More important than the lies anyone else might tell us are the lies we might tell ourselves. I mean "lie" in this case as a statement or formulation we are somehow unwilling or unable to investigate with care.
What's the matter with lies? Generally, I think it is only that they sow confusion and inflict harm. Confusion and harm upend the longing for some kind of stable peace or happiness. In this arena, lies are bad and the truth, never quite adequately defined, is good. And good is better than bad. Socially, this is an acceptable postulate.
I got to thinking about this yesterday during an enjoyable email to-and-fro with a friend who makes a good case for the inadequately-grounded notion of Zen Buddhist lineage and the elevation of direct transmission of Mind. This, he argued better than I am arguing here, has downside consequences for students and other followers: Fabrications and lies do not aid or unveil the core truths of Buddhism; robes, rituals, ornate disquisitions on meaning, power-mongering, etc. all point in incorrect and perhaps painful directions. Buddhism needs no additions and the sooner students learn that, the better off they will be... roughly, as I got it,that was his argument.
And I see nothing wrong with his efforts and analysis. He is better grounded in history than I am, so I listen with interest.
But what occurs to me also is that I cannot think of a better mouse trap. When it comes to spiritual endeavor, when you open your mouth, it is more likely than not that what appears is just a new and improved lie -- a lie that, with luck, inspires a willingness to investigate things right down to the core. Spiritual endeavor is important because I am important, but am I really important? Of course I am ... or at least of course I am for the moment. And that emotional and intellectual importance knows of no other way to investigate itself than through its own emotional and intellectual importance.
It is useless to yell the truth into someone's ear when, for the moment, they simply can't hear. So it is OK to point a finger, but it is really pretty foolish to expect anyone to follow the advice offered by that finger. Robes and rituals and philosophies and religions point ... in technicolor. That technicolor invites and perhaps consumes the onlooker. But it can also inspire investigation of the lie as a means of winkling out the truth (whatever the hell that is).
I suppose I could go on and on and on and on about all this. I just don't know another option than to immerse oneself in the lies we tell ourselves and vow to find out. Human uncertainty and suffering deserve the best tool they can find, the most effective tool. And what reason is there to believe that fabrications and wonders are not appropriate and useful ... and realistically the only real choice?
Martin Luther King, the American civil rights leader, once said, approximately, "It is not what's wrong with the world that really scares people. What scares people is that everything is all right."
Technicolor fears. Technicolor peace. Technicolor lies. They may spell trouble, but how else could anyone pierce these uncertain times?
Just muttering in my beard this morning.