Scientists say that humans primarily evolved to be social, cooperative creatures, and that their survival depended on that cooperation. This behavior required the setting aside of narrow self-interests in favor of the greater good. Humans, however, also don’t like to be told what to do, and so found a way around this objectionable condition that didn’t require leaving the safety of the group. That way is called lying by some, a way of life by others, and, scientists say, it even predates homo sapiens. This is another way of saying that humans are born liars. Few are proud of it, but many feel it would be impolite to not display a gift we were given.
A big problem with this gift, however, is that if it is displayed too much by too many, dating websites would become unreliable and crash, leaving all those smart, attractive, romantic, passionate people to walk the beach at sunset without companionship, and society would collapse. As in most things, there needed to be moderation. Fortunately there is, as we also evolved to be bad liars, with the possible exception of psychopaths and those on a career training path to be criminals or politicians. But perhaps I’m being redundant. For the rest of us, lying causes the pitch of our voice to increase, along with our breathing rate and heartbeat. Many stutter, sweat, or make odd facial expressions. It is not an attractive look, which is likely why psychopaths have an advantage on the dating scene.
On the other hand, studies show that even with all the clues, we are also bad at identifying a lie, getting it right only about 44 percent of the time. So to prevent lying from becoming rampant and destroying society, various punishments evolved along with the lies. Perhaps an illustration would help explain this.
Picture an early cave man pointing excitedly behind a member of the clan while holding two fingers in front of his mouth like large teeth to give a warning that there was a saber-toothed tiger behind him. When the dupe turned to look, the cave man not only stole the mammoth leg the dupe was eating, but denied doing so, whereupon the smarter cave women snuggled up to him, whispered sweet grunts in his ear, and ate the mammoth leg before he realized what was happening. The cave man was thereby punished by going to bed hungry and alone.
The invention of language would have made it easy for everyone to say “Look! Cave Bear!” until they understood that 56 percent of the time they got the reply “Don’t look! Club!” before everything went dark. The punishment only got worse with the invention of writing. Our man’s distant kin would have been preoccupied writing a warning note, giving the dupe time to slip away with his leg of lamb, and for an actual lion to sneak up and eat the writer. Even today it’s well known that one should never put lies on paper, or they’ll most certainly come back to bite you.
In 500 BC Persia, Darius the Great considered lying to be a cardinal sin punishable by death. Biblical leaders sometimes quote New Testament scripture which states that unrepentant liars will be punished in the lake of fire. Hindu leaders can refer liars to ancient texts that promise regular round trips to Hell and back. Not for casual tourists, they also promise an endless cycle of being turned into dust before being restored to life. If history tells us anything, it’s that leaders take a dim view of competition.
These are unusual times however, and lying has been evolving faster than the penalties for lying. More specifically, competitive lying is now welcome with open arms and forked tongues every November at the Bridge Inn in Holrook, England, home to the annual World’s Biggest Liar Competition, which celebrates the sheer joy of telling whoppers, or porkies. Attendee’s groans will not be from any of the old forms of torture, but you may wish for them before the event is over.
Quite simply, the WBLC is for those of you who are tired of listening to politicians, and who would like to hear some new, more imaginative lies. It is also for those more accomplished fibbers who seek a bigger audience than their boss or spouse. For those concerned about equality however, please stay at home. White lies do not matter here, although every other color is welcome, including some pretty off-colored ones. Lies here are spectacularly big, as befits a region that boasts England’s deepest lake (Wastwater), highest mountain (Scafell Pike), and fiercest dragon (Teddy).
The origins of the World’s Biggest Liar Competition takes us all the way back to the 19th century, to a time when England grew turnips so big that people quarried them, hollowed them out, and used them as sheds for their sheep. Or so said a pub owner then named Will Ritson, who understood the natural, and profitable, relationship between pints and porkies. Patrons came from miles around to learn at the stool of the master, and unless I’m wrong, lies soon became the defacto currency of the region, while the truth could only be purchased at exorbitant prices on the black market. Lies were bought at every establishment and served with every meal. Children found school interesting and demanded homework. People finally understood church and packed the pews. Everyone ran for public office. Eventually, however, the region sunk under the weight of its own lies and Lake Wastwater was born. Teddy, realizing he was living a lie, could not let it dragon any longer, and sealed himself in a cave forever, where he vented and fumed and so created Scafell Pike. A small, wooden-faced man with a nose for trouble rose to power with the promise of unlimited pleasure, until people realized there were too many strings attached and Pinocchio was exposed as merely a puppet ruler and ….
I’m sorry, but I have to end this essay prematurely as my pants just caught on fire.