I am laughing a lot.
It is an episode of ‘Would I lie to you?’ in which two teams have to spot whether someone from the other team is telling the truth or a lie.
It is Bob Mortimer’s turn.
He is telling us how he once spent a day in a recording studio with fellow Geordie guitarist/singer Chris Rea. They were recording a song for the Middlesbrough football team.
At the end of the day, Chris Rea ran him a bath – apparently the studio had one. But before Bob got in, Chris Rea broke an egg into the bath, both the yolk and the white. He said it was healthier, made you feel better.
‘And ever since then,’ Bob concludes ‘I have broken an egg in my bath water. True or false?’
He is questioned for some time, and it is very funny; but then a decision has to be made. David Mitchell, the opposing team captain can’t decide.
‘If anyone else had told that story, it would be ‘Lie’ straight away. But somehow Bob makes it possible. I’m going to say it’s true!’
It is, of course, a lie. Chris Rea had never broken an egg into Bob’s bath after a long day in a recording studio. And David Mitchell’s reaction is wonderful.
Beating the table and shouting in hysterical despair, he declares: ‘Of course it’s a lie, it must be a lie! How can it possibly be anything else? I knew it was a lie! How could I ever say it was true?!’
It made me think of all the poor choices I have made; perhaps you have too.
It may be a small decision that turns out to be a bad one – say, a choice of dish in a restaurant, once you see everyone else’s splendid meals arrive.
‘Why didn’t I choose one of those? Why on earth did I choose the ham and pineapple pizza?!’
Or it may be a big decision in your life, which had significant consequences – concerning your career, perhaps, or a relationship or some adventure that turned out badly.
‘Why on earth did I do that?’
It can then become a source of endless self-punishment – or a loop of the endless ‘Why?’ question, which disables so many lives.
My sense of my own decisions is that I don’t know anything and always decide blind.
Some considered decisions have turned out well; and others have turned out abysmally.
And it’s the same for instinctive decisions – some have flown, others nose-dived.
In a way, this is unsettling. It certainly dismantles any sense of me being in control.
Experience tells me – my own and others’ – that if I make a supposedly ‘good’ decision, (by which I mean that things work out) it’s mainly luck.
And equally, if I make a supposedly ‘bad’ decision, (by which I mean things don’t work out) it’s mainly just unlucky.
My sense is that my decisions – whether considered or instinctive – have outcomes I cannot see at the time.
My sense is also that I am not in control… and this truth can be difficult to accept, especially in those big decisions with carry such consequences.
(We do like to imagine control.)
But ultimately, here is a truth which frees me. I can stop the self-punishing, for a start; and I can stop taking the strain for everything… and simply allow the unfolding.
I will always do my best with decisions and try to keep my intentions clean.
But beyond that, I have no power at all. In my experience, there’s not much difference between an inspired decision and an absurd one.
Once we allow this, we may be able to apologise more, with less of our ego caught up in things; and we will certainly be able to laugh more.
David Mitchell beat the table with his fists in both despair and hilarity.