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Surviving the Consequences

The Liar Negates His Own Existence

by MISSY BEATTIE

“The liar negates his own existence.” I researched this quote, determined to find its source after e-pal, musician, and fellow writer Jeff Costello sent it in response to something I told him. I found plenty of interesting websites, one generating a precious memory and something else, but I’ll tell you more about that later.

On another, I bumped into Jean-Paul Sartre and spent almost an hour with him—and Prof. Bob Zunjic’s analysis of Being and Nothingness. Here’s a sip to stimulate your thirst:

In contrast to the conscious intention to distort something Sartre points out that ‘a man does not lie about what he is Ignorant of; he does not lie when he spreads an error of which he himself is the dupe; he does not lie when he is mistaken.’ This is a strong indication that there is a difference between a lie and a mistake.

After that detour, I continued to excavate, substituting the words “reality” for “existence” and “deceiver” for “liar”—but was unsuccessful. So this week, I wrote Jeff and asked him. He replied that it’s an original and gave me permission to use it. I had already, many times, just not in an article.

“The liar negates his own existence.” Or hers. The importance of this truth is personal, in two realms that Venn significantly. One area is my own small life. The other is the vast, because it is the greater planetary/ecosystem-atic.

Each of us who receives a lie becomes a consumer of lies, affected by the deception of the liar, be it an individual or the decider class. In fact, those among the decider class, the Wall St. pirates and their political puppets, are affected too. They just can’t see the future, obscured as it is by the present gratification of uber-wealth.

“The liar negates his own existence.” In lying, he/she creates himself/herself, aided by the imagination and trust of the target that wants to believe. Perhaps, needs to believe.

The liar depends on this need and exploits it.

Again, the person you thought you knew is not real. That vessel is empty, nothing, POOF, gone. When something or someone spotlights the dishonesty, the liar’s exposed; the emperor has no clothes.

You can only miss what you thought was there. And wasn’t. But then you question your ability to assess character. You know if you’d been given all the information, the truth, you’d have made different decisions. You weren’t offered that choice.

Therein lies another violation.

And it’s far from over. Because despite annulment, the damage remains.

When George Bush manipulated public opinion, claiming repeatedly that Saddam Hussein had WMD and later admitted that there were no WMD, the damage of the lie persisted. Ask the displaced Iraqis or those who had no means to escape the invasion. Ask the maimed, the orphans, the war widows and widowers. Ask the troops and their families.

When Barack Obama speaks of “a commitment to peace, justice, equality, and compassion towards our fellow human beings,” his words don’t invalidate or reverse the effects of war, injustice, inequality, and indifference the world has witnessed throughout his tenure.

“The liar negates his own existence.” Understanding this is simple. Surviving the consequence isn’t.

So, back to that precious memory I mentioned. While attempting to reference the quote, I clicked a site that linked to Douglas R. Hofstadter’s book, Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid. It’s among my husband Charles’s collection of favorites. When I opened it, I found a love note I’d written to him on an index card. He must’ve used the note as a bookmark. I placed the book on my bedside table to begin soon. After I complete a challenge, something that poses a dilemma. Remind me to tell you about this sometime.

Missy Beattie has written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. She was an instructor of memoirs writing at Johns Hopkins’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in Baltimore. Email: missybeat@gmail.com.