Is that really a question or is it something else

When someone asks a question, do you take the question at face value or do you pause to consider the motivation behind the asking of the question? Do you wonder why the person is asking that question? Do you ask – Is that really a question or is it something else?

Some questions are straightforward, and the motivation for asking them is in the question itself. Such as when you get stopped in the street by a stranger who asks you to give them directions.

Although even those kind of questions sometimes have to be considered carefully.

“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”


― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

When I was about 9 years old, while rollerskating up and down the street where I lived in London, I was asked the way to Hyde Park by a man.

He seemed nice. He looked normal. He claimed to have recently moved to the area and didn’t know his way about yet.

But my mother had told me many gruesome tales about children being abducted by strangers. She stressed the fact that adults who want to snatch a child tend to appeal to a child’s innocence, their desire to please and tendency to trust adults, take what they’re saying at face value.

Since I lived near Hyde Park… I was a bit wary of such a stupid question on the part of an adult. But adults could be very dumb. And children were not supposed to be rude to adults and highlight their stupidity, that made adults angry and liable to punish the child.

I pointed to a road and explained that if he followed it all the way to the end he’d find the park. The man barely looked at the road, he kept looking at me. He told me that he was prone to getting lost and asked me if I could take him there.

“How doth the little crocodile
Improve his shining tail,
And pour the waters of the Nile
On every golden scale!

How cheerfully he seems to grin,
How neatly spreads his claws,
And welcomes little fishes in,
With gently smiling jaws!”

― Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

I answered in the affirmative. He seemed relieved by that.

I took off on my rollerskates and stopped where my street joined the road I’d pointed at. I waited for him to catch up and then pointed at the trees at the very end of that road. I told him that was the park, and that this was as far as I was going.

He seemed a bit put out, and lingered instead of heading to his destination. He claimed that he was still afraid of getting lost. But by then his childish appeals were annoying, and I was getting rude in my replies.

He finally realised that there was no way in hell I was going anywhere with him, so he cut to the chase – the real motivation behind his original question.

He asked me the colour of my underwear.

“People like us don’t go out at night cause people like them see us for what we are.”


― Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist

The other day Lauren of Lolsys Library shared an image (see below) in a post – I Don’t Love The Way You Lie

and asked – Why would someone lie about that?

I can think of multiple reasons for lying about something like that.

The simplest reason is that you were supposed to read the book as part of a school assignment. You tried, it was boring, you gave up, or you were too busy with other things and didn’t have time to do it, so when your teacher asked you if you did your homework and read the book – you lied.

A blogging version of that is pressing ‘Like’ on a post which you haven’t read. Maybe you tried to read it, and it just didn’t interest you. You pressed ‘Like’. It’s not a lie because the ‘Like’ button doesn’t have rules about when you can and can’t press it. It’s not your fault if the blogger thinks your ‘Like’ means you read their post. It would be slightly different if the ‘Like’ button was a ‘Read’ button, but that word in English has a loophole – it could mean ‘to be read’ sometime later.

“Ask no questions, and you’ll be told no lies.”


― Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

Many readers have at least one pile of ‘to be read’ books. Which may include the books on that list above. But are they part of the ‘I am so looking forward to reading that‘ pile or the ‘I am so lying to myself about ever reading that‘ pile.

To lie successfully, sell your story to others, you have to buy into your own lie first – believe it and others will believe it too.

Once you’ve placed a lie into the belief section of your mind, sometimes it just stays there, builds a house, settles into its new home, gets married and has children.

The truth can be jarring. It can destroy the family and home built by a lie. It can get you into trouble… which you could so easily avoid by lying.

Another simple reason for lying about having read a book is peer pressure and the fear of consequences if you haven’t done what your social group considers to be a must-do.

Lying can make you a respectable member of society, whereas the truth may cause you to be labeled a freak and ostracised.

WHAT!?! You haven’t watched Game of Thrones!!!! Well, you’re not one of us then, off with your head, don’t show your decapitated face around here again until you’ve got with our system.

“This looks like one of those unwelcome social summonses which call upon a man either to be bored or to lie.”


― Arthur Conan Doyle, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

I once told my brother-in-law that I hadn’t read any of the Harry Potter books. I wished I’d lied about it and said that I had. He made it his mission to convert me to Harrypotterism, he even recruited his daughter as an agent to help him with his plan. I’ve read a quarter of one chapter of one of the books. I can now tell people I’ve read Harry Potter.

As I was pondering Lauren’s question, an old habit of mine kicked in. The one where I question the question and the motives the person had for asking it. I found myself wondering if Lauren’s question was one of those which is a something else.

It’s not. I can take what Lauren says at face value. If she reads this I’m sure she’ll understand as she’s had some run-ins with the sort of people who inspired me to develop that habit.

I’ve spent a lot of my lifetime around people whose questions cannot be taken at face value – narcissists.

If a narcissist asks – Why would people lie about reading a book? – it’s not a question.

Narcissists regularly lie, so they know why people lie. They would lie about reading those books, and therefore they know why others would lie about reading them.

“It was miraculous. It was almost no trick at all, he saw, to turn vice into virtue and slander into truth, impotence into abstinence, arrogance into humility, plunder into philanthropy, thievery into honor, blasphemy into wisdom, brutality into patriotism, and sadism into justice. Anybody could do it; it required no brains at all. It merely required no character.”


― Joseph Heller, Catch 22

However that image states that ‘most people‘ lie about reading those books… a narcissist must never be a ‘most people‘. They must always be the exception, special, better than, superior to, above all others. Thus in that instance their formula would be – most people lie + I am not most people = I would never lie about such a paltry thing!

That question asked by a narcissist is an identity statement, the ego showing off – I have located inferior beings to whom I am superior and now I shall advertise it.

They’re not interested in other people unless those people can be used to the benefit of the narcissist’s persona, facade and self-image.

If you answer a narcissist when they ask – Why would people lie about reading a book? – with a personal story of having lied about reading a book then they now have a weapon to be used against you. You’ve admitted that you’re a liar, this will be stored as an accusation for later when you catch them out in a lie and they need to distract and discredit you.

If you give them an impersonal answer which contains empathy and understanding of others and their reasons for lying – you’ve just shown them that you have a knack for making excuses for liars, and they’ll be using that ability of yours to defend them when someone else catches them out in a lie.

If you answer them by saying that you too do not understand why anyone would lie about something like that and:

1 – the way you say it is narrow-minded, judgemental of others, then you’ve just informed the narcissist that you’re easy prey. Those who are certain that there is only one correct answer to a question, they have it and they’re right about it, are the easiest for a narcissist to manipulate.

“People generally see what they look for, and hear what they listen for.”


― Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

2 – the way you say it is innocent, naive, reflective of someone who takes people at face value, is not wary of others, does not question the facade with which they are presented…

OR the way you say it tells the narcissist that you’re eager to please the narcissist, you want to be agreeable, helpful, considered a good person, not be rude, not disagree, not upset them…

Then they can lie to you freely and you won’t double check, you’ll just go along with whatever they say. They can lead and you will follow… them to the park, and by the time it dawns on you that there was a sinister motive behind their question, it’ll be too late for you.

“From now on, it is our task to suspect each and everyone amongst us. Forewarned is forearmed. Take no risks and be alert to danger. That is all.”


― Agatha Christie, And Then There Were None

Thanks to my mother’s repeatedly told tales of adults luring children away with requests for help and then doing terrible things to those children, I didn’t go with that stranger.

But… long before my mother needed to fill my head with all those cautionary tales to help me help her protect me, I was a cautious of adults child. And she regularly got mad at me for being that way, for being a difficult brat.

She spent a lot of time and effort drumming into me that I needed to be respectful of all adults, that I needed to be polite, considerate, thoughtful, helpful to strangers, and stop being suspicious of everyone because it was embarrassing for her to apologise to the adults I’d upset by glaring at them and walking away from them when they were being fake-nice or some other kind of creepy to me.

“There is, I believe, in every disposition a tendency to some particular evil, a natural defect, which not even the best education can overcome.”
“And your defect is a propensity to hate everybody.”
“And yours,” he replied with a smile, “is wilfully to misunderstand them.”


― Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

Books are a bit like people.

Some are popular, others are not.

Some are a pleasure to read, whose company you blossom in and that book becomes a part of your own book.

Some you are forced to spend time with, and are an ordeal to read. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the book isn’t a good one, it’s just not one you personally enjoyed.

Some we remember, some we forget. Some we recall because we hated them. Some are erased from our mind even though we loved them dearly while we knew them.

Some teach us lessons about the world, others teach us about ourselves by showing us who we are and are not.

Some get categorised, labeled, put on a list, others don’t.

Most of my favourite books aren’t on that list, but then neither are my least favourite books.

What’s my score? The average, unless I count books I’ve started reading and stopped because that’s as far as I was going.

27 comments

  1. Interesting post! What are people’s true intentions? Reminds me of the time you asked me why I asked the questions I did one post. You are very wise. What a scary position to be in at Hyde Park! Cautionary tales sure helped you. I was scrolling through Netflix and paused on the movie Lovely Bones. It sent chills down my spine because the murderer is just a next door neighbor who builds dollhouses to lure young girls.

    Like

    • Thank you, Sa 🙂

      Yes, I remember asking you about why you’d asked those questions. You asked some great questions, and I wanted to know your story behind the questions you’d asked. Most people who ask great questions tend to be very intriguing people who have wonderful worlds within them. You have a beautiful energy to you, you’re genuinely curious and interested – it’s a rare natural talent, rarer than it seems.

      Being female, regardless of age, brings many experiences like the Hyde Park one. I remember that one because it’s a point of reference not just for creepy human stuff but for other things too. I wouldn’t have been as polite with the man and put up with him as long as I did if my mother hadn’t been such a nag about me being impolite to people I didn’t know and didn’t trust. I’d have told him immediately to ask an adult for help rather than a child. So while her cautionary tales helped, I wouldn’t have needed their help if she hadn’t interfered with my natural tendencies in the first place.

      I’ve not seen the film, but I have read The Lovely Bones and Lucky by Alice Sebold – she is an amazing author!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks Ursula! 🙂

        I guess I’ve always been fascinated by the podcasts I listen to. The interviewers help unlock the world of the person they’re interviewing introducing the audience to a great trip. It’s an adventure in itself.

        I guess your mother cared about how the public would view her if you were impolite. She should have just let you be a kid. I think it’s very normal for kids to treat strangers with caution. I’ve seen videos of kids kicking, screaming, and biting strangers who’ve abducted them. I wouldn’t feel bad at all if a child were to just give me a cold stare if they didn’t know me. It makes my heart feel better that they would be a little safer in the world.

        Never checked out Lucky by Alice Sebold yet! Been a while since I’ve read her work, but I’m sure it has a great hook.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Q: if there is a song that would describe/resonate with your life experience thus far, which song would that be? Or if there any song you is talkingin a personal way to you?

      I wish there is a thought recorder for the mind…

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Lol honestly, I only read in entirety Sherlock Holmes and Fifty Shades of Grey. Anna Karenina—nearly half, then stopped. But of those titles that had been made into a film, I watched all of them. There are 3 books in the list I have not heard of 😉

    Oh yes, schools assignments… When I was in high school, we always had reading assignment for the holidays, after which you would write a reading summary on the book. I like reading but there are so many books I want to read and plenty other things to do. Anyway, just to clarify, this reading assignment is only for Chinese language.

    Guess what? I’ve submitted all the reading summaries yet never read a book. The teacher had never once questioned me on that though I’d think she probably guessed I cheated and only kept quiet becos I wrote a decent summaries. The books titles I submitted in my summaries are by Jin Yong, the most famous Chinese Wuxia (martial arts and chivalry) novelist. And they are almost very very long novels, I couldn’t have read them, but I’d watch all those books on TV dramas.

    A very provocative post especially when humans are like books. What kind of a book are you?

    I see myself as a good read but maybe erased from their minds once read 😉

    Like

    • Thank you, Reverist 🙂

      I think I may be a book of useless knowledge. I had one of those as a child and read it over and over. It seemed like the best kind of knowledge to have 😉

      I don’t think you’re a book which can be forgotten. I would say however that the memory is a sensory one rather than an intellectual one because you tap into the senses with your writing.

      If you think about it, when a teacher gives a class full of pupils a book to read and write a book report about… that’s a lot of book reports to read, most of which are probably boring because the book was a serious classic and the pupils found it dull and probably didn’t read it all, maybe used crib notes to do their homework. So, does the teacher really read the book reports properly? My teachers, especially once I was at school in Paris, definitely only skim-read the book reports and marked it based on grammar and spelling. Those particular teachers really didn’t care if the pupils read the book.

      Like

      • A book of useless knowledge can be more than useful if one knows how to use it 😉

        I got it how the teacher would mark the reviews, normally students choose any random book and spin the review, but I was too lazy for that. Those book titles I used were made into popular dramas, it was too obvious. I just didn’t think any of my mates would do that.

        Excuse me, I talk gibberish in my earlier comment. My thoughts were running in a loop yesterday lol. Thank you, Ursula 🙂

        Like

        • Your comment made perfect sense to me, you were flowing along a route of associations which I could follow. I tend to prefer that kind of conversation since I get to go on someone else’s mind trip 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

  3. I prefer to answer questions, with questions!

    I guess it all depends on how gullible or determined someone may be. It is important to thoroughly understand before committing.

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  4. I actually have read all but 2 or 3 of the list. I made it a goal to read the classics.
    People are like books. Aren’t we always told not to judge them by their covers?
    My first response to a lot of questions is “Why do you want to know?” My trust, feelings and safety have been betrayed too many times.
    If I do decide to answer a question, the asker better be prepared for the truth. My brain is too tired to come up with lies and keep track of them.

    I’m really enjoying your writing style and topics!

    Like

    • Thank you, Angie 🙂

      That’s an impressive score!

      Asking “Why do you want to know?” is a smart response to questions. It’s a way of clarifying communication with ourselves and with others. The truth definitely wins over lies as an answer, it’s more interesting and it keeps things real.

      Like

  5. Hi Ursula🍎Love the connection you made with lies.

    This is the fear I have as a mom😯. But it’s great that you picked up on his “grooming” technique and relied on your intuition. I’ll school my boys too, but I hope they’re observant.

    I hated summer reading lists😡I read (during the school season) To Kill A Mockingbird, Great Expectations, The Diary of Anne Frank because of High school. I think I read The Great Gatsby in college, but I saw the movie for sure( and loved it!!)
    Movies: 1984, Oliver Twist (“please sir, may I have some more” is the only line I remember from that movie)
    Fifty Shades (my personal reading) I read the whole damn trilogy and was enamored by it at the time, but looking back am like “meh” (and I definitely didn’t want to see the movie).

    If I didn’t read it, I was truthful. I don’t like being forced to read books that I couldn’t relate with.

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    • Thank you, Scherezade 🙂

      Kids tend to be very intuitive about the intentions of adults. If they’re encouraged to trust their instincts, react accordingly and not worry about upsetting an adult, then they tend to be smarter than adults about dealing with predators. They need to know the danger exists, that not all adults should be trusted, and that they have the right to say NO. You’re a great mom, you respect your kids and that teaches them to respect themselves – that’s a very valuable survival skill for a kid and for an adult.

      In my interaction with that guy, I let things go on longer than I wanted because I was worried about being rude to an adult. I was trying to do what my mother had taught me to do – to be polite to adults, including strangers. If I’d gone with my more natural instinctive approach, I’d have been rude from the get go, ignored him, refused to talk with him at all. That’s how I behaved with adults I didn’t know when I was younger, but it embarrassed my mother and she lectured the natural reaction out of me.

      It’s strange to think about all the layers, nature and nurture, learned and instinctive, involved in being and doing.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Simply fascinating, as usual. I’m going to reblog this so others can ‘answer’ the questions contained in that picture, or some that aren’t. Mine will be from the perspective of a ‘reformed’ liar. It was useful being a liar at one point (and for a good long time after) in my life, but now it’s no longer useful and has (mostly) been discarded because I know what is down that particular path and I don’t care to hang out there any more. Thank and bless you Ursula! You ALWAYS make me think. (oh and I got a score of “11” off that list… no lie).

    Like

    • Thank you, Melanie 🙂

      That is an awesome score!!!

      I think it’s useful to learn how to be a liar – it’s a valuable survival skill. Especially when you’re a child because the truth tends to inspire in adults the need to punish you. Once you know how to do it, then you can opt out of it and only use it when needs must. Being truthful tends to be a better approach for the most part, it’s also more fun and interesting. Lying is boring, it has a stagnating feel to it, things get tied up in complex knots and get stuck like that. The truth has an alive and electric feel to it.

      Like

  7. I did “like” this post. And I did read it…the whole think. I have read eight of the books on the list, assuming that the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy and “The Hobbit” are counted as one book. It would be nine if having read only the first Harry Potter book can be considered “The Harry Potter Series.”

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    • Thank you, Fandango 🙂

      It was rather an odd list. So many Dickens. I was going to investigate it a bit further to see how it was compiled and by whom, but then I couldn’t be bothered. I definitely think you can count Harry Potter if you’ve read one book in the series.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I love this post and wanted to comment, even though it has taken me a couple of days to get back to it. About that Hyde Park guy – what a creep. Your understanding of how adults can be lead to a cautious response.
    I read your post. 🙂 And I’ve read a lot of those books. Some of them I really disliked, such as To Kill a Mockibgbird. Some I couldn’t finish – Anna Karenina and 50 Shades of Grey. Only got through about 10 pages of that one. There was a time when I forced myself through a book I thought I “should” read (kind of like taking a pill – it’s good for you) but not anymore. I never made it through Lord of the Rings either.

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    • Thank you, Lynette 🙂

      That’s an excellent description of how it feels to force yourself to read a book which is supposed to be good for you. It’s definitely a pill! The one which always comes to mind is Madame Bovary. I was trying to recall what it was about that book which made it so hard for me to read, and which eventually made me give up on reading it properly. I managed to get a couple of chapters in and then flipped through the rest reading bits and pieces because I had to write a book report. I recall thinking she was just the whiniest, selfish, most boring character I’d ever come across. In retrospect I think she may have been a narcissist 😉

      School put me off reading for a while, especially any book which was considered a classic. Later on I did wonder if perhaps part of the problem was that some of the books they force students to read are too old for our young minds, and we’d appreciate them more when our minds are older. I did try to test that theory out, but my mind had already been programmed to dislike the authors whose works I had been forced to read for school. I couldn’t make it do what it did not want to do. I did like reading Zola, which surprised me, especially Germinal. Stendhal’s Le Rouge et le Noire was also a surprise because it’s quite heavy, but it appealed to my teenage angst.

      It’s an interesting way to get insight into who we were and are, through what we can read easily and what we find hard to read.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. What a fascinating post Ursula and especially the way you have woven it into the psyche – very nicely done. Of the list, mm 7 l think and read from the start to the finish and which ones did l like the most? Well l am a Harry Potter fan, and as much as liked watching the films l found all of the books a much more scintilating rise. Started reading those early forties long after the first film was released, l only watched the films because l loved the books.

    Catch – 22 – by Josephe Hellier has always been a major favourite, the film was interesting also. I love films as much as books, but probably films would win the day, yes bad me, much easier to watch a film than it is to read a book. However if a film is remarkable l will read the book. I remember reading Papillon by Henri Charrière and the sequel Banco. But l watched the original Papillon film with Hoffman and McQueen 1973 which was also a brilliant film.

    1984 alongside Kes and Animal Farm were books l read at school and l read Fifty Shades because l wanted to see what all the hype was about, and as l suspected, it was about nothing.

    Of the listed books, which in some ways is an unsual list, but not as the titles are all over the place like some of these lists are … the 7 l have read series as well as singles are the only ones l have wanted to read. The others simply held no appeal.

    once more excellent post.

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    • Thank you very much, Rory 🙂

      I don’t think it’s bad to prefer watching films to reading the books the films were based upon, that’s just one of those elitist concepts humans create to one-up each other and prove that their way is the better way. Whichever way works for you, brings you joy, captures your imagination and interest, is the way to go. Doing a bit of both is a great mix!

      I also loved the film versions of Catch-22 and Papillon.

      Liked by 1 person

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