By Tim Hayes
We’re hearing a lot about what’s real and what’s fake these days. It’s a ridiculous argument.
There may be things you’d like to be real, that you wish were real. But that’s not reality. Something either is actually, verifiably true and real, or it isn’t. And the truth always reveals itself. How could it not? The truth is just another way of describing what’s real.
I knew a guy in college who proved this point in an unforgettable way. He lived on my floor and I got to know him pretty well. Or so I thought.
Sitting in the dorm room or study lounge, working on papers or reading for classes, the other students on our floor would talk about things as any group of college kids might do. This fellow, we learned, had led an incredible life. Class valedictorian, homecoming king, winner of state and regional debate competitions in high school. A song might come on the radio, and if someone said they really liked it, he would tell us that he and his steady girlfriend back home had sung that tune as a duet at their commencement ceremony. Amazing, unbelievable stuff.
Little did we know how incredible and unbelievable – literally – these tall tales would turn out to be. This went on for a year and a half, until other groups of this guy’s friends would bump into each other in the cafeteria or other places around campus, and start repeating some of the remarkable stories they’d heard from him. Eventually, the discrepancies, contradictions, and outright falsehoods became too glaringly obvious to ignore.
He had concocted a completely different life story in front of different groups of friends, driven – we surmised – by those friends’ interests, likes, and preferences. In his deep need to be accepted, he created multiple narratives for himself out of whole cloth. Most of what he had said turned out to be utter lies.
Can you imagine the pressure of trying to sustain such an existence? Keeping straight which people knew which “facts” about his story? Keeping each autobiographical train of thought headed in the same direction, independent of two or three other, totally different, trains of thought? And hoping to heaven that the people who heard these separate stories never talked, traded notes, or realized what a house of cards he had built? It had to be torture. And every bit of it self-inflicted.
When his parents would come up to campus to visit, they always seemed overly thankful to us for being his friends, almost uncomfortably appreciative. After we realized what had been going on, their actions made more sense. I never saw him again, after that semester. I hope he got the help he needed and is happy and healthy today.
The point here, again, is that you can’t escape the truth, because the truth is what’s real. To try and deny reality simply is not a sustainable strategy. When everyone operates according a shared reality and you don’t – it doesn’t take long to figure out who’s the odd person out, Sherlock.
In high school, one guy, a trumpet player in the marching band, never could stay in step. Never. Ever. It just was not part of his DNA to go left/right/left/right in time with the music like everybody else. His mother called the band director one day to ask, “Why is my William the only one in step?” And she was serious. That would explain the DNA thing. But it also explains the difference between what’s real – what’s true – and what is not.
William and his mother remained convinced that the whole band – 200 other marchers – had it wrong, and he, God bless him, was the only one doing it right. That sounds nuts, and it is. Everyone else knew the truth, because it was the shared, verifiable, irrefutable reality of the situation.
So we’ll keep hearing about what’s fake and what’s real, I’m sure. And plenty of people will keep buying that argument. That’s human nature, I suppose. But just keep in mind one simple rule – the truth always wins.
It may take a while, and it may get uncomfortable along the way, but never fear – the truth always wins. Always.
Copyright 2016 Timothy P. Hayes