The Useful Lies We Tell Ourselves..

The origins of this post came up in a thread on FB today.

Up front, I must say that it makes me almost immeasurably sad to think that Terry Pratchett is gone from us… because the gist of what I am talking about–the quote I will put here–came from Pratchett’s The Hogfather–and it has always struck me to the core.

In a nutshell, it describes an attitude that I once had a friend tell me in college about how he approached doing things in the world that were hard/strenuous/no fun–but which needed to be done.

I remember the conversation–it was actually about coding or homework or some such thing–and I mentioned something like, “That’s no fun.” and he said, “Oh. It’s fine. I just tell myself that I want to do it. That I will like doing it. I make myself believe that–and then it goes a lot faster.”

And that tweaked my world at the time. It’s something–an attitude that I’ve cultured in my worldview–that I’ve built up over time to the extent that I pretty much live it all the time.

death

With regard to the Hogfather, it involves a conversation between DEATH and his granddaughter near the end of the book/mini-series about why people believe things:
———————
YOU HAVE TO START OUT LEARNING TO BELIEVE THE LITTLE LIES.

“So we can believe the big ones?”

YES. JUSTICE. MERCY. DUTY. THAT SORT OF THING.

“They’re not the same at all!”

YOU THINK SO? THEN TAKE THE UNIVERSE AND GRIND IT DOWN TO THE FINEST POWDER AND SIEVE IT THROUGH THE FINEST SIEVE AND THEN SHOW ME ONE ATOM OF JUSTICE, ONE MOLECULE OF MERCY. AND YET—Death waved a hand. AND YET YOU ACT AS IF THERE IS SOME IDEAL ORDER IN THE WORLD, AS IF THERE IS SOME…SOME RIGHTNESS IN THE UNIVERSE BY WHICH IT MAY BE JUDGED.

“Yes, but people have got to believe that, or what’s the point—”

MY POINT EXACTLY.
——————-
All of the greatest virtues that our society has–are lies that we tell ourselves–and which we then work towards making true.

There is no justice in the universe–except that which we believe in and which we work towards making true.

Justice is a lie, but a useful lie that we can turn into the truth only with a huge amount of work and effort.

But it’s worth the effort–and that’s why I lie to myself about it–and so many other worthwhile things–each and every day.

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About Prof. Woland

I contain multitudes. Come meet us.
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One Response to The Useful Lies We Tell Ourselves..

  1. avdi says:

    Very, very well said. A lot of what I’m “on about” lately in my field is this persistent notion that some values exist separate and apart from us. As if fairness or goodness are objective truths that we just need to discern, rather than something we create and re-create constantly.

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