We each create or confront deceptions of varying magnitudes almost everyday of our lives. Whether it’s an advertisement, a fantasy story, a padded bra, or even just hopeful thinking, things that can’t quite be classified as truth surround us. Which begs the question, is fiction necessarily malevolent? Can it possibly be harmless or even useful?

Personally, I feel a strong physical reaction when thinking about the concept of dishonesty. My body tells me it is unequivocally a bad thing. So it’s a challenge for my head to consider the idea openly and candidly. Never the less, it seems a worthy endeavor given the ubiquitous presence of this grey area.

This is where artists have a vital role to play. Creativity allows some freedom with accuracy. Exploring and interpreting things through art offers the creator a chance to face the truth and fiction of reality without the constraints most of us feel. This is the arena where fiction, which is inherently dishonest no matter how thoughtful or sincere, is clearly useful. It makes for entertainment, drama, excitement, passion, adventure and fantasy. It gives the imagination sovereignty and the freedom to roam. It is easy to love fiction in the art world.

How about the real world? Can we embrace dishonesty through our choices while abhorring it in our minds and hearts? What does this internal opposition translate to for our health and wellbeing? Should we simply embrace the minor dishonesties or is that a slippery slope toward pathology? Things become even more perplexing when you consider that wishful thinking, optimism, hopes and dreams are all concepts that live outside of the truth category.

They are somewhere between. Not exactly true yet, but not a lie. It’s the definition of grey. Are leaders being dishonest when they set high standards of achievement for themselves and their charges? Is charting new territory dishonest?

In asking all these questions, it may seem like I am setting you up for some answers. Alas, I have none. My opinion is that fiction can be a useful way of examining the truth and teasing it out of the deceptions that surround it. Almost any of these subtle dishonesties represent works of imagination. Visioning or dreaming is, in my view, an essential step to actualizing anything and so could never be a bad thing regardless of its relative “truth”.

Ian Leslie in the Economist:

There is a gushing river of verbal creativity in the normal human mind, from which both artistic invention and lying are drawn. We are born storytellers, spinning narrative out of our experience and imagination, straining against the leash that keeps us tethered to reality. This is a wonderful thing; it is what gives us our ability to conceive of alternative futures and different worlds.