Make It Your Canvas

I don’t really understand quantum mechanics and I’m OK with that. It’s enough to know it’s out there messing with our preconceptions about reality. By this, I mean even more than science has done in the past. If you think about how everything is made up of atoms, you realize that solid surfaces aren’t as solid as you think they are. That’s trippy enough, but when you introduce quantum mechanics and start looking at the behavior of subatomic particles, you’ll find them breaking just about every law of conventional physics.

That’s about all I know on the topic. There’s also something about mere observation affecting results because dead cat, which just compounds the weirdness. Being a freak myself, I felt drawn to the subject and attempted to read up on it. I can’t remember the title of the book, but the forward was riveting. It promised a look into a world where my long-held beliefs about reality would be blown out of the water. Neato, thought I, only to be disappointed early on in the first chapter where equations and graphs appeared.

Higher math is not my strong suit, which is strange because the word “engineer” has been part of most of the job titles I’ve had over the last 20 years. I do know that a logarithm has less to do with regularity than the name would suggest and that discrete math is different from discreet math, which involves people multiplying in motels under an assumed name. Oh, and “The Quadratics” was an awesome band name in Welcome to the Dollhouse. I don’t know enough about calculus to even make jokes about it.

Most of my knowledge of physics and quantum mechanics in particular was gained from listening to my friend Kirk talk when we were both whacked out of our minds on blow. Kirk worked at a national lab where a bunch of physicists were researching new ways to blow up the world. He loved the work they were doing and, unlike me, had the math and science skills to grasp what was going on.

Kirk also had periodic infusions of disposable income. He was always being sent off to some conference and was given more cash for expenses than he needed. Since returning the money meant unwanted paperwork, he blew it on drugs instead. And since the money bought more drugs than he wished to do on his own, he was happy to share.

On these occasions, Kirk was unsurprisingly quite talkative and he often talked about physics. He’d wipe his nose, clench his knee with a hand glistening with coke snot, and yammer on for hours. Fortunately for me, he skipped over the geeky, hard stuff and focused on the whiz bang and far out. Tiny subatomic particles, I learned, were doing what wasn’t supposed to be possible like existing in two locations at the same time and arriving at a destination just prior to when they left their starting point. It was wonderful.

Kirk and I are still close friends. The drugs days are long gone and good riddance to them, but lessons learned during those late-night benders have stayed with me. I’d have to say that my two biggest takeaways are that if you look close enough, you’ll realize that your perception of reality is pretty much a crock of shit, and if quarks don’t play by the rules, why should I?

These are both potentially liberating ideas, but it is important to temper them with practical considerations. For example, I’m not about to stand on the railroad tracks and scream “Your outdated Newtonian physics doesn’t scare me!” at an oncoming train. There are safer ways to thumb your nose at superficial reality. I am of course referring to lying.

Lying is wrong, you might say, especially if someone you are trying to impress and/or fear is within earshot. I commend you for your noble concern. However, it is important to remember that you may not actually be lying even if you think you are. If you believe that reality is governed by the laws of physics, know that there is currently no set of rules that apply to both large and small objects, and realize that you are made up of tiny protons and electrons as well as your femur, taint, and other big things, anything you say or do is going to be outside of one rulebook’s jurisdiction. Top physicists are working on a unifying theory, science’s version of Sauron’s one ring to rule them all, but until that’s found you can pretty much lie your ass off with impunity.

It’s how you lie that’s important. Survival lies, the kind where you feign belief in a God or ideology no matter how ridiculous just to save your skin, are necessary though it’s important not to overdo it. Reluctant complicity is fine, but being a true believer is unseemly. Rabid flag wavers, anti-porn crusaders, and staunch Myers-Briggs proponents are just three examples of people who should kill themselves.

So what’s left? There are plenty of lies worth telling. They need to be believable because what good are they if they crumble under a moment’s scrutiny, and they need to be art.

We humans have a lot of potential, but on average we are a pretty insignificant lot. Most of us live and die in these little regimented roles imposed on us by our fellow human beings. Sure, you can react to this injustice by going on a killing spree, but all that does in the end is make people afraid and take solace in the kind of narrow-minded thinking  that pissed you off in the first place. This is where lying as an art form comes in. People gain sustenance from what they perceive to be true. It is their wellspring. Make it your calling to poison that well.

Kellyanne Conway gave us the phrase “alternative facts” and bless her for that. A lot of people don’t like her, but I think that’s just because her boss is such a piece of shit. I personally have a bit of a crush on her because she reminds me of Dee Reynolds from “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.” America deserves to have its own Sweet Dee. I just wish it were under better circumstances.

Even with Ms. Conway giving the green light, that doesn’t mean you should lie all the time. People are stupid, but they’re not that stupid. After a while, no one will believe you and all your lies will be for nought. Ideally, you want to keep your lies on hold until they are most likely to be accepted as truth.

September 11, 2001 was perfect for this. Events on that day were so horrific and inexplicable that people were able to buy into all kinds of bullshit in the hope of making some sense of it all. “Irony is dead,” said some. “This is why we should invade Iraq,” said others. All of it was nonsense, but we ate it up because we were desperate nitwits.

These are not the kind of lies worth telling unless you are in power and have something to gain from controlling people. The other kind of lies not worth telling about this day are conspiracy theories. This isn’t because they dishonor the fallen or other such sentimental gibberish. No, the reason these lies are no good is that nobody but the unhinged will give them credence. They also embolden true believers as much as the killjoys and right wingers do.

I think the perfect place for the perfect lie on 9/11 had to be on board Flight 93. Think about it. Here you had the chance to upstage what may have been biggest lie of the day, “Let’s roll.” What was really said might very well have been the more utilitarian and less action-movie cheese “Let’s roll it,” but Neil Young and countless other slogan mongers were not to be denied. If I were on that flight and all was lost (which it was), I would have hung back from the heroics, pulled out my phone, and texted:


A puerile move, sure, but maybe that’s what the day needed. A little silver lining might have made people little less gung ho to go off and die in a pointless war. And if it didn’t, so what. My final act would have left an indelible mark upon the world and sparked a lively debate whether it was better to go out dutifully pushing a cart other getting some strange in the lavatory. All because of a lie. My lie. A lie backed up by science if you don’t think about it too hard.

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