|you'll know in part two why this is the primary image of this article|
Man has a penchant for seeking the Truth, the Good and the Right. And all three are founded on responsibility for one’s actions. Without acknowledging responsibility, there is no guilt. Without guilt, one has done no wrong. And the precursor of these is one’s Will. One’s Decision.
A man decided to lie today!
In the presence of the operations manager his eyes were trying to catch mine. Mine kept dodging his in an attempt to spare him the consummation of what for me is an unbearable truth--the truth that he lied in front of a person he knew knows he was lying.
And that was an awkwardly interesting opportunity for me to examine myself. I was in disbelief as to how everything was unfolding. It was I who couldn't look him in the eye and it was the liar who was fixing his eyes on mine. It was I who kept fumbling on my climbing harness and stammering with every word in the careful delivery of my oral incident report. And it was he who stood steadily and spoke seamlessly in his well-fabricated denial. Everything was in contrast with basic psychological dicta.
I came face to face with defense mechanism and desperation in action. Man has learned to dispel human tendencies in an effort to preserve his honor. Ironically, in doing so, he loses more honor. A thing cannot be saved if it ain’t there.
But what transpired this morning was not about honor. His lying to himself was not an indication that he was willing to throw all his honor away. It was never about honor. It was Fear. It was fear that compelled him to lie. It was the base fear of losing a job! And I was aware of the working of that fear in him. And so I understood.
When the customer service assistant and another busybody had me identify the guy who received the P390 payment, I knew something unpleasant was going to happen. And I thought it my duty to stop the guy’s impending moral doom. After all, it was my vainglorious inquiry about the price of renting the whole wall climbing facility that led to the revelation that all payment transactions in the sports club should be made at the reception…and the trivial discovery that I get a discount on the optional wall climbing facility of the club because I have a full-year membership. I decided to keep a distance hoping that he would just hand over the payment. But he denied it. And when the two interrogators insisted in confronting the dishonest ‘cashier’ in my presence I convinced myself that I had to do something. I was telling them that I was no longer interested in my refund. I offered to pay them another P390 to compensate for the possible loss in their business. I even feigned hunger and irritation just to let them drop the case, but to no avail. They kept apologizing for the hassle they were causing me and telling me it had to be done and that my presence was important. As he approached, it was like ‘This is it! The time has come. He is about to humiliate himself.’ As he walked towards me his eyes communicated words. They hinted a dilemma. He only had a few seconds to decide whether to just admit it or to hold on to his lie. And when he finally came to a halt the assistant said ‘Ingon si sir nagbayad man daw siya.’ (This gentleman here said he handed you the payment) and he blurted out ‘Aw nagbayad ba diay?’ (Did he?!). And that’s one of the many peculiarities of the Filipino language. Some interrogative sentences could be intelligible even without a subject. I was not the subject in his sentence. He blatantly denied our acquaintance with each other! He was erasing thirty minutes from my biography…the thirty minutes in which I intently listened to his stories about La Dura Dura and Chris Sharma and Adam Ondra. I considered that a keepsake I could use for my future name-dropping. So, at the last sound of his answer, my heart sank. I turned my attention to the railing I was leaning against. I can’t look a liar in the eye because I can’t afford to be the courier of someone’s insufferable guilt and shame. I didn't know what to say. It was only either he was the liar or I. But it never occurred to me that I had to defend myself. Nor did it cross my mind to force him to take responsibility for his actions. I had no intention of making him crucify himself. I completely surrendered. I refused to give any new answers. And with a quivering voice alternating with deep sighs, I told them to just settle the case among themselves...that I was not willing to be a part of it. And sensing that it wouldn’t be resolved there, the CSA brought the matter to the operations manager’s attention. And I was made to wait a few more minutes and write an incident report. And the manager was wise enough to resolve the case without unnecessary drama. He was made to reimburse me. And as he handed me the refund his eyes were as if saying ‘I hope you’re happy now.’ I know he would spend the next few days thinking I reported him to the CSA.
So what's the big deal with that story?
Psychologists would say. I have low self-esteem. I find my fault in any disorder. I own responsibility for the whole discord. I felt guilty for striking up a conversation with the customer service assistant on my way out. I could have left without saying a word and everything would have been just fine. If there was one consolation I could give myself, it was my decision not to implicate the male receptionist who gave me the instruction to just go straight to the wall without a pass give the payment to the guy. After the climb I would see him in a friendly walk with the guy when the guy handed me my change hours before the confrontation.
A saint would say I am compassionate. I didn't want any suffering to befall the guy. I saw justification behind lies. I was showing the CSA how to turn the other cheek. I was promoting ‘understanding’ instead of dealing justice.
A cynic would say I am either vain or insecure. I was trying to save his ass because I want others to think I am compassionate. I wanted to pay another P390 so that the two girls would think I’m benevolent. And I was insecure and scared to lose a friend. Because honestly among climbers, you rarely meet a mere acquaintance: everyone you meet is an instant friend. You become buddies.
A climber would say ‘Ang epal mo naman tol!’ Para ka namang hindi buddy. Buddies save each other’s asses. They don’t turn on each other. They don’t follow established written rules, they follow rules of thumb. It was my fault. My ignorance of the system led me to giving the money to the wrong receiver. If I had known the procedure, none of this would have happened. Wag kang tatanga-tanga para walang manloko sayo. Nagiging manloloko ang ibang tao dahil sa katangahan mo!
The oriental mystics would say that it was karma. The guy’s action was the cause of the confrontation. Some mystical force induced me to talk to the customer service assistant. And my inquiry led to a word which led to another and eventually to the confrontation. And not even my forceful intervention could stop the flow of karmic energy when I tried to hinder the confrontation. The CSA insisted on it and her apologies silenced my protests. And on our way to the operations manager’s office, the guy was asking me to cooperate with him in fabricating an excuse. But that was futile because karma had already made me write an incident report that would falsify the planned excuse. All these happened because karma dictates that the P390 should not go to the guy but to the rightful owner.
The Arabs would just say Maktub! It was written that I would talk with the customer service assistant and that there was no way for me to intervene in the chain of events. Even my intervention was written.
So which is the Right, the Good and the Truth? It depends on which of their many faces you are looking at. But the existentialist would just say There is no Truth, no Right, no Good. There are only events.