Your son looks at you with questioning eyes, on the verge of distrust. You told him a thousand times to always tell the truth. However, they teach him to remain silent, to weigh his words, to hide hurtful phrases: the art of the friendly lie. Even if a gift disappoints you, you should be grateful for it. When invited, he must praise the food, even if it tastes like hell. It is forbidden to tell people that they are unpleasant or annoying, the excuse that it is true is not valid. Life would be impossible without tenderness, and that means – sometimes – pretending.
The child learns to get on the stage of this great theater of the world that Calderón de la Barca dreamed of. Spontaneity can be offensive, while the desire to live together and be friendly requires camouflage and simulation skills. If someone says, “I’ll speak to you directly,” prepare for the worst. When Taylor Swift sang All too well, there are those who are cruel in the name of sincerity. Perhaps maturity lies in accepting that the world doesn’t need to listen to our clumsy thoughts or our clumsy outbursts, and shrugging off the little things that irritate us about others. Erasmus of Rotterdam explained in his praise of madness that it is wise to take things as they come and enjoy the comedy of life so full of chaotic pursuits. Constantly spying on one’s own mistakes or those of others, he wrote, would destroy coexistence. Reality is woven from error and error, so a certain confidence is needed to understand the weaknesses of others. In this way we build the relative unity and harmony that make it possible for us to live together. In a time of intransigence and division, Erasmus defended the forbearance and laughter that comfort us with so much sanity.
To be honest, we have to admit that we’re all just pretending. In Latin, the word “person” meant the actor’s mask. Who plays more or less no role, even if it should look like how he would like to be. The personality is theatrical, as the etymology suggests, and the friendliness is something of an imposter. Love and family are melodramas in which we swallow words to save attachments and affections. Being a mother requires a lot of action: sleepy, exhausted and with our own worries, splashing between tears, fever and children’s songs in an endless loop, we keep up the comforting fiction of being able to conquer chaos. Nurturing a hurt friendship means not throwing away our cold opinions, but offering support, warmth, and comfort. In public life, collaboration means compromise: when a politician brags about authenticity, he’s usually on the verge of launching volleys of insults.
As the philosopher Jorge Freire writes in his essay make you who you are, “how we appear before others, we are already a character. The facade is necessary regardless of what the house holds inside. It is enough to see a masquerade ball to understand the essence of the world.” Faking and ignoring many things makes our lives easier; Maybe for this reason the theater or the cinema, the novels help us to be better actors at this stage of life. It is curious that the cult of authenticity floods social networks, the realm of artistry, or triumphs in politics through brazen leaders—another mask—who embrace a calculated, fanged, complex-free honesty only when allowed to one Strike the opponent. In times of truths like daggers, the primal thing is not to lose your composure and to know how to dress elegantly.
2,000 years ago, in the solitude of his insomnia, far from home, between military campaigns and government efforts, Marcus Aurelius began an intimate journal. There he poured out his weariness and irritation, only to later recall that he should hide them and exercise the patience learned in philosophy: “Tell yourself at dawn: I will come across an indiscreet, an ungrateful, an impertinent envious, unsociable. I can’t be angry or hate him because we were born for a common purpose.” The stoic emperor knew the tricks of power and the magic of the image. Perhaps he sensed that incorruptible authenticity is just another pose.
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