Moral turpitude

I very, very rarely lie and I was reminded of this fact quite emphatically recently. It has permeated my value structure and behaviour patterns so deeply that I had forgotten just how central it was, until something happened that made me feel uneasy.

A friend asked me to back them up with a little white lie. I generally like to do what I can to back up a mate and I couldn’t see any harm in it, so I agreed. I wouldn’t have chosen to lie if I were them, but then neither do I think I have a right to impose my ethical and value code on anyone else. I know why I agreed the first time and then the second. I don’t have an issue with my decision as such. I value my friend’s judgement and if they wish for this support I am happy to give it for now.

The whole thing is just starting to nag at me, though. As is usual in these situations, my feelings about it say a lot more about me than they do the other parties. I’ve reflected on it a while to figure out what is going on in my head. It actually has a great deal to do with my previously married life and it is not a coincidence that the little white lie involves my friend’s significant other. But, their business really is none of mine and I’m not overly worried about them. What bothers me is the realisation that I have an abject fear of telling lies. When I say that I rarely tell them, I mean it. I used to be so keen on avoiding lying that I would have to explain my motivations to people who really didn’t need the details, just so I was quite sure I wasn’t willingly lying by omission. Even now, I still sometimes describe myself as pathologically honest. I just recognise that I don’t have to hold on to my badge of honesty quite so tightly any more.

I will state here that I can (and do) manage white lies in order to save face and feelings where there is no percievable benefit from being honest, though I try to avoid even those if possible. I also am very much on guard against using honesty as a weapon and being brutally honest. There is very rarely call for that either. In fact, I expend quite a lot of energy on finding ways to satisfy my desire not to lie while also to try and be mindful of other people’s assumptions, values and needs.

So why the fixation with avoiding telling untruths?

In answer: I have spent years of my life keeping different stories straight in my head. Not just telling a few lies, but literally trying to inhabit different personas, different lives, different mes in order to keep people in my life happy and still somehow eke out an existence that didn’t rip me into pieces. That sounds counter-intuitive, but it really was about that. I had neither the strength nor the wherewithal to argue for my version of integrating everything. This was for all kinds of reasons that I’ve beaten myself over the head with far more than enough already.

Aside from these three key observations:

1) it is very easy to lie if someone wants you to;

2) if you have an ultimately more important value, lying is justifable even if significant mental hardship and fuckery is called for;

3) lying is one way of maintaining a bit of space and privacy for oneself in a world where this is frowned upon;

the most important thing I learned and took away from the experience is that by lying in order to make things (life) work you are constantly telling yourself that you are not really entitled to the things you wish to have, but can’t be honest about.

In my case the things I wished to have were not actually considered unreasonable by the world at large. As it turned out, it seems like only the one person thought they were utterly unreasonable. I wish I could say it was only a wedding vow that held us together, but I made the choice to persisit time and again for all sorts of reasons that have a lot to do with hope, guilt, idealism, duty, low self esteem, love and possibly a number of other things I am not fully aware of.

I will qualify this outpouring with one thing and that comes from my pride. I was never adulterous. The lies were upsettingly and, frighteningly, much more mundane in their content. It is the scope of them that is unbelievable. They imprisoned me. This is why I don’t generally lie – my fear of imprisoning myself again is far too strong.


Photographic ramble through Madrid

I remember this moment well. I had not long arrived in Madrid, from a mid October England, and I couldn’t belive my luck. At about 5.30pm I was sitting, blinking into the slightly hazy but bright and (seemingly to me) impossibly warm sunshine. I stopped to get a sandwich and a bottle of water and enjoyed a feeling of uncoiling and unfurling into the warmth and the knowledge I was on holiday.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about my happy memories of being in Madrid last year. This post is timely as I am due to go back over Easter and very excited about it. Going somewhere for the first time is uniquely wonderful. Going back somewhere you love is wonderful in a different way. This time I’ll (I can afford to!) rent an apartment instead of a hostel room and I can’t wait 🙂

On the right here is a pic of a protest going on in Sol. You can see the banners on the building in the background, which I’d watched people unrolling from the roof the night before. People were passing round big cardboard boxes as part of the protest. No idea what that meant, but I loved seeing so many people unified in a purpose of making a statement. The night before Sol had been utterly packed and impassable from edge to edge so a great number of people got involved.

The sign attached to these railings translates to “cut the bankers and the clergy”. One evening, when meeting a friend for dinner, we wandered past an empty hotel that had been occupied. Seeing such an outpouring of support for the protest has certainly stuck fondly in my memory.

Another morning I stopped to watch delighted children entranced by this chap blowing huge bubbles. I wished I was little enough to run over and play. I couldn’t tell if seeing a bubble wobble unsteadily over heads or watching it crumple as it resolved the tension between inside / outside was my favourite.

I love the reflection and distortion of the light in the soap bubbley-ness.

These two pics were taken in El Retiro, the large park near del Prado. Having valiantly absorbed as much art as I could (and more than I thought possible for me), I stopped to spend a few hours just sitting in the sunshine  and reading. I like the fact that even in the black and white photograph, you still get a sense of just how bright the day was. I wanted to make the most of my trip by doing and seeing interesting and educational things, but I also wanted to enjoy the luxury of sitting in the sunshine and watching the world go by.

I managed to do plenty of each in the end, along with a generous lot of just wandering and wandering and wandering. It was wonderful.

There is one more picture I must share (I took loads in total, but these here are my favourite memories). This one below was taken in a session where I stood in front of the roundabout by Atocha train station for 45 minutes or so, trying to capture something of the streaming traffic, bright lights but without just retreading cliches.  I really like this one of the bus going past and, although the bus fills the shot with its movement across the frame, how you can still see the train station and other traffic through the windows. It manages to capture the movement and transient presence of the bus precisely as it also freezes and extends its manifestation in the frame.

I love stopping to take the time to see things a little differently, I need to remind myself to do it more often. It occurs to me that I might have looked a bit odd (read: like a complete loony) hanging around by a big, busy roundabout for so long, but I am completely beyond caring 🙂