Archive for February 2021

We all lie. Even when we try to lead an otherwise ethical life. We lie because truth can compete at times with other virtue, virtue that we think is more important and should override truth.

But we also lie about our lie. We lie to ourselves about the reasons why we take liberties with truth. Because, if we are to be honest with ourselves, lying is, for the most part, self-serving and this higher virtue that supersedes truth, this greater good we pretend to seek through our lying, do not exist. Even when we do protect other people from a damaging truth it’s hard to disentangle it from protecting ourselves from it.

Augustin and Kant didn’t think virtues can compete and be in conflict with one another. Virtues can be opposed only to vices not to other virtues. Thus a “civil war” amongst virtues would be nonsensical. According to them, truth is an absolute, telling the truth at all times, unconditionally is a categorical imperative and lying is never to be justified. No matter how dreadful the consequences. Lying in order to save someone’s life is bad. Telling the truth that results in someone’s death is good. When you make a statement, your only concern should be the correspondence between reality and your utterance. When you act your only concern should be fulfilling your duty. Abraham-like. Ignore the consequences. You are not responsible for them. God is. If your telling the truth ruins someone’s life it’s on God not on you.

In the dispute between these two ethical theories, consequentialism and deontology, as far as truth is concerned, I tend to be a consequentialist. Screw Kant. I can’t carry out a duty blindly. If I can save my Jewish neighbour from dying at the hands of Nazis, by lying to them, I will do it wholeheartedly. I hate lies but I am no purist whatsoever. Telling always the truth, with complete disregard for consequences, is not something I can easily relate to.

Given all these I should have some tolerance for falsehoods when I am lied to. And I do. I loathe lies and being lied to, but I can tolerate it to some extent. As they surely do mine. What I cannot tolerate is flat-out lies and sloppiness in their lying. It does matter to me how you lie to me. Because in the way you lie to me you reveal what you ultimately think of me. You insult my intelligence, or you take note of it. An obvious, careless, flat-out lie is offensive, and thus it triggers me, while a plausible one that can pe passed off as truth is not. And given the crappy unflattering lies and explanatory nonsense I had to listen to over the years from friends, boyfriends, relatives etc I am astonished at their low opinion of me. Of course, there’s always the possibility that they don’t care at all about how I think and how I perceive their deceit or they just overestimate their chances to get away with it. In either case the outcome is grim and appalling.

We all have a built-in bullshit detector after thousands of years of evolution as social creatures. But, like with everything else in life, we are not equally endowed. Some people have a bigger BS detection tool than others. By and large the smarter you are the bigger your tool – the more able you are to detect lies, deception, dishonesty, manipulation, rationalization, fraud. The smarter you are the more difficult is for you to be bullshitted on. But that’s not necessarily a good thing. And in some ways the smarter you are the more crap you have to put up with. Because while for some people the crap thrown at them will fly under their radar and they will be oblivious to it, for you, the detector will go off too much, too often. And that’s enough to make your life miserable. As a smart guy you don’t have the luxury of blissful ignorance when lied to. And we all need to not know we are lied to if we want to lead good social lives. Oblivion to people’s lies is a key requirement for our peace of mind and happiness. Limited insight is actually good for the health of our relationships. The need for opacity and shades is embedded in the fabric of our societies and complete transparency would be catastrophic. Being smart and highly perceptive then and seeing through people’s lies is not an asset but a social disability and detrimental to your happiness.

Being smart sucks. The savvy given to you at birth is a poisonous gift. You can no longer be lied to unknowingly. You can no longer see people how they want to be seen. The safe space between you and them where pretence can happen is shattered. Brace yourself for the misery of knowing too much. Brace yourself for the misery of seeing people for who they truly are. Brace yourself for unhapiness.


Take a look around and tell me what you see. Both in your vicinity and further away, beyond the limits of your vision. Most likely you will tell me you see the reality and the world in which we all live. But that would not be true. It might be the reality YOU see and the world in which YOU experience your life. But not necessarily the world other people see and live in. One of the most puzzling, albeit simplistic, revelations you have as a smart person is that we don’t necessarily share the same reality and that we take for granted the notion of a shared reality. We might live in the same physical world, but it doesn’t follow that our perceived realities overlap a great deal. They can be pretty much disjoint one from another. Our world is a collection of physical objects and non-physical objects, events, ideas, rules, principles, beliefs, facts etc to which we relate through our own perception and understanding. It goes without saying that our subjective representation of the world will never match the objective world and that our subjective realities will never overlap completely. Where one individual will see a red flower another one will see a red… ish one. But the departure from our master reality goes deeper than this. Some individuals will see a blue flower. Some will see a yellow one. Some will see a different thing altogether and some will see nothing at all. How can you reconcile all these individual perspectives? If most of what you see is radically different from what other people see, then you don’t share the same reality. Your reality is not theirs and their reality is not yours. You live in different worlds that hardly intersect. In the same way that Don Quixote who sees a dragon and Sancho Panza who sees a windmill, while looking at the same thing, live practically in two different worlds. We might have a single physical world but if the images returned by your retina while looking at it are completely at odds with what other people see then you don’t have a shared reality but something more akin to parallel universes.

Exempli gratia.

– Take a look at this man battering his wife because she embarrassed him in public. What you see is abuse. But what the husband sees, and with him some other people that condone his behaviour, is justice. You see cruelty, they see entitlement. You see deviance, they see a male’s birth right. You don’t share the same reality. You live in alternate universes, linked only by the same physical world.

– Take a look at these kids throwing a frightened dog from the roof of a ten-storey building. Then killing another dog by hanging him on a tree while streaming their endeavour live on social media and bragging about it. These are real stories. What you see is brutality. What they see is mere fun. You don’t share the same reality.

– Take a look at Trump’s hardcore fans who would give their life for him. What they see in Trump is an honest, genuine, selfless and efficient ruler while what you see is a deranged pathological liar, a duplicitous and lousy leader who perverts any common sense. You don’t share the same reality.

– Take a look at Brexit. What Brexiteers see is a road to make Britain, once again, a sovereign and independent country, freed from the European dictatorship. What you see is a disoriented people, falling prey to populism and nationalist manipulation, discontent with their political establishment and blaming someone else for their problems. You don’t share the same reality.

– Take a look at these religious lunatics who pretend they received words from God about Trump’s winning a second presidential mandate. What you see is a bunch of impostors lying through their teeth to their confused and blind followers. What they see is the Almighty God Himself, Creator of Heaven and Earth, registering for the Republican Party and meddling in their presidential election while singing the American anthem. God bless America. You don’t share the same reality.

– Take a look at these police officers flexing their muscles in front of some black people for no good reason. What you see is racial profiling while what they see is a legitimate move to keep people, regardless of their colour, in check. You don’t share the same reality.

– Take a look at this crowd of people stoning to death a young woman for the only crime of loving someone deemed inappropriate by her family in Middle East. What they see is justice met and honour restored while what you see is a horrible murder that has nothing to do with justice and honour. You don’t share the same reality.

And so on and so forth. With each object, tangible or nontangible, that can be found in our world, our realities can multiply accordingly and with it the odds they may not overlap.

Someone could argue that my pessimistic view is far-fetched and that there might be some truth in the idea of realities not overlapping when we relate to people from other cultures, completely different from us, people from other distant places, backgrounds, traditions, ideologies but not when we relate to our own circle of friends or family living next to us. But that wouldn’t be totally true. Because proximity tells a lie. Proximity can render a false sense of togetherness and shared reality. You might be surrounded by close people and yet feel pretty lonely. You might be in a crowd surrounded by thousands of people but not live in the same reality with them. You might be home, chilling, sitting comfortably on a sofa next to your loving spouse and family but they might as well live in a different country or an alternate universe. If what they see doesn’t come even remotely close to what you see, then you don’t have much of a shared reality. Proximity doesn’t guarantee that you see the same things and have the same representation of our world while looking at it.

Now. This was a rather long and boring introduction to my actual topic of interest which is loneliness. Loneliness is, to some extent, the result of lack of social contact and of quality bonding. But a great deal of it comes not from lack of social connections but from lack of shared reality. You feel lonely when, talking and relating to people, you realize you are in this reality of yours on your own. You wake up to the fact that your reality hardly overlaps their reality, since what you see is constantly different from what they see. You realize that what removes this sense of loneliness successfully is not their physical proximity and the social contact but the common ground you find with them, the shared reality. This is why I always looked unapologetically for similarity and sameness. This is why I was always drawn more to people who think like me and I always stated it upfront. Because I knew there’s no point in looking for someone different since that is guaranteed anyway. It’s the default position. I don’t look for people who think radically different from me not because I dislike being challenged and I want to live in an echo chamber bubble where confirmation bias rules. When you cross a desert you don’t look for a sunny spot, you have plenty of that already. You look for a shaded place. The difficulty is not with finding people with different worldviews but with finding people where your realities overlap enough so that your connection becomes meaningful.

C.S. Lewis got it right. “What draws people to be friends is that they see the same truth. They share it.”  //Friendship … is born at the moment when one man says to another “What! You too? I thought that no one but myself . . .” //Friendship arises out of mere Companionship when two or more of the companions discover that they have in common some insight or interest or even taste which the others do not share and which, till that moment, each believed to be his own unique treasure (or burden). The typical expression of opening Friendship would be something like, “What? You too? I thought I was the only one.”

When you look for friends you are not looking only for companionship, affection and a meaningful bonding. The other drive that is behind our looking for friends is a strong need to remove this sense of loneliness that comes from “being the only one” that sees things in a specific way. What you look for in friendship is shared reality. Someone that will inhabit the same world.

Of course, you won’t find two individuals who see things in the same way in every respect. That’s understandable. The ideal is to find people with whom your realities overlap a great deal, people with whom you can overcome the sense of loneliness that comes from your own reading of the world. And here is the point where smart people are put at a disadvantage and where intelligence is not an asset but a liability. The simpler you are the easier is to find people who share the same reality with you. Conversely, the smarter you are the harder is to find them. Having a sharper look and a sharper mind makes you see things better and in ways others cannot. Your realities are less likely to overlap then. The numbers are against you. There are fewer people at the top of the pyramid than at the base. The dice are loaded against you. The race to overcome loneliness is fixed. The smarter you are the more likely is to be lonely and unable to find good matches for you, people who would have the same understanding like you. On a side note, from this perspective, Jesus must have been one of the loneliest men on Earth. What he saw bore no resemblance to what people saw. But at least he knew how to put some clay and spittle on people’s eyes to make them see what he saw and draw them to his world. He was exceptional in the way he knew how to build bridges between our disconnected worlds, between our mundane reading of the world and his.spiritual reading. We don’t. We are not Jesus. We are Sancho Panza trying to reach Don Quixote and bring him to his senses. Or even better, the other way around.

Being smart sucks. The smarter you are the less shared reality you have with people. The less overlapping realities. Brace yourself for living in a Tower of Babel where your reaching out is for the most part an exercise in futility. Brace yourself for loneliness.

Blogs I Follow

literatura e efortul inepuizabil de a transforma viaţa în ceva real

The priest: Aren't you afraid of hell? J. Kerouac: No, no. I'm more concerned with heaven.

literatura e efortul inepuizabil de a transforma viaţa în ceva real

The priest: Aren't you afraid of hell? J. Kerouac: No, no. I'm more concerned with heaven.