Tuesday, 24 February 2015

D for Deception

Have you ever considered the distinction between lying to someone and deceiving someone? “I must not tell lies.” We are taught this as children, from a very young age (even poor Harry Potter in penance, had to write lines and lines of this repeated mantra, in his case, to his own physical detriment). But to deceive someone, is that as wrong?

In my youth(!), I had auditioned for a singing part in my senior school play, “The Card” and was chuffed when I got a role in the chorus. So what if it wasn't a solo, it was the taking part that mattered, right? Guess not, because when I went home to tell my Mum about after-school rehearsals that I was committing to on Monday nights, the “taking part” bit was mitigated by the not-straightforward logistics of getting home in the dark alone, aged 13.

Reluctantly, I approached the School’s Music Director, Mr. B, the next day to withdraw my name from the show. I apologised for my change of heart and explained that I normally took the school bus home and so would only be allowed to attend lunch-time rehearsals. When he enquired further, I clarified to him that I wasn't permitted to take public transport home on my own after school and so would have no way of getting home on Monday evenings. The annoying thing was that I suspected Mr. B didn't believe me and while I could appreciate that he knew other 13 year olds that were free to roam around town in the evenings, I wasn't one of them and was too embarrassed to spell that out.

As Mr. B grew more suspicious and embarked on a “you've committed to this now” lecture, I suddenly, without thinking, blurted out, “But I also go to the temple on Mondays and won’t make it there in time if I stay for rehearsal after school!”

I still remember how quickly his countenance changed. In a split second, eyebrows were raised and dropped, his voice transformed from an almost indignant, authoritative bark to a demure, passive murmur, suggesting rhetorically, “Now, wasn't it just better to tell the truth in the first place?” I still believe that he took patronising pleasure in telling me how disappointed he was but ultimately, I was excused from the show and that was that.

Well, I was disappointed too, but also marvelled at the irony, I still do today. I hadn't exactly lied (we did go to the temple on Mondays, sometimes) but I had definitely deceived him, albeit unintentionally. I guess lying and deceiving are both wrong, but when someone doesn't want to believe the truth, then deception is the lesser of two evils. At least I don’t have “I must not tell lies” tattooed on my hand, poor Harry Potter indeed!

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