Sleep walking, coming home, and good lies

by Rob Tiller

Lately I’ve been feeling more-than-usually pleasantly aware of the world of the senses, such as fall light and colors, sounds of people walking, and even just breathing. There’s so much variation in perceptual engagement, both among people and for each person over time. I like to think yoga is helping to shift my perceptional experience towards greater engagement. But the changes are not uniform and consistent.

A dramatic case in point: I had a sleep walking experience a few nights ago. My only evidence was waking up with a badly bruised and scraped left shoulder. Seriously, I was hurt! I’d taken an Ambien, as I do now and again for insomnia, and attribute the bizarre incident to this usually reliable little helper. What did I do while in my altered state? Go to Fight Club? Could there be an outstanding warrant for my arrest? Could I defend based on lack of knowledge? Sleep walking unsettles the usual assumptions about intentional behavior and personality.

Gabe and Jocelyn Tiller flew in from Telluride, Colorado this week for a holiday. We hadn’t seen them for several months, and it was wonderful to be together again. But Gabe quickly put my fatherly affection to the test by asking for a loan of the 911 (Clara, that is) to go to Boone overnight to see an old girlfriend. I hesitated. I have feelings for Clara — if she were injured, I would be distraught. But I knew Gabe to be an excellent driver (I trained him). And I knew it would be good to share some my happiness with him. So I gave my blessing, and off they went. I experienced some separation anxiety, but Gabe brought Clara home safe and sound.

Jocelyn is blossoming. She’s gotten more blonde, and beams. Her work as a bartender seems to have enhanced her comedic skills, as well as her skill with a cocktail shaker. She made us a delicious green drink with creme de menthe for dessert.

Before and during dinner, Jocelyn, Sally, and I had a lively conversation about truth and lies. We found ourselves in agreement that absolute honesty was not only impossible, but also a bad idea. The social world as we know it depends on some degree of dishonesty. We all are taught that lying is wrong, but this is a lesson that would wreak havoc if taken literally. Could social life even continue if we always insisted on telling each other exactly what we thought of each other? In fact, there are important exceptions to the taboo against lying, Although there is no standard manual of exceptions, most of us eventually learn them. With experience and practice, we can distinguish between social lies that support and advance relationships, and those that undermine them.

Credibility and trust are vital to human relationships. The lies that undermine credibility and trust are the dangerous ones. As Jocelyn observed, it is puzzling and unsettling when one comes across an otherwise appealing person who is a habitual liar. Why don’t they see their lies as hurting themselves and others? Jocelyn theorized that this is manifestation of a mild species of sociopathy. They seem lack of empathy for others, and an unusual need for attention. Their lack of empathy and difficulty in forming human connections is distinctive, but not so dramatically so that the problem is easy to spot. I think she’s on to something.