:30 when I know for fact that it was 6:15.

That satisfies the monkey for now but someday soon I hope to send the monkey to a farm at some remote place where I will hopefully not visit it at all ever again. I am working on it. That is the truth.

You would think that with this long personal relationship with lying, I might find something admirable in the artistry of the liars we’re experiencing today.

I don’t.  We can’t rationalize it nor can we accept it as a normal mode of operation.  Every lie must be challenged, every lie must be counted and displayed for the world to witness.

To tolerate it is to choose to live on a very tall tower of lies. And that is a dangerous and precarious perch for us all.

Think about it before you shrug off yet another obvious lie from those who want to govern you.

I have to go. I have a Liars Anonymous meeting that starts 30 minutes from now.  That’s a lie– it starts in an hour. Liar!

 

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Before I was a painter, I had jobs, as a service tech and a salesman,  that quite often had me in the homes of clients.  One of the first things I did when coming into a home was to look for bookshelves and scan them quickly.  You could tell a lot about a person by seeing if and what they read.  I was looking for something that gave me an idea of common ground we might have.  It was disheartening how many homes had no books visible and many times, if they did have books, the books were mass market romances or self-help books.  But sometimes there were shelves filled with great books that jumped out at me and generally I was able to establish instant rapport with that person.  I became very adept at glimpsing shelves and judging what was there.

This particular edition of The Catcher in the Rye had a cover that my eye could glimpse at a hundred feet.

JD Salinger died yesterday, at age 91.

I don’t know that this tale of teen Holden Caulfield still resonates with the youth of today but for the generations of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s, this book was an eye-opener, one that gave voice to the real emotions of many young adults.  It was bold and funny and real.  It was unlike any literature that featured a teen protagonist ( if you can call Holden a protagonist) at that time.  I don’t know if Holden was just a reflection of true behavior of disaffected teens or if he became the template.  That will have to fall to sociologists and cultural anthropologists to determine.

Whatever the case, Holden Caulfield and JD Salinger both became cultural  icons.  Salinger became the very definition of recluse, eschewing all publicity and interviews with steadfast determination for all these many years, and living a quiet  life in New Hampshire.  While his last published piece, a short story,was in the mid 1960’s, he continued to write but only for himself, filling bookshelves with his written notebooks.  I wish I could have scanned those shelves.

I wonder if Holden lived on in his private writings, moving through his phony-filled life in the manner of  Updike’s Rabbit Angstrom?  Perhaps we will never know.  If so, let it be JD Salinger’s choice to share it with us.

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