Although Jim Carey may have visualized the oft repeated children’s jibe—
Pants on fire;
Hangin’ on a telephone wire!
the origin of the taunt come from a paraphrased version of William Blake’s 1810 poem “The Liar.” The last stanza reads—
Your trousers are alight
From what pole or gallows
Do they dangle in the night?
Nothing new under the sun? Humm.
It is both the plot of Carey’s film and Blake’s poem that are our focus today. The story line of LIARLIAR focuses on Fletcher Reede, (Carey), a defense attorney, whose son wishes on his birthday that his father can’t lie for a full day, 24 hours. Then his wish comes true. Now what problems might that create? The focus of Blake’s poem surrounds the seriousness of lying and its consequences. The penalty being, hanging on a gallows above a bonfire…, roasting. Pleasant thought.
Both poem and play describe the difficulties created when a person lies profusely. In Blake’s six stanzas lying’s source (“…red devil of mendacity) is exposed as well as lying’s consequences (the pants on fire metaphor). Lying is, to be sure, hard to keep track of on a personal level. In the public eye, even though all of us lie on an individual basis, lying is forbidden. If disclosed, it can be a career destroyer, result in legal action, imprisonment, and, in some cases, execution.
But it is the movie LIARLIAR that poses an equally perplexing dilemma— not lying at all, even for a meager 24 hours. It confounds the mind to imagine living a life devoid of lies. Little white lies, tiny fibs, half-truths, diversions, redirecting from an uncomfortable question, distortions of truth, revealing things that enhance your position over another; variations on a theme. The odd thing is that most of us believe that our lies will never be exposed. On the simplest of levels this is both naïve and foolish.
The Lord Christ made a statement recorded in the Christian Scriptures that reads, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” (John 8:32). In one sense that “truth” refers to Jesus himself. He is Truth. But in another sense it refers to freedom from trying to remember all the lies we have told. I realize that this may seem simplistic. Yet, forgiving unusual circumstances (hiding the innocent), might it actually make your life a tad less complicated? Isn’t it just simpler to tell the truth?
Have a nice week,