Friday, May 24, 2013

Is a lie on a death bed okay?

I'm not sure how I feel about THIS.   What do you think?

Part of me feels that, since Queen Elizabeth can't possibly make every request to meet with her citizens, dying or not, but to substitute someone who acts and looks like her is a huge lie and terribly wrong.   The other part says "well, the boy's dying and he was happy and his parents are thrilled..he'll never know he didn't really meet the queen...."  (odd, it hurts me to even type that..)
Maybe you wouldn't give this a second thought, but I find it a very interesting moral dilemma.
And no, it's not an earthshaking dilemma of a high level of importance, but even these little things, added up, reflect on society, somehow....

What are your thoughts?

Thanks, Z


Thersites said...

No matter where; of comfort no man speak:
Let's talk of graves, of worms, and epitaphs;
Make dust our paper and with rainy eyes
Write sorrow on the bosom of the earth,
Let's choose executors and talk of wills:
And yet not so, for what can we bequeath
Save our deposed bodies to the ground?
Our lands, our lives and all are Bolingbroke's,
And nothing can we call our own but death
And that small model of the barren earth
Which serves as paste and cover to our bones.
For God's sake, let us sit upon the ground
And tell sad stories of the death of kings;
How some have been deposed; some slain in war,
Some haunted by the ghosts they have deposed;
Some poison'd by their wives: some sleeping kill'd;
All murder'd: for within the hollow crown
That rounds the mortal temples of a king
Keeps Death his court and there the antic sits,
Scoffing his state and grinning at his pomp,
Allowing him a breath, a little scene,
To monarchize, be fear'd and kill with looks,
Infusing him with self and vain conceit,
As if this flesh which walls about our life,
Were brass impregnable, and humour'd thus
Comes at the last and with a little pin
Bores through his castle wall, and farewell king!
Cover your heads and mock not flesh and blood
With solemn reverence: throw away respect,
Tradition, form and ceremonious duty,
For you have but mistook me all this while:
I live with bread like you, feel want,
Taste grief, need friends: subjected thus,
How can you say to me, I am a king?

-Shakespeare, "Richard II" (Act II Sc III)

Thersites said...

In dramatis personae...

Thersites said...

The "lie" is that "kings" or "queens" who are somehow "different" from us, exist.

Z said...

Fine, but that isn't my question.

sue hanes said...

Z - I'm not sure about whether that is right or wrong - you may be right in criticizing what they did - but I have to say that Helen Mirren did a great job playing the queen in the movie. It's one of my favorites.

Shaw Kenawe said...

I'm guessing that the reasoning behind the real Queen Elizabeth not going to see the dying child is that how then would she be able to turn down all subsequent requests for a personal visit by thousands of sick and dying subjects? If she visited this child, she would then have to visit ALL children who requested a royal interview before they died. And then how could she turn down a request by an adult subject? How to justify that?

I think one can see how this would be impossible for the elderly Q.E. to fulfill. It's very sad, but I don't think she had a choice.

Helen Mirren is a star in her own right and a very caring person to have substituted for the real thing.

Z said...

Sue, she was excellent, wasn't she.

Shaw, I wrote that in my post; the Queen can't possibly take one request and not the thousands of others per day.
I think Mirren did a wonderful thing, too.
And I still question that the child was lied to.

ALL: I don't think anybody'd doubt this was the kind thing to do, it just struck me as awful to go to one's death believing a lie. To be tricked.

Maybe it doesn't strike anyone else as questionable...I'm good with that! Just curious.

Always On Watch said...

I'm not sure that it was a moral thing to do because it was, in effect, a lie.

However, I think back to the day when Mr. AOW's young niece thought that he was Santa Claus (Mr. AOW did indeed resemble Santa with his long, white winter beard) and had come to visit her; she lived way out on a farm in rural Virginia. So, we all let her think that Mr. AOW was Santa Claus so the parents didn't have to undertake a long trip to a mall where "Santa" was. Plus it would have been unkind to have told Katie that Santa hadn't really paid her a special visit, albeit the visit wasn't for the purpose of deceiving her but rather for Mr. AOW to meet up with his family.

Z said...

Hi,AOW...kind of a good comparison.
Except Katie's still alive and knows the truth now, right?
Most of us thought Santa was Dad went out on the curb once in a while during Christmas to hand candies out to the kids who were in bumper to bumper traffic in our neighborhood because it was known for the Christmas lights...four streets of us...the MOST amazing lit houses that the freeway was backed up getting off for our offramp.

Mustang said...

Helen Mirren is a marvelous actress and, I believe, truly philanthropic in her own right. To bring a little happiness into the life of a child who is terminal is a wondrous thing and I see nothing at all wrong with her portrayal in this setting. This story does not aver that Mirren was acting on behalf of Queen Elizabeth. It says, rather, that Mirren invited the boy and his family to the play …

I do not regard this as a lie, any more than lying to children about Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, or the Tooth Fairy (who as we all know, is really Ducky).

Z said...

Thanks, Mustang..I definitely see your point.
I still would hate to die thinking I'd actually met someone and hadn't. Not that I'd give it much thought at that point.

I hope the kid doesn't read the internet :-)

Z said...

Here in my office, they're more on the side of the lie than not.
(notice 'lie' is pejorative, I get that :-)

Z said...

by the way, I think I personally would be almost as pleased to meet Helen Mirren and be told she's doing this out of the goodness of her heart just for me were I the child...
I think :)

He has Down Syndrome, remember...would they have done this had he not?

Louis H. said...

Je suis d'accord avec le colonel.

Z said...

Louis! Mais..vous n'avez pas raison!! :)

OK...let me put it this way, because I LOVE to consider things like this:

Were I Helen Mirren or anyone else who said "This is the Queen, dear one..." to this dying child, I'd feel thrilled to see his delight, to have pleased him, and I'd feel, always, a niggly little feeling that I'd deceived him.

Ducky's here said...

I'd certainly rather meet Helen Mirren but I see no harm in this.

The boy was happy for a bit and it was a nice gesture on Mirren's part.

Thersites said...

She was the Queen, every bit as much as Elizabeth currently is. Queen is a symbolic role. And symbols are avatars for universals, no more, no less.

Why did the King of the King's Speech stutter? He had a hard time accepting his symbolic title.
helen Miren had no such difficulty. THAT is what makes her a Queen. ;)

Thersites said...

My point...

The original "lie" was that Elizabeth was a "Queen".

FreeThinke said...

Thank you, Mustang, for your solid, sensible response. I wish I could have put it that well, myself.

In my opinion to err on the side of kindness and mercy could never be morally wrong.

Besides, Majesty - like Beauty - is very much in the eye of the beholder.

What we seek -- unconsciously -- when we look up to "stars," "celebrities," and "VIP's" for solace, affirmation, vindication, absolution, edification -- what we REALLY seek is more intimate knowledge of GOD. In other words we tend to attribute godlike qualities to well-known figures. We reflect this in our yearnings to be closer to people we've been conditioned to regard as superior to ourselves.

I think Mirren did a godly thing in bringing comfort and solace to that boy. He may not have known it consciously, but in a spiritual sense he was yearning for GOD not the QUEEN, so in essence Mirren's kindness was in truth an evocation of the Holy Spirit, who lives in ALL of us. Therefore, in ultimate TRUTH, there was no deception at all.

Of course one must think metaphysically to accept that. The mortal -- purely material -- world automatically rejects such thinking as "poppycock." I do not. The ultimate Truth of Being does NOT lie in MATTER, but in SPIRIT.

Z said...

Thersites, you don't have to explain; we understand your point.
We don't have to agree, but I clearly get your point.

I still think a lie is a lie.
But I don't have to be Mirren and know I lied to a dying child.
And, I don't get to be Mirren and remember that I made him very happy.

Z said...

FT "in Ultimate Truth there is no deception".

holy cow.
Thanks for weighing in.

Thersites said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Thersites said...

Everything in the symbolic realm is a lie... a "necessary deception" that transmits "meaning". And this "lie" transmitted all of the "right" and "approriate" meaning. Hence the term, a " white" or " pure" lie.

FreeThinke said...

Z, I believe all things of this kind are -- and ought to remain -- intensely personal. I can well understand you, yourself, not being comfortable with impersonating Queen Elizabeth just to comfort a dying child, and it should be entirely your decision whether to do so or not.

However, I don't believe it would be right for anyone to demand LEGISLATION against such a thing just because SOME people disapprove -- not that I'm saying you would. ;-)

In any case it’s a very interesting question you’ve raised, and one that should not be dismissed lightly. It gets at the very heart of what is the difference between TRUTH and mere FACT?

In my view those who see no difference there are missing a great deal of whatever point there may be to Existence.

Thersites said...

Please. You make too much of Elizabeth. She is a Palimentary Democracies symbolic "fetish" for competent government. She could no better rule England absent Parliment than Z could.

Thersites said...

She is England's "pet hamster"... to put it in Zizekian terms. ;)

Sam Huntington said...

Years ago, I had the opportunity to attend the Legends in Concert program in Las Vegas. There I met a man whose name was John Wain. He was a former Marine who imitated John Wayne in the performance. While sitting at a table talking to him, he was just a damn fine fellow. When he began his performance, however, he was the spitting image of John Wayne in every respect. What a delight that was for me, and my family. He did ‘Rooster Cogburn’ for my daughter, and she was absolutely thrilled. Was he lying to us? Did knowing he was not John Wayne make the performance any less memorable?

We cannot underestimate the importance the monarchy has upon the psyche of the British people. I imagine that little boy was about as excited, as it was possible to be in thinking the queen knighted him. What harm is there in giving a young lad a thrill before he passes away? I say, none at all. There was no sin in this.

FreeThinke said...

Has anyone here, besides old me, ever read The Mudlark, a novel by Theodore Bonnet? Long, long ago it was made into a most marvelous movie. Irene Dunne portrayed Queen VICTORIA and Alec Guiness Benjamin Disraeli.

It centers on a little urchin -- a boy of the streets - they called them "Mudlarks" in those days -- who surreptitiously steals into Buckingham Palace through a subterranean route. He wants to see the Queen, because he has heard she is "The Mother of All England." Having no mother of his own, the little fellow feels that the Queen, therefore, must be HIS mother.

Suffice it to say the story is one of the most touching imaginable. A work of fiction to be sure -- and therefore not strictly TRUE --but it contains more TRUTH than a year's worth of daily newspapers bundled together.

FOR some reason the powers that be never show this movie anymore. Irene Dunne was a magnificent actress of broad range and incredible versatility. Her portrayal of the widowed Queen Victoria, as lonely, embittered and isolated from her people, is magnificent. When the child is apprehended and about to be treated harshly, Mr. Disraeli most kindly intervenes on his behalf, and gently persuades the Queen that it would be wise for her to meet the child, and grant him his wish.

Their meeting is one of the most beautiful things in cinematic history.

Bonnet's novel is no longer read, and the film is at least sixty years old, and seems to have been forgotten -- but I shall never forget it as long as I live.

I hope I'm not the only one who sees the connection between this and Z's most interesting and provocative question.

Thersites said...

The Duke made his living pretending to be people that he was not. Does that make him a liar?

Constitutional Insurgent said...

I'm not terribly vexed by the giving of small amounts of comfort to those who will quickly be departing us. We consistently tell our dying comrades that "they're going to be alright"........or their families that they went quickly and felt no pain.

I don't really see the difference.

Z said...

Thersites, that 'lie' is about the biggest money-maker for the kingdom, even as they spend a lot of money (though far less in the last years).
I completely disagree with you and know, full and well, most would agree with you about the Monarchy.

You have about 12 different blog incarnations; does that make you a liar?

FT, I think a simple and interesting question of mine never suggested legislation. No need to take it quite that far.
Irene's my favorite and I have seen THE MUDLARK and was very touched by it.
At least she didn't lie to him.

Sam, wonderful, but nobody said he was John Wayne and you didn't leave thinking you'd met him.

Maybe my comments aren't being read; I think it was a very sweet thing to do for this kid...yes, it made him happy. WONDERFUL!

I couldn't do it. That's just me.
I'd rather have told him this famous actress who portrays the Queen is meeting with him out of the goodness of her heart and because she cares about him and I'm sure they could have got a letter from the Queen, no problem. Lovely gesture. No lies.

And I'm loving this conversation, everybody...thanks.

Pris said...

Perhaps this child who has Down Syndrome makes a difference. Another child who had seen the Queen on TV, may have known this wasn't her.
To be so ill and knowing he was fooled, would then be rather heartbreaking.

This little boy probably doesn't realize how sick he is, or that he is going to die. I think in this instance, this pretense is ok.

Z said...

CI....I don't think anybody's against giving a small amount of comfort (or large amount) to the dying.
And you're right..we DO say those things and I'm for them.
Though, oddly, I'm also all for telling the dying the truth, too.

As I said above somewhere, maybe it's just me.

I once had a girlfriend call and she said "I hear you had your thyroid removed...I have to have surgery, is it painful? Everybody says I won't feel a thing and will be just fine!"

I told her that anybody who had surgery and suggested she wouldn't feel a thing was doing heroin or something...and that it will be uncomfortable but that it won't last long and they'll give her drugs that will help immeasurably.
Before she hung up with my good wishes for her surgery, she said "You know, I appreciate your being honest with me...and I feel better prepared now. Thanks so much."

Z said...

Pris, thanks for weighing in.
You make good points.

Always On Watch said...

I understand what you're saying and even how you feel about the matter of a lie.

I do, however, differ as follows: It is the INTENT of the lie that determines categorizing the lie as sin, IMO.

I don't know if the translation is accurate, but the KJV says, "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor." In the case of this dying boy, nobody was bearing anything AGAINST him.

It has been said that all of the social Ten Commandments can be summed up like this: "All person-to-person sin involves covetousness." If so, there was no covetousness involved in the case of this dying boy.

You also know how Jesus summed up the law: (1) Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, thy soul, and thy mind, and (2) Love thy neighbor as thyself.

Perhaps some here would rather not think that they had met the queen so as to ease their crossing of the Jordan. Perhaps other would see no harm in such an error in one's thinking because all things will be made right on the other side.


Thus ends AOW's theology lesson for today.

Always On Watch said...

Constitutional Insurgent,
I'm not terribly vexed by the giving of small amounts of comfort to those who will quickly be departing us. We consistently tell our dying comrades that "they're going to be alright"........or their families that they went quickly and felt no pain.

Excellent points!

Always On Watch said...

And one more thing....I'm not sure that this dying boy has the IQ to understand some of the nuances involved in "meeting the queen" and "meeting someone who looks like the queen." In my experience, those with Down Syndrome had difficulty distinguishing fact from fantasy AND, again in my own experience even with a high-functioning Down Syndrome teenager whom I was tutoring as he was reading Of Mice and Men (a school assignment), someone like the little boy might get very agitated if one were to try to mention the truth to him.

Always On Watch said...

I doubt that Katie remembers what happened.

Z said...


Your argument about "the other side" is persuasive to me, though I still feel like I do despite all the excellent comments.

That the boy doesn't really know isn't persuasive one bit because he's not bright, by the way. Not to me.

Thersites said...


Your not posting in your real name. Are you a liar??? ;)

FreeThinke said...

Well, Z, you have THOUGHT you were asking a simple question that demanded only a simple yes or no answer, but I and others have found it has profound and far-reaching implications about the very nature of Truth.

Please try to forgive me, but when my mind is stimulated and intrigued, as it has been today, I cannot help but go as far as I can with the chain of thoughts that occur to me.

In my understanding of Reality EVERYTHING is interconnected, so nothing can truly be isolated from the rest, unless we treat it with artificial constraints.

Time, itself, imposes many limitations, of course, but TRUTH is omnipresent, unlimited and eternal.

Most of us would love for things to be simple and manageable, but they are not and never can be.

Life LIFE, itself, that's both a wonderful and a terrible thing all at once.

FreeThinke said...

Who is Katie?

Is she the one who's always being asked to bar the door? ;-)

Anonymous said...

I agree with Pris...and Mustang.

Je ne vois pas de mal.

Z said...

FT...If this was a YES or NO response, I wouldn't have posted it.
I keep saying how grateful I am for the conversation... I don't know what else I can say. This is exactly why I posted it.

Imp..."pas DU mal" :-)

And that's fine!
I don't have a problem with disagreement...I like it.
And I still disagree. I'm getting the impression by now that that's not okay??!!

The child died believing something that wasn't true...that the Queen had had done that. It struck me as wrong....that's all. And it struck me as kind.
That's why I posted it...and why it's brought mostly good input.

AOW's point is the only one which almost persuades me to rethink; that, after life, things get straightened out somehow. I loved that. And I agree with her.

FreeThinke said...

Thersites, I wanted to let you know I, personally, appreciate -- very much -- The Hollow Crown Speech from Richard, II -- AND the video performance of it you so kindly linked.

Who was the actor, do you know? It looked as though it might be RICHARD CHAMBERLAIN, but somehow I doubt it, even though Chamberlain WAS praised for his Hamlet IN Britain mirabile dictu.

Z has touched upon a very large theme, and so a proper response calls for a very wide range of responses.

Only Shakespeare could tell us in strict iambic measure with such poignant, circuitous, elongated eloquence that kings put on their pants one leg at a time like all the rest of us guys. ;-)

Thersites said...

ps -I have no problems with Englands "monarchy", just as I have no problems with America maintaining a "representative" government.

For my representatives" are as fictionally "representative" as England's queens are actual monarchs. Barbara Mikulski is about as "representative" of me as a hairless chihuahua is.

Always On Watch said...

Katie is the name of Mr. AOW's niece -- the niece who was convinced that he was Santa Claus.

Thersites said...

...and sorry FT, I don't know who the actor was. I was actually looking for a more modern BBC version that I had watched on Netflix a few months back... but couldn't find it.

Thersites said...

the actor was SirDerick Jacobi... 1978. The "priest" in the film The Fifth Element?

Thersites said...

bad link, above

Thersites said...

My bad again... Ian Holm played Father Vito in the Fifth Element. :(

Z said...

AOW> her name isn't "Virginia"? (smile)
"Yes, Virginia, there Is a Santa Claus !" :-)

FT...I don't publish posts without wanting a wide range of responses.

This got a fantastic conversation going...very grateful for it.

WomanHonorThyself said...

fascinating topic Z..let me ponder please............Have an awesome holiday weekend my friend!:)

FreeThinke said...

"I don't publish posts without wanting a wide range of responses."

Well, my dear friend, I and several others have certainly given them to you, haven't we? ;-)

We can but try, no matter how oft we fail.

Be of good cheer. This was one of the most interesting threads I've encountered anywhere in ages.

It's so GOOD to get away from OBAMA and MUSLIMS and the MEDIA, all the rest of junk that surrounds us. This was a GREAT post.

Thank you for putting it up.

FreeThinke said...

Derek Jacobi is one of the greatest actors. I love everything he's done that I have seen from I Claudius through Shakespeare and Dickens, the marvelous Mediaeval Detective Priest, whose name Alas! I cannot recall, and the sad saga of Alan Turing, the British genius who helped shorten the Second World War by cracking The Enigma Code, and then was treated very shabbily because he was a homosexual, etc.

He's like Olivier in that he gets so thoroughly immersed in whatever character he portrays that his own, personal identity completely disappears. Only the very great can do that.

Ed Bonderenka said...

Your question asks if it's appropriate to "substitute" someone as the queen, as if they set out to fool the boy, especially when you mentioned that the queen can't visit everyone.
In reading the story, none of that was applicable.
Similar to Mustang, et al, let me say that the boy was taken to the play and visited with a gracious actress in character.
That is different than "sending" someone to decieve, as your question implied.
I love you Z, so tongue in cheek I say that your question's characterization of the situation was, itself, deceptive.

viburnum said...


Mediaeval Detective Priest?

Are you thinking of William of Baskerville in "The Name of the Rose"?

If so that was Sean Connery

viburnum said...


My apologies sir. I'd forgotten Brother Cadfael.

Ed Bonderenka said...

Jacobi played a medieval priest in a Brit series, Cadfiel, or such, no?

FreeThinke said...

Thanks, Ed and Viburnum. Yes Jacobi played in CADFAEL - a four part series spread over several years in the late nineties. Everything about it was memorable, except the name, itself.

I just did a little detective work to find it. Glad others remembered BROTHER CADFAEL too.

Aside from the stories, themselves, which were very well plotted, I found the series particularly interesting because it evoked the atmosphere of what it must have been like to live close to the earth in those (mercifully) faraway times. You could almost smell the animals and feel the chill damp of living in rough huts or unheated stone buildings

Brother Cadfael was very advanced -- a man far ahead of his time, who had the wisdom not to fight the ignorance and superstition of the period head on, but to work around it with grace and good humor. A wonderful character.

I wish they'd replay the series. Really good stuff lke that never gets tiresome.

Z said...

Ed, so they didn't fool the boy? They didn't substitute for the queen? How so?
He thinks Helen Mirren was the queen.
explain...I'm open!

FT...what's this CADFAEL thing? Can I get this on Netflix? Sounds interesting.

Ed Bonderenka said...

It doesn't appear that the intent was to decieve the boy, only entertain.
it may be that he was decieved and they let him believe it really was the queen so as not to confuse him.
I always felt Cadfael was inspired by The Name of the Rose, thus the earlier confusion over the actor.

Z said...

Ed, when you introduce someone AS the queen, and it's not, that's deceit.

Z said...

From the article "Oliver thought she was the real Queen, and well, that's good enough for us," the boy's father told Britain's Daily Mail. The actress even "knighted" the boy and "told everyone that they had to call him Sir Oliver," his father added. "He had a brilliant day."

Z: and it's wonderful that he was SO HAPPY! Even "knighted"!
And I would NEVER EVER take from that happiness, though I think I've been mischaracterized here about that.......I never said I didn't think it was sweet.
But, he will die knowing he met the Queen! And was Knighted.

Except he wasn't.

I see both sides. I personally wouldn't have done it to my son. I'd have said how lucky we were that we got a letter from the queen (which I'm sure she does do for the dying, particularly the children, if only a form letter) and that this amazing actress thought enough of him to invite him for tea and the performance AND that she'd tease him as a new Knight. Wonderful in itself, no?

Ed Bonderenka said...

Z, it doesn't say that.
It says he went to a play.
That implies she's an actress.
He obviously came to believe she was the queen, and no one dissuaded him.
She wasn't someone representing the queen because the queen was unavailable.
Maybe I'm being Pollyannish here, but the way I read it is that they took him to a play, not to fake seeing the queen.
Mirren generously sought to enlarge upon the entertainment.

viburnum said...

All of Cadfael is available on Youtube

Starts here:

Ducky's here said...

You live in a very cold world, z.

To deny this joy to a mentally challenged boy near death serves no purpose.

Z said...

Ducky, you should be so lucky to live in my "cold world"...

Ed...he believed it. She isn't it.
He's impaired mentally and that worked for them. And him.

I've loved the conversation here and, as I said above, I think it's wrong but, if it made him happy and they can live with it...that's what matters.
I simply couldn't do it.

I have nowhere on this site said it didn't make him happy and that that's a nice thing.

TSWS said...

The Brits are know for their (type of) humor.
Down syndrome people just can't lie (unless they work at it),right off.
But just maybe he knew and did not say so to make his parents happy.

Z said...

TSWS, what a REALLY nice way to think about it.
I'm going to go with that! have a good soul. He probably does, too.

beamish said...

That smile makes Helen Mirren totally not look like Queen Sourpuss.

sue hanes said...

Z - Speaking of Helen Mirren in the movie The Queen - I had to keep reminding myself that she was just an actor.

Same with Frank Langella in Frost/Nixon. He looked so much like Richard Nixon and sounded like him. I think that is also an excellent movie. I've watched both of them many times.

Pris said...

Is there anyone here who hasn't told a little white lie to someone, so as not to hurt his or her feelings?

I consider it an act of kindness!

Z said...

Pris, I think it was kind, too, as I've said time and time again.

To go to his deathbed believing something so happily that really isn't true bothers me.
I'm totally cool with the fact that most everybody here disagrees with me!

I'd never have done that. As I said somewhere above, I'd have thought this kid would have been thrilled that the great actress Helen Mirren was happy to meet him and spend time with him and they could have got a letter from the Queen, no problem.

I LOVE that he was happy! I think they were VERY kind.

Kid said...

A lie in this situation is unacceptable. Period.

I don't find it acceptable to lie to kids at anytime about anything btw.

If they ask the question, they want to know the answer, not some BS.

Average American said...

Anyone that thinks God would be against this doesn't believe in the same God as I do.

The only possible problem would be if the boy somehow finds out the truth from a careless visitor or from the TV or newspapers.

Z said...

Avg American...who said God would be against this?

I am, not Him.

Kid..thank GOD somebody at least agrees with me. I think you're the only one :-), though Always On Watch came close!