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Liar Liar – pants on fire

May 27th, 2010 · No Comments

You wouldn’t think that burning my hand with hot wax could get me thinking about how lies and other assorted pieces of misinformation are served by our parents, peers and society in general. Yes it’s a leap but then again I am famous for just this type of disjointed thinking.

It all started with a few superfluous calve hairs I spotted last Sunday whilst catching a few rays of autumnal sun. I headed off to the kitchen with my plastic container of wax humming a happy little tune (well I wasn’t really humming but I certainly should have been). I proceeded to heat the wax in the microwave –  probably a few seconds too long than what I should have (but who keeps count of these things).  Little did I know that beneath the wax’s seemingly calm surface lay a superheated cauldron of pain primed for eruption. Sticking the wooden application  into the wax resulted in burning hot liquid exploding all over the floor, on my clothes, and oh yes, did I mention the flesh of my left  hand?  So, this is what it feels like to have the sun fall out of the sky and land on me. Ouch.  I quickly found myself at the sink running my burning hand under cold water and then I saw it – a big white speech bubble with my grandmother’s words in bold Greek font ‘ Vale Vootiro’ – for those who can’t read Greek  – ‘Apply butter’.

Enough with the Greek lesson.  We all know that butter really has only one purpose – if you eat enough of it clogs your arteries and makes you fat.  Butter is certainly not intended for burnt skin – unless of course you are a cannibal that prefers a barbequed limb with a knob of butter on the top.  (For health reasons however, I do suggest cannibals lay off the butter).

But getting back on track, my burnt hand and butter experience got me thinking about lies.  I wrote an article a while ago called  ‘Tale telling – the unusual stories parents tell their children’.  In this article, I explain that older people often tell children stories (such as mandarins grow in your stomach if you swallow pips)  to either keep young children safe from harm, or to manipulate their behaviour to align with the social norms of the day.   In my grandmother’s case she probably got told by her mother that butter was good for burns and she believed it without ever bothering to question it.  Whilst this was not a blatant lie, it was a hazardous untruth so I was curious to explore the subject of lying further.

Going back to my body parts again to illustrate this point, I went to a peridontist (FYI a gum specialist) to help me resolve a persistent swollen gum problem.  I was surprised to learn that  mouth washes and toothpastes are relatively useless when it comes to optimal gum and tooth care, instead effective brushing and flossing and other such inter-dental practices are the key to healthy gums and teeth.  More interestingly, fancy electric toothbrushes are no more effective than plain old fashioned boring toothbrushes.

After learning this fact, I did some quick mental calculations to discover that I could have saved so much time in my life if I  had known this!  All those hours wasted on deliberating over the flavour of Listerine.  All lies designed by clever and creative marketers to make us believe that we are required to buy these products to keep our teeth from falling out.  So now I use an ordinary looking toothbrush, my brushing technique is spot on and with the aid of dental picks – voila, healthy teeth and gums.  Although I must admit I can’t fathom the idea of not using toothpaste – hey I have an entitlement to pick and choose which lies I like after all!

We know that marketers claim that products can do things that they really cannot  i.e. make you more attractive to that guy you like, slimmer, smarter, richer, younger and so on. Have you ever noticed that most products appeal to our most base desires and needs? But that’s another story.

What about the lies that are handed down from generation to generation  i.e. genetically inherited lies like religion. A most contested and touchy subject for most.  We are born into our religion, no argument there,  have you ever seen a devout Catholic family decide to raise a protestant child?  I was once told by my grandmother (the same one that prescribed butter for my burn) that the Greek Orthodox religion was the right religion and all the other religions were wrong.  So who is misguided here, the Greek Orthodox religion or every single other religion in the world?  Either way someone is telling porky pies.  I recently read an article on the top 15 examples of Christian propaganda, one of which used some rather dubious statistics to persuade people that homosexuals are serial killers.  Perhaps the players think they are ‘enLIEtened?’ 

How about the lies we tell ourselves? These can be lies about our feelings and emotions or lies about our behaviours. For example smoking.  As an ex-smoker I have a personal entitlement to tell you that I am familiar with every self deception in the big fat book of deceptions. Hey that could be a bestseller. Here are some examples of lies we tell ours in order to feel better about smoking:
• My grandfather smoked and he lived to be 101 years old…
• But smoking relaxes me…
• We are all going to die of something in the end anyway…
• At least I have cut down from two packs a day to one.

The cold hard truth is that all smokers are looking for an excuse not to quit – don’t bother lying to yourself just be honest… go get yourself a packet of alpine cigarettes with a low milligram number –  the fresh menthol taste is good for your red blood cell supply and the low tar count makes the cigarette much safer and healthier.

Lies, lies everywhere.  They exist in aisle 11 at the supermarket – peppermint, fresh-mint gel or herbal? A few more in aisle 3 will make that girl at the gym want you, and a couple more in aisle 13 may even make you some serious money so you can get the girl at the gym and the one in who lives in Unit 3.  They are handed down by my family (genetically modified lies)  and are even handed out to me by my very own self. –  you mean gold packaging on cigarette packs doesn’t prevent lung cancer?  Ultimately where does the truth lie? Certainly not in words, nor in emotions, both are the vehicles for colossal fibs and fibbers. Perhaps truth can only be found in the slow silence of a quiet soul. Maybe you know?

Tags: musings

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