The podcast of WNYC’s RadioLab started its second season with a show about deception. I managed to start and finish it in a complete trip to work. And when I arrived, I knew I had an even more necessary imperative than animation (see last entry, many moons ago). Something I’d have to do before I undertook another project. And that was to come to terms with whatever was happening to me, what had happened in the past, and why I am the way I am.
The podcast explored the story of a young woman named Hope Ballantyne, who during her stay in San Francisco managed to stay one step ahead of a seemingly steady stream of calamities and rotten luck — with a little ($) help from her new friends. Just before vanishing without a trace. She was discovered by a roommate to be a con artist, with notebooks full of Social Security numbers and credit cards. She’d move into a neighborhood where all the natural generosities were extended to her, but when she’d abandon them, many individuals interviewed confessed to a difficulty trusting people thereafter, even old friends and neighbors, to the degree they had.
Inability to trust people. That about sums it up. A confidence that my presence among people is something they’d have to accommodate, tolerate, endure. And that a hand of friendship extended was just some marketing ploy; something in it for them. A preference for solitude. A tendency toward “creepy lurker” status at conferences and meetups, one which I fight pretty successfully, but still continuously.
The show went on to describe brain research among pathological liars. They found that, rather than a deficiency, liars have enhanced connections between thinking centers in the pre-frontal cortex, providing faster (slicker?) facility of thought, for it’s true that liars need to think fast. It takes more effort to lie than to tell the truth to the average person, unless you’ve got these thick pipelines moving things along.
Further research showed that deception, especially self-deception, was prevalent not on the bottom of society’s barrel, but among the most successful — business owners and athletes. Little wonder: they tell themselves (as sound bites proved) that they’re the best, better than their opponents, and that they will win. They have no doubt or fear. In other words, they have a distorted view of the truth. And it works for them — their efforts make it the truth. But their conviction, based on no real evidence, comes before the proof, before that starter’s pistol. They con themselves. They are also statistically happier people, because they are able to delude the harsh realities of life out of their attention.
This means that people who are cursed with an inability to self-delude, who have a more harsh, more accurate view of the world, have a harder time with life, and are usually sadder.
Wow. Folks gotta stop reading my mind as I toss and turn at night. Who do I see about that?
I am reminded of a really well-written episode of Star Trek, where a transporter malfunction (a time-worn plot gimmick) splits Kirk into two people, good and evil — but not really. The “evil” Kirk is violent, wrathful and arrogant, but he’s also decisive, brave and lusty. The “good” Kirk is compassionate, cooperative and self-effacing, but he’s also vapid, timid and malleable. The “evil” Kirk would knock ’em dead in social media, run his own business, try dangerous things, create great works of art, get into politics, and travel the world. The “good” Kirk would put in his 4o years, gets his pension, and fade into obscurity, having taken no risks, made no friends, and impacted no lives.
This “good” is going to be the death of me.
But I’m not a good person. I’m an atheist; the magic of religion is so much PR to me, and I ponder the abyss between scientific surety and dogma that is the imagination. I’m a Libertarian; the losers of elections can always claim a victory of principles when the winners, after all, are politicians, and they’re all no damn good anyway. Seth Godin didn’t need to tell me that all marketers are liars; in my career as a graphic artist, most of my employers have been deceit factories. I can smell cults a mile away, but I also smell cult-like behavior where no one else can. As I write this, the Twitter community is preparing tomorrow to celebrate something they’re calling “Good People Day“, because their up-and-coming new-media darling suggested it. They’re all fawning over him more and more, but I can’t bring myself to say what’s on my mind about him, or I dare not. Personal branding and reputation-management and all that. The guy is an “evil” Kirk. (That’s a compliment.) If he and I were in the same room together right now, there’d be a nuclear reaction.
And here I sit in front of my self-pitying “emo-blog”, like a 13-year-old. Pathetic, right?
At least, I have an inkling of how to get out of this. I’m calling in the pros.