Honesty? Lying’s the best policy. Mate.

It’s true (if you believe me): lying is the best policy. Why tell the truth when you know that the truth will only hurt? Question everything, but don’t tell anyone. When you’re on that journey of yours, never confess that you’re completely lost. Just smile, grin, and bear it. It’s going to infuriate you, but nobody will understand. In their control rooms, they have their timetables and maps. To them it’s obvious, so why can’t you see that?

Like, you might think that you’d just asked them to give you a piggy-back to Bradford. A piggy-back and, perhaps, a million pounds. Standing with only the glass between you and the “I’m pissed off” man in front of you, you ask for a return ticket to Bradford, and he grunts his reply. “WHAT?”

“Can I have a return to Bradford?”

“WHAT?”

You’re just asking for a ticket, but he responds to you as though you’re the scum of the earth. And perhaps you are, but he doesn’t know that, so what right does he have to assume? With him cursing you for asking him for the ticket, you decide against enquiring about times and the platform. Instead, you saunter away in search of your train. Looks like yours has gone, but there’s one stood in a siding with the name, Bradford, in the window. “Does this go to Bradford?” you ask the porter shyly.

He laughs at you. “It says it goes to Bradford, doesn’t it?”

Sometimes it’s a leap of faith. But life’s like that. You get on board and, half an hour later, you arrive in Bradford. At the wrong station. You’re at the bottom of the steepest hill you’ve seen in years, there are two hundred steps to climb and you have no idea how to get to where you were supposed to be, in order to meet the person you were supposed to meet. But that’s fine, because you’ve experienced it before. Except, last time, it wasn’t a train that you were asking about; it was your religion.

Recently, you were going to church every Sunday, hoping a sermon would cure your questioning mind. And one day, your lucky day, they invite the unsure, the faithless, the agnostic, to stay behind after the service, where they’ll explain it to you and make you see the truth. You sit there and wait: you pray they’ll make you see, but soon you discover that it’s not you who’s blind. The preacher arrogantly assumes that you’re just ignorant, that you don’t have faith because you’re ignorant. Because you didn’t read the Bible.

“Well, actually, I was reading the Bible, I just didn’t see the proof.”

And what is the preacher’s proof? He says it’s obvious. Well, no, it isn’t obvious, because you wouldn’t be sitting here listening to him if it was. He arrogantly assumes that those without faith simply have no faith because they never tried and never thought about it. He tells you that it’s obvious, so obvious that even a four year old could understand. But wait. You’re not four years old; the four year old didn’t read the Bible, she just sucked on her lolly and never wondered if the sugar would rot her teeth.

So obvious that when she was at school and her teacher tested her on her mathematics, a genius was discovered. “One equals three,” she gurgled, “but also one.”

You’re better off, for their sake, lying. They’re never going to understand that you want to honour God, but that you need to have knowledge before you can have faith. Like when you were waiting for that bus on the hard-shoulder of the M1, you were only standing there because someone told you there’d be a bus along sometime. Never mind that there was no bus stop, nor even a single timetable. He said, “Just believe me mate, you can trust me.” And, sure enough, a bus came, but it never stopped and it was going to sodding Birmingham anyway.

The next time, you waited at the station, but now there were fifteen different busses to choose from and they all said, on the destination board, “The Truth, via Straight Path.”

Oh well, you said, I’ll take my pick, they all go to the same place, after all. Well that was the plan, but the driver told you, as you boarded, that all the others were lying. Phew, you thought, I was lucky, but as you settle down in your window seat and glance through the glass, all the passengers on the bus next to you are jumping up and down in their seats, yelling, “You’re on the wrong bus! We go to the Truth. Your driver was lying!”

So there were you, moping back to the information desk to check which one was actually going even in the right direction, but all you see is this grey man staring back at you, wining in his public service voice, “It’s obvious. And we’re closed.”

Back outside, it’s up to you, but which will you choose? There’s the one with the go-faster stripes, but not much muscle beneath the bonnet. There’s the turbo charged, rocket powered, cruising machine, with on-suite bathroom for every seat and free Nintendos to wile away the journey. There’s the one polished nicely, no great trimmings, but the sign on the door says, “Nationals Only.” One of them’s obviously rusting badly; it’s covered in patches, its engine’s basically corroded, but there’s some life left in it yet, while the cabin inside has been completely redecorated, seats discarded and replaced with stools. The last one you see in the row tells you to leave your cultural baggage behind. Too much choice, they all have their benefits, but you’re not really interested in headrests or video displays. You just want to do the right thing.

In the end, you say, sod it, and get on the bus marked, “Hell, all stops.” You’d already established that you were going to hell anyway, so the knowledge that you’re there because you couldn’t make up your mind which bus wasn’t going to Birmingham, isn’t going to crush you. And you can laugh about it too, because those people who treat you like shit, they’re going to heaven because they fulfilled all of their prayers. Perhaps, though, that’s a concession. Leaves you with only the flames to contend with, since their laughter and bitching will be cursing the righteous, seven stories above.

When it comes to those comfortably seated in their faith, you’re better off hiding your honesty. They’re never going to understand that you consider it all the time, but question everything. They tell you that things that are not obvious are obvious. And they say that to believe is as easy as riding a bicycle. Well, maybe that’s true, but when I went to the station, all I could see was one bus after another. So the lesson learnt from experience is this: when the going gets tough, lie.

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