Tuesday, February 2, 2010


Things are not always what they seem.

It is a common enough theme in the way people converse with each other. People are always hiding a part of themselves, it is natural, right? But there is the hiding of private parts of oneself from the general public, and then there is the purposeful putting forth of a false image in order to maniple people, or resent to them what the want to see rather than what you actually are, and that becomes something else, it becomes a lie.

Hermes is the god of lies, and it is important that we try to remember that this does not mean that he is by nature a liar, but rather that he, as the god of communication, is also the god of false communication, of manipulation, of subversion, and of trickery through words.

We all do it. We all lie, and when we present ourselves to others as purely honest, that is in itself a lie.

But can a lie be a good thing. Note that I am not talking about lying to a criminal to protect someone, or keeping the secrets of a friend or loved one to preserve their dignity, rather, can the act of manipulation, or presenting a false image, be part of a healthy life?

The answer, of course, is yes, but let me explore that a little bit.

Hermes the Liar

According to the myth of his birth, Hermes, even as a small child, stole the cattle of Apollo (or Helios, the translations sometimes infer him) and then sacrificed them to the Gods in a fitting way. The theft was designed in such a way as to hide it utterly from the God, and when caught, his story was beguiling and made the Apollo laugh so merrily that he took the boy to Zeus, who then claims him as his son. (Hermes is the son of Zeus and Maia)

In this theft, it is often inferred that Hermes is hat God of thieves and liars, and it is not untrue from a mythological perspective, but lying, cheating, and theft were no less looked down upon by the ancient Greeks than they are to us. Theft and lying are not now nor have they ever been things that the Gods have encouraged, yet when people do these things, for ill or for good, they often seek the aid of the Gods, and it seems, Hermes is the God that hears and answers that prayer.

But what exactly is it that the God gives us when he answers such a prayer? Does he make us liars, or does he simply instill in us the capacity to embellish, to tell tales, and yes, to completely make up a story. In other words, he gives us creativity. An amazing gift. And a lie is, in a sense, a misuse of the gift of creativity. The gift without which Homer would never have written his epics.

But what I am trying to get to here, to explore here, is whether a more overarching lie, one in which we create a whole new image of ourselves in order to be perceived as that thing. So, let me take this into a different arena, the arena of adults and the games they play.

Men and women, when engaged in flirting, the merry chase, sex play, etc., often create elaborate images of themselves that are intended to win over, titillate, or even subvert the other's ability to make an informed decision. But, the question is, can a lie, an image created of oneself, be a good thing?

It can when the reason that image is created is to enhance life, love, and the over all experience of both for everyone involved. Putting on leather and creating an image of domination, even though deep inside you are a sweet heart, is a form of this, and it is created to enhance sex. It is a lie that hurts no one, unless they want it to hurt a little, and it is in a situation like this that we find the creativity of Hermes living and breathing in us.

But it also lives in the lie of art, of writing works of fiction, and in the protecting of the self from the world around us.

No comments: