Tuesday, September 4, 2007

This will literally take only 2 seconds to read

To introduce the Primary lesson I taught on Sunday, I wrote on the board 'What is the most incredible thing you've ever heard?' The lesson was on the Resurrection, and I thought this question would be a nice way to introduce this truly incredible and important gospel principle. I made it clear to the class that whatever their responses to this question were, they had to be true. What I failed to consider was that my class consisted of four ten-year old boys. It turns out, these boys have heard lots of incredible things, although the veracity of these incredible facts is somewhat questionable. Their examples became increasingly more unbelievable, and the discussion completely devolved when one boy recounted a story that included a freak accident involving a highlighter-sniffing classmate, a semi-truck, and a bicycle. I won't awe you with the details.

When children tell outrageous tales, we call it 'telling stories.' When adults tell such tales, we call it lying. Still, our childhood fascination with telling stories never really escapes us. We know that when we tell a story, it should have a point, but it's even better if it's interesting, too. And so, when we tell our own stories, our own personal narratives, the impulse to exaggerate, to embellish, to enhance is always present.

A good example of this is found when people recount events that took a specific amount of time. We often hear things like, 'It literally took me all day to finish that paper!' Or, 'I literally spent 8 hours in line at the DMV.' When you say such things, it's almost as if your subconscious knows you're about to lie, and sends a message to your brain, saying, 'Throw out literally! Then we'll really fool them!'

Of course, we omit information as often as we exaggerate it to make our personal narratives more interesting: I took 1st in my division (out of ...1), I only got 'A's in college (I only enrolled in and completed 1 course... bowling), I scored just below the 95th percentile (okay, I scored in the 75th percentile).

I could go on, but I have a really important meeting with the Prime Minister of Malaysia in literally 2 seconds.


Seth said...

Kim, it's not safe to assume that everyone gets an 'A' in bowling. Denise really struggled in her bowling class at Ricks. Of course she had a hard time making it to a lot of her classes, but that's another story.

I have similar problems with embellishing the truth, but the worst is when I go halfway. Sometimes I attempt to stretch the truth to make a story funny, but I stop short of funny. Like when I say "I ate so many Oreos. I literally ate 11 in one sitting." It would have sounded so much better if I just said 40, but I can't go all the way. I'm an embarassment.

Heaps of Fun said...

This is one of those human "quirks" that would be hilarious played out on Seinfield. You are right, we are, much of the time dishonest with ourselves and others not meaning to be. I am literally sick just thinking about it because I do this about 50 times a day and it is absolutely disgusting!

jdm said...

I love reading your blog.
What is it about human nature that makes us embellish things so that they are just a little bit exaggerated?
I remember once telling Matt that it would take me about 17 minutes to get home and he laughed for days because I was being so specific. Maybe I can blame my exaggeration on the public scorn of Matt!