Is Honesty Really the Best Policy?

To be completely honest, I’m not comfortable with being completely honest.

For one thing, if we had total honesty, there would be no privacy, and that would be like eating, reading, and having sex in glass houses.

People and agencies of government advocating unconstitutional snooping and searches are famous for saying, “If you have nothing to hide, you can’t complain about such programs.”

The thing is, I do have something to hide: the stuff that’s nobody’s business. That’s my right to privacy.

While I may have to accept the possibility that the Creator knows all and sees all as the Eye of Providence on our dollar bill suggests, I don’t accept the notion that anyone who is not the Creator needs an all-seeing eye. I don’t want Sauron’s eye from “The Lord of the Rings” watching–must less recording–what I’m having for breakfast and what book I’m reading before lunch.

Some people say that if they (or the Feds or the Cops) have the all-seeing eye of Sauron (and promise to use it in a purportedly proper manner), we will all be safer. I’ve never seen any evidence that proves the truth of that fable, and even if it were true, it would make us all manacled to those using the eye.

When it comes to spies with eyes, I’m keeping my curtains closed, and if you ask me what I’m doing inside those curtains, I will lie about it. Sure, I know the day will come when somebody will invent an all-knowing brain that will hear every thought we have. When that happens, we’ll probably have people lobbying for a PreCrime division of the department of justice similar to what we saw in the Tom Cuise movie “Minority Report.”

Except the all knowing brain will be worse, for not only will it be able to predict and stop crimes before they happen, it will stop whatever we’re planning to do before we can do it. The brain sees that I’m planning to drink a bottle of booze, so it alerts the authorities. Or the brain sees that I’m planning to read a book the brain doesn’t want me to read, so the people that own the brain come to my house on a warrantless search and take away the book.

You can see the potential of that, right?

Perhaps, on the day when the eye of Sauron and the all knowing brain are created by Congress or implemented by one alphabet soup department or another without Congress’ knowledge, writers will be given magic rings that make them immune. After all, it’s our job to make stuff up. I’m cynical about that. If we were given immunity, there would probably be an override button so that–say, for national security or some other catchphrase–those with the proper clearances will know that on Friday, I will put sugar on my sugar cookie before sitting down to write a post called “Is Honesty the Best Policy?”

I don’t think so.

Gosh, such a notion might destroy government as we know it because what if people swore they were telling the truth when they weren’t telling the truth? Some say we’re not telling the truth even when we think we’re telling the truth. We’ve all heard that eye-witness testimony is often wrong even though the witnesses providing it don’t think they’re lying. Perhaps all testimony is perjury, one way or another.

Some quantum physicists believe that everything that can happen does happen. If so, then lies really can’t exist can they?

Until we accept that reality, what we need when our privacy is at stake is well-crafted perjury that can’t be detected. I’m comfortable with that.


As you might suspect even without the help of an all-seeing eye, Malcolm R. Campbell writes novels that are often labeled as fantasy and/or magic.



Going into the dark

“The space Hunt’s fiction inhabits is the dark dark itself, which, she writes, is ‘unknowable, unlit, mysterious, and disappearing.’ ‘You can have one foot in a spot that’s grounded,’ she says, ‘and one foot out there in the dark, the night, the unknown, which is so tempting, and for me is the place where mystery is sighted. I can’t not go into the unknown. Where the scary music is playing and people say, ‘Don’t go in there,’ I’m the person who says, ‘What’s in there?’ I must know.”

Lucas Loredo, interviewing Samatha Hunt (“The Dark Dark”) in Kirkus Reviews

Going into the dark, I think, is the author’s first duty. That’s where our stories come from, from truths that are greater than logical, everyday world truths because they include dreams, imaginations, ponderings, and whatever goes bump in the night.

When Hunt writes in Mr. Splitfoot, “These woods are where silence has come to lick its wounds” she’s not stating anything logic can support. But we know what she means and what she means changes us the minute we consider it and know it. Perhaps, thinking of this quote, we go into the woods, hear silence at work. and understand something knew about our world, or at least, ourselves.

The writer either has to go into the woods first and discover this “truth” or s/he has to imagine going into the woods, almost like a shamanic journey, and discover what silence does. Then s/he places this discovery into a poem, essay, or story. This is not to say that writers must think and write like Samantha Hunt (though it helps); but writers must go into the unknown one way or another. That’s where the new stories are.

Whether you literally or figuratively go into the dark woods to listen to the silence or to the occasional screams and pleas that shatter that silence, you are doing something chaotic, uncontrolled, fearful, and possibly dangerous. The greater the chaos and danger, the more spectacular–and potentially transformative–the story. No pain, no gain, as people say.

The resulting story, as author Jane Yollen says–echoing Emily Dickinson–is truth told on the slant. In other words, “All storytellers are liars. We make up things to get at the truth. The truth of the story and—if we are lucky and have revised well—the truth of the world as well.”

You have probably heard–or discovered in a physics class–that when a tuning fork is struck with a hammer, a nearby tuning fork will vibrate at the same frequency. As I once wrote in a review of a book about the blues, and why that music is so powerful, “In his 1967 inquiry into the nature of man, Man in Search of Himself, physicist Jean E. Charon writes that inasmuch as the material in the unconscious is in archetypal form, works of art communicate it via an innate knowledge shared by artist and viewer in a language which ‘awakes unconscious resonances in each of us.'”

Hunt – Wikipedia photo

When a reader finds silencing licking its wounds in a poem or story and is the kind of reader attuned to such ideas, s/he will see the truth of those words at a slant, so to speak. They will convey a truth, an idea never considered, bring forth a new way of looking at wounds and woods and silence that was–in this reader–waiting to be born. Thinking of Yollen again, this is what she calls “life in truth” rather than “truth actual.” Truth actual is the apparent logical workings of the everyday world, what we expect in credible news reports and expert testimony and scientific studies. Life in truth includes the realities behind the ever-addictive illusion of a logical world.

Darkness, the place where seeds germinate to create the flowers we will one day observe, is the same place where writers’ stories germinate. As Hunt says, writers want to go into the dark to see what’s happening there and then write a story or a poem about it. Or, maybe even a blog post.

Writers seem to learn at an early age that the ability to see in the dark is a prerequisite to telling a good story.


Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of Conjure Woman’s Cat and Eulalie and Washerwoman, magical novels that are on sale on Kindle on 7/21/17 – 7/23/17.




The spookiness of written truth

Some people have a built in BS detector. They can see the flaws and scams in the world’s best publicity.

Writers have a spookiness truth detector.

In her excellent book for writers, The Sister from Below: When the Muse Gets Her Way, author Naomi Ruth Lowinsky begins with one of my favorite Robert Graves quotes:

“The test of a poet’s vision,” writes Graves, “is the accuracy of his portrayal of the White Goddess. The reason why hairs stand on end, the eyes water, when one writes or reads a true poem is that a true poem is necessarily an invocation to the White Goddess.”

The experience Graves describes is similar to that spooked feeling one gets while walking down a lonely road at night and pondering what might be watching him from the dark forest, or while walking through an old house at night and thinking of yarns about it being haunted or that people were killed there or that something lurks within that isn’t human.

When a writer reads or writes the truth, the bells and whistles of his spookiness truth detector go off. Now, this detector won’t help him decide whether Mobil or Valvoline is better for his car or even whether he can get the meal his body needs on any given night at Olive Garden or Outback.

No, the spookiness truth detector is usually reserved for matters of the heat and soul, gods and goddesses, sun and moon, and for thoughts and ideas that are only too happy to go bump in the night.

When I read, I want to be spooked either by thrills and chills and excitement or by the truth of important things. When I write, I know my revisions and edits are done when my eyes water and the hairs on my arms stand on end.

If you’re a writer who is in tune with his muse—or, say, with the universe—then you may feel spooked when you read Lowinsky’s book. Truth be told, my BS detector went off while reading certain sections of Robert Graves The White Goddess. But it didn’t go off when I read The Sister from Below: When the Muse Gets Her Way.

But, I’m not here to convince you to buy the book. I’ve been feeling spooked while researching and writing my novel Sarbande and while reading through a lucky haul of good novels lately.

I’m not frightened, mind you. I just wanted to spread out the chills a bit.

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I’ve started a new web log called Sarabande’s Journey to share some of the heroine’s journey resources I’ve found while working on my novel. If you are reading about, writing about, or on such a journey, I invite you to stop by and see if anything there spooks you.