Fantasists

18 Apr

Lotus KirlianI work in an industry built upon make-believe. A business where every facet of one’s biography is up for remoulding and where people are hired to ensure that the image projected remains free from scandal. An industry built on bullshit, which threatens to implode constantly.

Sometimes some of us tell the story so many times that we start to take it as fact.

The lines between truth and ficition become blurred. The fiction in itself becomes a truth. Most easily identified in the careers of those poor actors and singers who felt compelled to hide their true sexuality because of the fear that laying it bare would render them unemployed. That becomes a terrible burden to take on, a torturous baggage.

There are always multiple narratives, parallel truths, and it becomes the job of the journalist, the archivist or the historian to try and work their way through the accounts and marry them up with fact. Archivists deal purely in the existing documentation, perhaps the most clinical and scientific of the group. An historian will take all the source material available and make judgement calls before presenting a cohesive story which fits with the evidence (and which may in turn be another distorted truth). The journalist similarly seeks to tell a story but with an immediacy and currency which keeps the narrative firmly embedded in the present.

One is often surprised by the variances in accounts. There are anecdotes which shed light on lives and personalities which simply aren’t supported by written factual records. That doesn’t make them less true. The information I’ve gleamed about my own great-grandparents from surviving family is complemented by the records I’ve unearthed – with one providing a lens through which to re-view the other (and not always so sympathetically).

We live in an era of self-promotion and self-recording. Our social network profiles are pulsing with superfluous data. Future historians will become overwhelmed, as our records are no longer limited to a few rolls of 110 Kodak film, a couple of certificates, and a faded memory in a grandchild’s head. Instead, we will have shared our every meal, the books we read, the people we slept with.

As we snapchat, instagram and tweet our way to oblivion, at some stage we should stop and consider the reconciliation of the data trail we leave. The digital archives that house our essence. The public availability of information that runs contrary to the myth we wish to project.

If I died tomorrow in a tragic accident, one can guarantee the tabloids would dig out a photo of me in a dress or pulling a face rather than one of me at work, or content with loved ones. I’m also aware that a couple of hours of mining my own digital archives will reveal some of my less proud moments. The public spats, failed relationships, and dark days.

No doubt I’m as guilty as many others of projecting both a public and a private image. Although I also suspect that the two are much closer than might be expected. I’ve been frank about my own problems and issues. I’ve always been ready to support a statement with evidence, or argue the case coherently for a view point. I like to think that MY truth is one which is supportable with indisputable factual evidence. In fact I probably lay my crazy on the table too readily – no doubt one of several reasons why potential dates skirt around me and hit up the next guy instead.

Part of my job is to read between the lines, and separate the myth from fact, the ideal from truth. I’m not immune to being duped as both my professional and personal life demonstrate. But in time those myths have been exposed, and continue to be so.

I recall one friend from school who told our peers that his older sister had left home under a cloud and his parents refused to talk about her. And who once lent me a cassette tape purportedly of him playing guitar with a then rather well known band in a recording studio. Even in my youthful ignorance I wondered why the only voice I could hear in the gaps in recording was his.

I don’t think I confronted him about either tale. He was an only child, and in all the years we knew each other he never once mentioned the sister to me – because she didn’t exist. As for the band – I never understood why he went to such lengths to build that fantasy, what he felt he had to prove? What did it achieve?

Of course now it is so much easier to disprove the deceit. And yet fantasists of all kinds continue to purvey their fabled personages on us through their social networking narratives and public blogs. Some of them even get away with the deception for years. But eventually, truth will out. The catfish will reveal itself unintentionally, or to the wrong person. The facade will fall, the projection dim, the true face expose.

Even faced with evidence, the fantasist will maintain their delusional account. They will rewrite their personal history so often they believe it, and hone it as it suits their needs. And in turn it is believed by those around them, making an accurate reading of an individual very hard indeed. The permanent deceit leads to a self-deception which in turn makes them unreliable as people let alone friends or lovers.

I’ve spent the last couple of weeks digging into one established myth, to flesh out the narrative with new provable facts, and in turn create a new history. The public and private were certainly at odds, and the resounding myth different again. Perhaps sadly, for all the effort that went into creating the public persona at the time, much of the detail had been forgotten. How much in turn will our own myths be overlooked when our biographies are sketched for future generations? Which shit will stick: yours, mine or the truth?

 

 

 

 

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