Memory and Truth

Although reading Montaigne’s Of Liars can be a bit confusing and time consuming, I found that he brought up some interesting ideas about the relationship between your memory and lying. He starts out describing memory and how he does not have a good memory. He turns having a bad memory into a good quality which intrigued me. He states that you need a good memory to negotiate and make deals by being sneaky. He also won’t recount the past stating “if my memory had stood me in good stead I would have deafened all my friends with babble” (Montaigne 10). The reminds me of my mother. She repeats herself all the time and it can get extremely annoying to the point where I pretend I’m listening. She not only repeats orders to me but also stories from her childhood that I’ve heard at least fifteen times already. Older people tend to do this and recount the past frequently. Montaigne further describes this saying “old men especially are dangerous, whose memory of things past remains, but who have lost the memory of their repetitions” (Montaigne 10). Another interesting point Montaigne brought up is how he is more apt to forgive people due to his lack of memory and that he “remember[s] injuries received less” (Montaigne 10). One of the main advantages of having a bad memory is that people can trust you because you can not be good at lying without a strong memory.
Those people with a good memory are better liars because they can remember what they lied about before so there is a less change they will get caught in their lies. They can “either invent everything out of whole cloth, or else disguise and alter something fundamentally true” (Montaigne 11). Certain people lie as their profession. An example Montaigne gives are politicians and how they choose “their words only to suit the affairs they are negotiating and to please the great to who they are speaking” (Montaigne 11). Another example of people who lie as a profession are lawyers. In order to win a case, they may need to lie or extend the truth in order to prove their defendant not guilty. Personally, I could never be able to lie all the time. I would get caught in my lies and I also can not keep a straight face when I lie. It is easier to just tell the truth so that you don’t have to remember what you said to people.
Montaigne also states how once you start lying, you can’t stop. He states “once the tongue has been put on this wrong tack, it cannot be called back without amazing difficulty” (12). I find this interesting because as a child, I lied all the time but now I barely lie. I like telling the truth and may lie to spare someone’s feelings or to avoid talking about certain things with my parents. My parents also reprimanded me for lying as a child so that could have been a factor to stop lying. They told me the story about the boy who cried wolf which scared me into thinking no one would believe me when I actually was telling the truth. (http://www.storyarts.org/library/aesops/stories/boy.html) A little lie here and there won’t kill anyone but it’s people who are pathological liars who you need to look out for and not trust.
I enjoyed the topic of this weeks essays. When I read Patricia Hampl’s Memory and Imagination essay, I was astonished on what she lied about. Here, I was reading her memoir about going to the piano lesson with her father and meeting her friend when in reality, most of it wasn’t even true! I like how she stated “but to tell the truth (if anyone still believes me capable of telling of the truth). I wasn’t writing fiction, I was writing memoir” (Hampl 785). I thought this was funny because I really didn’t believe anything she was saying after she admitted to lying about most of what I had just read. I loved her analogy of cats and dogs to readers and writers. “The reader as a cat , endlessly fastidious, capable by turns of mordant indifference and riveted attention, luxurious, recumbent, ever poised… the writer is absolutely a dog, panting and moping, too eager for an affectionate scratch behind the ears” (Hampl 786). I was surprised that even she is terrified of the blank white page. It often takes me a while to start writing but once I start, the blank page is a lot less intimidating.

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2 Responses to Memory and Truth

  1. maknouk says:

    I also liked the point he made about how memory can be turned into a good quality to have. It makes you have no choice but to be real because you do not have the capability to be tricky or sneaky. It also leads you to be more forgiving because you literally must live by the motto “forgive and forget” which in my opinion is a great thing about not having a good memory or a memory at all. I also liked the idea we talked about in class about how Montaigne does not just accept the common place of saying having a bad memory is a terrible thing like the norm of society would, but thinks of this idea in a fresh and new way.
    My Aunt is just like your mom. Every time we ask her to tell us a story from her childhood, she tells us the exact same story with the exact same enthusiasm as if we don’t have this story memorized already!

  2. roshnisondhi says:

    You gave interesting examples for each quote that you mentioned in your blog. I agree that sometimes it is okay if someone tells a lie once a while as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone. However, if someone tells a lie, sometimes it can lead to major consequences. The popular story by Shakespeare- Othello, gives a good example how lying can be dangerous. Lago lies to Othello that Desdemona (Othello’s wife) and Cassio (Othello’s lieutenant) were having an affair. This lie made Othello angry and jealous and at the end Othello murders his wife and his lieutenant. The outcome of this lie was disastrous.

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