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Johannes Moreelse: Clio: Muse of History, c. 1634
" … we recognize who fooled who, and recoil."

I feel fortunate to be able to report that I've only been taken mean advantage of a few times in my life so far. I might have avoided each instance, I later reflected, had I paid closer attention not to the villain but to myself, for I came to realize that I'd known I'd been offered a rubber worm before I'd decided to sink my teeth into it. I was probably just needer than I had suspected and so too easily ignored the clear and present felt sense that the villain was not to be trusted. I had successfully fooled myself, for my mountebanks had each very clearly exhibited Transpacities, those cues that a phony transparency's before me, in everything they'd said and done. They couldn't help it. They'd each offered some form of instant intimacy, an authentic impossibility, but in my then present state of neediness, I'd ignored the cue. We're each capable of doing this to ourselves.

Some believe that people are always trying to cloak who they really are and what they're really up to.
I believe that regardless of how hard one tries to deceive, they're doomed to fail because we can always tell the difference between authentic and deceptive. We might require a little time to catch on to precisely what seems troubling about an attempted cloaking, but it troubles us almost the moment we encounter it. I might buy into an offered too-easy friendship, for instance, but I sense the difference between it and authentic. When I see myself being seduced, something clicks. It takes my willful indifference to a growing predominance of cues for me to do nothing in response. I'll later catch myself colluding if I don't question nearer the beginning of such an encounter. The unsolicited glad-hand wants more than a firm or fair shake. It's there to take something, and I instantly sense it. Whether I respond with questioning skepticism or willful blind submission matters, but I always know early when something smells fishy.

One might fool some of the people some of the time, but eventually, essentially nobody's fooled. The buyer will come to know that you sold him a lemon. History ultimately catches up with everyone. Clio, the Muse of History, is always scribbling in the background, accurately capturing whatever transpires. When it seems too good to be true, it's only because it's actually too good to be true and therefore false. We sense these faults yet still sometimes persist in, for a time, overriding our own innate senses. Whatever the justifying reason, we accept self-deception as a welcome respite then, but even then, I contend that we know. We sense it, and not because we're unjustifiably paranoid. Every time I've been taken for a fool, I later came to accept that I fooled myself first.

The mountebank seems to know how to encourage others to fool themselves. He actually fools nobody, not even himself. Even as his pyramid scales, the stories he tells ring false and only those deceiving themselves seem to fall prey, and even they sense that they are deluding themselves. The resulting house of cards never once resembles a sturdy house of stone and was destined to tumble down. Still, these deceptions seem common and might enjoy long half-lives in some short run. A Presidential term might seem long when embedded within it, but The Muse of History's report on it might extend no longer than a brief minute. Later, whatever seemed so immediate and compelling seems so much less so in her retelling. What were we thinking? History's Muse might suggest that we were not thinking at all, and, more importantly, not feeling either. We ignored obvious Transpacities at our immediate peril. Later, we recognize who fooled who, and recoil.

©2020 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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