Two weeks ago I shared what the top 10 articles were for my first year with this blog. By far, the most popular has been There Are Three Kinds of Lies. This week, I will share three more kinds of lies, from another example story in El Conde Lucanor. Last week I discussed how a 13th century Spanish story had a lot to say about pedophiles and sociopaths – they are Without Shame. But first, as I promised last week, I will share a little about how I came across these stories, and why they appeal to me and resonate with me.
El Conde Lucanor was written by Don Juan Manuel and was first published in 1335. My favorite book, the Libro de Buen Amor (Book of Good Love), was originally published in 1330, with a revised version published in 1343. So they are both from around the same time and place – Medieval Spain. My interest in El Conde Lucanor first came about from a scholarly book on early Medieval Spanish literature, Desire Against the Law. But in addition to that, Don Juan Manuel was born in Escalona in 1282 and was the nephew of Alfonso X the Wise.
The ancient Romans had a fort in Escalona, which was later occupied by the Arabs. In 1281, the castle came under the control of Prince don Manuel de Castilla, son of Fernando III and brother of Alfonso X. Don Juan Manuel, the author of El Conde Lucanor, was born in this castle a year later, in 1282. The picture at the top is of the castle of Escalona. But there is more. The owner of the castle, Maria Victoria, is a good friend of mine and some of the best memories that my mother, my sons, and I have of Spain are of visits to that castle.
The story I want to share today from El Conde Lucanor is What Happened to the Tree of the Lie. Truth and Lie used to live together. The restless Lie proposed they plant a tree, to have fruit and shade on hot days. As the tree began to grow, Lie convinced Truth that the best part of the tree was the roots, and Lie would permit Truth to live underground with the roots. Lie would take the mere twigs above ground, which were always in danger from man and beast, as well as the heat. Truth believed Lie and agreed to live underground with the roots. People came from all around to enjoy the flowers and shade of the tree, and most people stayed.
Then we are told that there are three kinds of lies: the simple lie, the more subtle double lie, and the wiser triple lie. The simple lie is when you say you will do something for another person while knowing that you will not do it. The double lie is when you make a solemn promise or swear an oath, all the while thinking of how to deceive. But the triple, very damaging lie is the one that lies and deceives while telling the truth. Lie knew this well, and many people wanted to live in the shade of the tree, where they could be taught the wisdom of cheating and lying. But the Truth, hidden underground and despised, had nothing to eat and so began to gnaw on the roots of the tree. Although there had been plenty of shade and pretty flowers, before any fruit came a wind blew the tree with weakened roots down. Many were killed or wounded. Then Truth came out and saw that many had been damaged by following the path of the Lie. The moral is that our enemies use the flowers of flattery and the shade of deception to have their way, and we do best to avoid it and not envy their ill-gotten gains. That is because they will receive their just desserts at the end of their chosen path – only regrets.
I had to give some thought to what a triple lie, the lie and deceit while telling the truth, would look like in a practical sense. Three weeks ago I talked about what makes a Great Boss. Just like Good and Better Love are recognized by their distinctions from Bad and Worse Love, a Good or Great Boss is differentiated from a bad or crappy one. An example of a crappy boss came to mind. A boss wanted to get rid of an undesirable employee and documented that this employee could not successfully repair a piece of equipment. It was true that the equipment was not properly functioning after the repairs of the undesirable employee. But it was deceiving and lying at the same time, because the boss failed to mention that he had encouraged another technician to sabotage the equipment after repair by the undesired employee.
The most vivid example of the triple lie is what happened when a person went through a mental health assessment to determine what treatment was appropriate. Five problem areas were discussed, but the counselor focused on what she believed was the most important area. Later the person stated that they had had an assessment, and that the counselor said nothing about the person having a “certain problem”. The truth was that in that initial assessment, the “certain problem” was not identified as the most critical. According to the person being assessed, the implication was that the person does not have the “certain problem.” The deceit is that the person never followed through with the further investigation and recommended treatment of this counselor.
As Jose Luis Perales sings, “They say that the lie is the truth and the truth is a lie.” There’s a reason for the phrase “the whole truth and nothing but the truth.” Matthew 7:15-18 says: Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. In the story above, the tree of the lie bore no fruit at all.