Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Life Lie

I found this essay at , and thought it was important enough to post in its entirety...

Achieve Happiness by Creating a Life Lie
February 28th, 2007 by John Wesley

Reality, when looked at truthfully, is quite depressing. We’re all doomed to tumultuous lives filled with toil and frustration. Most of us won’t live up to our potential. Most of our hopes and dreams will never be realized. Most of us will never become rich or famous or successful.
Just when you think a problem is solved, an uglier one replaces it. The cycle of desperation continues as our faculties decline. We lose our strength and beauty. We become shells of our former selves and eventually die.

Fortunately, thinking about the nasty truth can be averted with a well crafted Life Lie.
How? Luckily it’s easy. If you are relatively happy person, my guess is you already have one.
A Life Lie is a story we tell ourselves. A story we actually believe about our lives that lets us ignore reality and focus on a glorious future. Allow me to provide a background story.

I first learned about the Life Lie (in explicit terms) from reading a play; The Wild Duck by Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen. The main character of The Wild Duck is a man named Hjalmar. By all accounts, Hjalmar is pathetic. His father was ruined by a shady business deal and he’s lived his entire life in shame. His poor family makes a living from a photography business. A business that his father’s arch enemy gave to him out of pity and that his wife runs for all practical purposes.

Useless old Hjalmar should be miserable, but in fact he’s quite the opposite. Despite his pathetic life, Hjalmar is happy because he’s created a beautiful Life Lie.

Hjalmar’s Life Lie is ingenious. He truly believes that he’s going to invent an incredible machine that will make his family wealthy and erase his shame. He doesn’t just tell himself this lie, he actually lives it. Each day he goes off on his own for a few hours, supposedly working on the invention.

What is he really doing? No one knows. It truth, it’s irrelevant. Each day he comes back in high spirits, believing he’s on the cusp of completing the invention and elevating his family.
This is the key to a great Life Life. You can’t just tell yourself a beautiful story. You really have to live the delusion.

After learning about Life Lies, I immediately identified with the concept. Despite myself, I tried to deny it.

I’m different, I thought. I’m no washed up old coot. All my hopes and dreams will come true. Or so I thought. Eventually I realized that it really doesn’t matter. All that matters is being happy, and a great Life Lie accomplishes that.

My Life Lie really isn’t that much different than Hjalmar’s. I believe that if I keep working hard, this blog will become incredibly popular or that I’ll come up with a great idea to make money online. Once I have the money problem taken care of, I’ll be free to indulge my passions for the rest of my life.

I don’t just tell myself this. Every day after work, I come home, boot up my personal computer, and start working on the next blog entry, Photoshop tutorial, redesign, or traffic building activity.

Let’s be real. Is my Life Lie really going to happen? Maybe. It’s not impossible, other people have done it, but success is far from certain. The odds are probably against it.

But that isn’t important. Believing a Life Lie gives my mind something to focus on. I can ignore the pain and uncertainty of life and work towards a goal. I sleep better at night because I know I’ve done my part. If it doesn’t happen, that’s fate.

Sometimes I lose my Life Lie. Reality sets in and it’s incredibly depressing. I feel my smallness, weakness, and the lack of control I have over my life. It’s almost unbearable. Fortunately, I always come up with a new Life Lie.

If you want to be happier, create a fantastic Life Lie for yourself. Don’t worry about what other people think. Convince yourself and start living it. If you’re already happy, keep living the lie.
If you lose faith in your Life Lie, don’t panic. Think about what really makes you happy, create a plan to achieve that happiness, and start working towards the plan. A Life Lie is merely a more accurate description of a life dream.

Thomas Jefferson said that the greater part of our happiness and suffering is caused, not by physical pain or pleasure, but by our hopes and fears. Knowing this, you can make yourself happy and avoid suffering.

By creating a beautiful Life Lie you can fill your life with hope and purpose. You can avert the paralyzing uncertainty of reality. You can live a life of ignorant bliss.

Even if your Life Lie isn’t real, your happiness is. In the end that’s all that matters.

Wow! I'd like to believe that the author is being ingeniously satirical; unfortunately, I'd just be lying to myself. Nonetheless, some fascinating (and telling) exposition here. Seldom are we offered such a clear picture of the coping mechanisms we employ to prop up this farce we call life. It's the 'emperor has no clothes' story, stripped of its metaphor, but with a twist at the end. The Lie becomes the thing-in-itself, the ultimate end AND means of the human sojourn. An understandable strategy when the truth becomes simply too hard to least, from the author's stated point of view that 'your happiness is all that matters'.

And is this psychological placebo really so different from the maxims offered by the various self-help schools of thought; from the life affirmation gurus who fill the New Age shelves at the bookstore, to the Buddhists who tell you to 'detach and rise above' the suffering of the world? The message seems pretty much the same to me: "Skeptician...delude thyself!"

Which probably isn't the worst strategy in the world, from a personal level; beats the hell out of suicide, anyway. Except, we are willing to sacrifice other lives for the sake of maintaining the Lie. We keep spawning generation after generation, because to even question this process is to peek under the curtain of our motives for doing so; and that, above all else, is unacceptable. Thus the visceral, unreasoned reactions towards subjects like antinatalism; because the Lie is actually a thin veneer covering a barely concealed Truth. The truth that life, taken as a whole, is not a good thing.

The Great Life Lie-a consuming fire, kept alive and blazing through the children we are willing to cast into it, and all simply because we're afraid of the dark.

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