The life-changing magic of less Bullshit

When I was young, I reveled my friends in my recent trip to Germany, the specs of the latest car my Dad just got, and the interiors of my spare Bungalow at the end of the lane.

Of course, none of this was true.

Looking back, I see the truth more clearly: I wasn’t a liar. I was just a really shitty kid. More specifically, a bullshitting kid.

All along, I believed I had outgrown my habit of lying once I entered college. But it wasn’t lying to start with. It was bullshitting.

What you heard was only the tip of the bullshit iceberg. And I am afraid I haven’t really outgrown the habit as much as I would like to believe.

First, the difference: When you lie, you know there’s such a thing as truth, and lying means you are afraid of the truth and refuse its utmost primacy.

For example, if you ask me about your new hairstyle and I tell you it looks amazeballs on you, when the truth is, it looks like a porcupine died on your head then I am clearly lying.

But say I bumped into you on a random evening and I act stunned by your coiffure and tell you how I wish I had hair like yours, and how the only place you should be walking on is a ramp, and how your hair is a gift to humanity, then I am indulging in the art of bullshit.

When I point to a house and claim it my own, I don’t really care a hoot who it belongs to (the truth); I just want you to believe I am cool and loaded. The thing with bullshit is that, like lies, it requires you to invent more bullshit to keep the story going.

Unlike lies, however, bullshit leaves you feeling entitled.

For example, I felt I should be the one to bat (cricket) first because I am the one that went to Germany. While it takes a single truth to destroy a string of lies, cleaning up bullshit is messy and unpleasant.

Yet, here we are, completely oblivious to the amount the bullshit we invent every day.

As crazy as this sounds, the greatest threat facing the world is not climate change or nuclear wars or an alien invasion. It’s bullshit.

Because the problem with bullshit is that it prevents us from believing there’s something called truth. With bullshit, we base our life and values around shitty constructs.

Bullshit makes us skeptical about validating our own beliefs. Without this validation, we continue to believe more bullshit because it’s the only thing that feeds into our beliefs. We become skeptical of everything that challenges these beliefs.

The bigger threat is in going out into the world and spouting these beliefs like they are the ultimate truth. Bullshit begets bullshit. Soon, it’s no more about your awesome hair. It’s about politics, religion, and entertainment.

Once the epidemic has broken out at that scale, it’s practically impossible to contain. Because, now, it’s about whether you are a good person or a bad person; about what your beliefs say about your family; and about who should live (and who shouldn’t).

The discovery of a lie exposes us to a harsh reality we were too afraid to face. It’s like coming out into the sun after days in the dark.

Bullshit,however, builds a trench around you and reality. It becomes a defense against reality. Exposing this bullshit only widens the trench and narrows your beliefs even further. Instead of coming out into the sun, you make the room darker.

I know most of you reading this are rational beings that shake your rational heads in disbelief every time you see/hear bullshit. So, here’s something else that’ll make you vigorously shake your head: You indulge in bullshit every day. It may seem like the harmless lie of a child, but it’s these very lies that eventually convince you about how awesome and right you are.

Eventually, my pesky friends found out I was making up crap and had a great deal of fun quizzing me about Germany’s geography and shit like that before eventually calling me out on my bullshit.

And this was one of the most formative experiences of my life. Sure, they gave me a really hard time about it but thanks to that experience, it has become easier for me to recognize and accept the bullshit I indulge in every day.

I am far from complete truth and tell-all. I will still claim that my blog has a million followers and may compliment your hideous hair when you leave me a nice comment, but I will constantly be checking if the bullshit kid is running my life.

On to you.

Footnotes:

On Bullshit, Harry Frankfurt

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