The song “Sophomore Slump or Comeback of the Year” found on Fall Out Boy’s second studio album From Under the Cork Tree contains a line that I would like to discuss. The bridge of the song contains the following line-
“The best part of believe is the lie.”
I think this is one of the best lyrics penned by Pete Wentz and company. To truly believe in something or someone requires some lying whether it be to oneself or directed towards another. It’s similar to the adage of fake it until you make it. I wonder if that saying really means lie to yourself until something happens or perhaps it’s lying to everyone including yourself. I think Wentz’s line is following a similar reasoning. Believing requires the suspension of belief for certain outcomes no matter how unlikely. Isn’t this considered a fib? When someone asks me to believe in them, am I supposed to lie to them and say I do even though I don’t? Or perhaps it means I must lie to myself and convince myself that they will succeed. Or even I subconsciously lie to them because I love them.
There are many facets of believing and I could spend eternity enumerating all the different beliefs in the world such as religion and personal mantras. I think the more interesting concept would be to discuss the idea of a lie. What exactly is a lie? Well a lie is when the truth is not told in favor of another outcome that didn’t actually happen. But what is happening when I lie to myself? So maybe I should adjust the definition to a belief not based in or backed by reality. I can get further down the rabbit hole and state what exactly reality is but that is for another time. In any case, are lies good or bad? Well if you say bad then let’s examine that line of thinking. I’m sure most people would agree that lying about cheating, stealing etc. are not proper and just behaviors. But always telling the truth can be hard. What if a friend has an ugly shirt on and it looks terrible to me according to my subjective opinion. This person is a friend though and in order to remain their friend and have their support, I decided to lie and say ”Yes, your brown and green shirt looks great.” This kind of fib happens every day.
Consider when a parent is on her deathbed and her daughter comes in for the final time. The mother turns to the daughter and asks her if everything is going to be ok. And the daughter looks into the dying light in her mother’s eyes and softly says “No.”
Perhaps this scenario and outcome doesn’t happen often because it seems absurd when framed as such. Of course the daughter is going to lie because it is morbid to tell a dying soul that they are at their terminal limit. Or maybe it’s actually the ultimate form of tribute and devotion to be able to steer through the pain and defeat and say earnestly that the end has come for you and I will be there for you until your time ends.
There is also the issue of absolute truth from a moral standpoint. Can absolute truth even exist? Let’s take a baby that is misshapen. His head is too big for his body and his face is asymmetrical. I am sorry for picking on babies but they are an easy target. A passerby glances at this thing and he softly says to himself ”What a funny looking creature.” Meanwhile the parents think with all their heart that this less than handsome baby is the most beautiful thing in the world because he is the embodiment of the union that conjoins that couple. This is a valid opinion and so is the other varying opinion by the stranger. So what is the lie and what is the truth? It’s impossible to say because as long as subjectivity exists, I don’t think objectivity can ever be absolute. Sure gravity works a certain way and to say that gravity is a process of gravy and lust would be absurd and objectively wrong. But what if someone can present a valid argument for this assertion and all of a sudden my feelings of resolute conviction are diminished. Then it seems like there are varying degrees of truth and fiction.
Another interesting concept is the existence of entertainment. Many movies take place in a fictional setting and the roles are literally people pretending to be other people. Now it may be a matter of semantics but aren’t actors just professional liars? They pretend to be people they are not, though the intention is not malicious, it’s simply to provide entertainment. A suspension of belief must take place. The audience must forget that they are watching a bunch of people pretending to display emotion and character and this technically means they must lie to themselves. They are tasked with forgetting base reality, and instead must pretend to be omnipresent observers watching events take place in a fake realm.
The same can be said about many lyrics or novel. When lyricists lie and create inauthentic scenarios in their songs, should this be shunned because they are lying? What about characters in a book? We have to lie to ourselves even though the exact thoughts expressed by these characters weren’t actually genuine thoughts in that exact way.
So perhaps truth and untruth are not inherently good or bad. It’s a matter of how they are used even if that is a rather trite argument.