Answers

There’s this cult, one of many in this world, called the Morninglight that offers an online personality test. (I took mine at a public terminal in New York.) You’re guided through a series of personal questions and at the end, you’re given life advice based on your responses. It didn’t take me long to figure out that the whole thing was rigged. It’s not even as sophisticated as some of those political questionnaires in which the most sensible answer slowly moves your philosophical barometer in the direction of whatever party is asking the questions. Nope: no matter how you answer the questions, the answer to all of your problems in this life is to join their totally awesome cult. It’s answer-agnostic both ways.

So when I found about the optional Personality Information Request (PIR) module made available to members of the Dragon – another cult but with more real world clout – I decided to put my answer-agnosticism to the test by answering some of their intrusively personal questions with throw-away responses. I didn’t do very well. That is to say, my responses were entirely truthful.

I have an issue with lying: I’m not very good at it. I’ve been called “straitlaced” by more than one authority figure. My father generally agrees with this description, whereas my eternally vigilant mother remains skeptical. I remember once, as a teenager, when we were visiting a Buddhist temple out in the countryside. A small child was there with his parents asking a million questions while giving a play-by-play of what he was doing as he was doing it. I was standing about ten feet away from the chatterbox when he suddenly stopped talking. A smallish Buddha statuette lay on the concrete floor, broken in two at the middle.

Like a fool, I stepped over and put the statuette pieces back on the raised shelf whence they had tumbled next to a larger Buddha offering statue, one of those fat ones that lies on his side bearing a huge grin on his face and sporting an attached tray for coin donations. He sat next to a plate of mangoes and a water-filled shot glass with the words “FREE DICK RIDES” in horseshoe Sans Serif caps facing his feet. I was pondering why the temple’s proprietors hadn’t learned to read English when I heard a hissing sound from behind me.

“Liling!” My mother had her best smiling-while-pissed-off face on. We were in a place of peace and reverence, after all.

“It wasn’t me!” I mouthed back. In English, like a dumbass, so she of course pretended she didn’t understand me. She smiled at the monks who remained serene, as ever, throughout and apologized three times in Chinese. She also left a substantial offering.

When we got home I received a tongue-lashing. My attempts to tell the truth were rebuffed and I was confined to my room for a month. Not that I left it much in the first place. Unlike other neighborhood children who had learned to lie to avoid the consequences of their actions, this experience did nothing for me. I just learned to stay far, far away from small children.

I put all of this into one of my responses to the dragon’s PIR module while seated in front of a computer at a PC Bang in Seoul next to a cute-looking couple who, at any moment, could have simply looked over my shoulder to see what I was writing. It seemed, though, that the young man was an intensely focused professional game player and the woman was too wrapped up in getting to know him and his hobbies to care about what I was doing. Each of them playing games in their own way, as was I. I’m sure the Dragon would read my response with great interest. Would they laugh while reading it? Hard to say. They don’t seem like a mirthful bunch.

I recently met Lisa Hui, an operative of the Orochi Group out in the deserts of Egypt assigned to protect scientists while they spreadsheet data. She told me that she and her colleagues had watched some of the internal “corporate vision videos” made by the secret societies and laughed their asses off. She referred to us as LARPers: Live Action Role-Players. That’s pretty accurate. I don’t feel like a secret agent. I’m just playing the part and laughing at myself secretly the entire time. If you can’t laugh at yourself and the world around you in the midst of some pretty messed up stuff, you’re taking things way too seriously.

I don’t think I’ve been promoted from “straitlaced” status, though. Still working on that one.

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