On the wrong side of truth in the internet age…

The internet may be a cesspit catering to humanity’s worst instincts, but one thing I can’t take away from it is that this interconnected series of tubes and wires had made it very, very difficult to lie. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, just that it’s the kind of unintended consequence that I don’t think anyone expected when the internet came along and let us all start downloading songs on Napster.

By way of example, I’ll offer you a short story from 2002, my third and final year as a teacher, when I was already desperate to get out and mostly indifferent to the concept of consequences.

Picture it… St. Mary’s County… 2002… While I was busy lining up another job that I knew was starting in January, several friends were planning their week-long vacation on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. The problem was that the week they picked was somewhere towards the tail end of September – when the weather along the Atlantic coast was beautiful, but also when school was most decidedly in session. They wanted to know if I wanted to go along.

Me, being all of 24, did what any rational person would do and concocted a wild story of needing to be away from the classroom for a week. It couldn’t be that I was sick. Being away for a full week would have triggered the need for pesky things like a doctor’s note. I don’t remember what excuse I ginned up in the moment, but it worked well enough that I wasn’t asked for any additional evidence of need and I got to spend a long late summer week boozing with my friends and driving my Jeep on the beach. A few weeks later I was able to tell those long ago bosses that I wasn’t going to come back after Christmas break. I’d also managed to burn off all of the personal days and sick time I was entitled to take that year. So it was a win-win for me at least.

Admittedly that wasn’t my finest professional moment. Today, backed by the power of the internet, social media, and the fact that we all carry around a world-class video production center / photo studio in our pocket, trying to pull off a similar scam would be almost guaranteed career suicide. I can’t imagine a circumstance where me and a bunch of my closest friends and their significant others could spend a week beach bumming around the Outer Banks and managing to avoid being tagged in a picture. Surely I would forget to remove the geo-tag on some innocuous tweet or when posting the great view from somewhere north of Corolla Light to Insta. 

I’m not implying that the internet and our current brave new era of modern technology has in any way made us more honest, but it does feel like it has made us a hell of a lot more likely to get caught living on the wrong side of the truth. 

Mood…

Here as the week slides into the halfway point, I find myself in what I can only describe as “a mood.” It is most assuredly not a happy place, but it’s made worse because I can’t quite put my finger on what the problem is.

Actually, that’s a lie. A falsehood. A fabrication. I can identify with great precision the source of the vast majority of my angst and ill feeling. Except, of course, we’re not allowed to say things like that out loud. As part of our social contract, we’ve all agreed that we won’t call out bullshit when we see it. We’ll go along to get along and maintain the illusion of happiness with our little fictions. We won’t say anything that might upset the balance because we fear the consequences. I’m as guilty of it as anyone, maybe even more so because I can feel the truth physically twisting at my insides wanting out, but I hold my tongue for the sake of keeping the peace and preserving the status quo.

The whole illusion gnaws at me. Day in, day out, pretending that batshit crazy is perfectly normal and counting the years, months, days, and hours until you aren’t compelled to do it any more. Just one time I’d like to stand up, open my mouth, and let the truth fly out. Unvarnished, impolite, brutal honesty.

Good God, but couldn’t the world use a big heavy dose of that?

But we live in a world where words have consequences. So I swallow that honesty one more time. Push it back down into that place where it comes from. And pray to whatever gods are interested in such things for the power and good graces to let me smile and nod and not launch into a raving diatribe at inappropriate moments – knowing, as I do, that no good would come of it.

Ah, see? I feel better just for getting that small rant out in the open. My safety valve of a blog once again saved my soul.

Relief…

When someone is sick, most people feel some kind of empathy. That’s the human response. The slightly more jaded response, though, is giving a brief moment of thanks to God that the person in question is not going to be in the office today. As badly as I feel about someone being ill or suffering, that’s nothing compared to the overwhelming relief I feel at not having to deal with them for two days in a row. That’s probably more than a little wrong. It’s possibly evil. It does, however, have the virtue of being exactly how I feel about the issue. I may be a lot of things, but dishonest isn’t one of them.

Sure, if it were something life threatening I’d probably feel bad about the situation, but if someone having a head cold can give me a few moments of peace, there’s no harm in being happy about that, right?

Editorial Note: This part of a continuing series of posts previously available on a now defunct website. They are appearing on http://www.jeffreytharp.com for the first time. This post has been time stamped to correspond to its original publication date.