You hear the word cynic levied like an insult – but maybe we've got it all backwards. Is it possible cynicism can lead you to a better life?
By Kenyon Boltz
With all the global, national, and regional items on the table for an individual, cynicism is so pervasive it is almost unrecognizable in the aspects of high government, top-tier business, and directive social orders. The run-off is diluted, imperceptible at times with media outlets manipulating our bottom line to act only on these hidden agendas of passion, controversy, and fundamentalism (with morals and religion as the triggers). Individually we can digest and react. Collectively, the true essence of cynicism lays stagnant and cloud-covering due to insolent arguments and repetitive rhetoric.
Instead of battling aggravation alongside the pundits, I let the gate of cynical tendencies open to further the potential of my own potency… let it linger, my crony.
To permit change needs people on symbolic transparency: a treaty signing, a victory of some legal journey, maybe a military coup for liberty? So how can a cynical attitude or filter help me? It helps persuasiveness when accomplishing a particular goal or motive. Of course, an altruistic, unselfish agenda is paramount because we already know from historical texts, scholars, and negative cynicism with their selfish intentions what is already present. It actually might make someone lean to ‘Why bother? Who cares? It doesn't benefit me so why should I care?' And that's the point.
I should care. Because it means taking a stance, a position; and one of the greatest achievements to a soul, a person, whatever you believe, is making a difference.
A definition only speaks from a noun perspective of ‘one attributes all actions to motive for oneself' [1989 ed. Merriam-Webster]. I chose an edition twenty years old because the on-line version attempts to encapsulate my view toward how living true is by finding the essence in self-control and independence with self-interest.
Ralph Waldo Emerson made his historical Divinity Address in 1838 to a small select faculty at an emerging college; he prolifically ponders the entertainments of the mind- why do we search for meaning in our lives? Why can't we just watch CNN cut, edit, and add sound to our reason with the millions of pixels of HDTV visually dressing our epiphany? You know what, I'll wait for the DVD instead; I have TiVo recording American Idol and The Office re-runs right now.
Alfred de Musset, a French poet in the early Romanticism period of 1830-1845, made a quip: ‘Everything that was no longer exists; everything that is to exist does not yet exist'. Based on the obvious, it's simply okay to live boundlessly today without a difference in self-opinion.
Everything we experience or hear, read, or conceptualize has a filter: does it affect us?
Can it be that simple?
No, not at all.
But my cynic mind blows toward a blistering, scurrilous level by using history as my guide in the benefits of slavery upon the global world in the 1780's (for Britain, France & the newborn United States), the benefit of missionaries to native lands was the contribution of the “missionary” position; the determinate debauchery our government went through to create the Declaration, or how the planet is trying to flush its inhabitants as a toxin. It's a waste of breath, ink, time and it eats into my endeavor of catching up on history or business with cable [Man vs. World, maybe The Celebrity Apprentice].
Cynics have been described as frustrated, disillusioned, and distrustful but why is this judgment so finite? We might regard others as dishonest, anti-social, immoral or even evil. This is the kind of fodder that our moral compass, the zoo security, doesn't allow for the captive: do not feed the Animal. The Animal being the seed of cynicism within all of us no matter what anyone says- it's chromosomally linked as ego and greed.
I rant with productive fire because judgment is passed onto too many people and if we do not address the universal acceptance of human beings fueled in monetary or political influence than we do not agree upon all the history books stating our founding fathers of Independence felt the same. Tremendous amounts of discovery, innovation, and altruism have been make-shifted with cynicism: the self-interest of the beholder.
The great thing about it is that if you are well aware of all the virtues of living then you can partake in self-effacing laughter with others that you understand the meter, a generic measuring stick to truly live today.
Some can bring up the animosity factor: an ill-will or resentment; I think not. Call it a revealing truth serum for the actual agendas people play upon others. If we do not act upon for ourselves, the numero uno, then why bother? If I don't get something out of it then why bother? This is the new American beauty – we ran out of food for thought and all we have left is Burger King for the mind.
… And as I wipe my mouth, I realize that disappointment is a characteristic of a cynic. Hmm. Who hasn't? (Cough, cough) Do you go into psychosis and betrayal among the closest when this happens? No, otherwise you wouldn't be reading this. Just sarcastically meditate and chew by yourself until you knock out of it and laugh upon yourself and the dimwit that caused the effect.
Now when it comes to your job… the loss of pride of output and productivity can be attributed to the office down the hall. If your boss sucks, if my co-workers are idiotic, if my presentation was snubbed, if my promotion was passed, if any of these quick and simplified examples lead to a better outline, then you have a future. Doesn't mean you have a future in your current placement.
So what is one to do?
We all carry the seed of a cynic. But like all addictive habits we must be careful for like many before you, with you, and after you, a large, unfathomable quantity have and will perish. Thus, only the advanced in self-worth, self-image, virtue, vice, and temperament can participate and play along.
Remember: as one plays along the game of Cynic, don't be surprised of the outcome or the stalemate, maybe even a victory (which is entirely rare except in Bill Gates and William Hearst), but if you witness a dog chasing its tail, enjoy, really. Because that is essentially what you are doing… but it's goddamn fun so hell with it, chase on, my friend, chase it again.
It is a race of foolishness: once you begin pining for intelligence, the consumption of time and energy brings together many, be it friend, family, or foe, to watch from outside and peer through the glass and observe your frivolous actions like an aquarium of hyper-fish, or my favorite, as non-smokers in an airport watching smokers inside a glass lounge smoke the air.
With a smoke in one hand and a drink in the other hand, do we proudly enter the socialite world, spouting euphuisms and devious plays on words as novelists do? Not entirely but it does sound fetching.
Novelists, in their steadfastness and memoirs, serve up cynicism with panache; they reach the category after they expired from their former category of famous. Being intelligent is a fungus on their brain as it grows on last week's Chinese in your fridge; theorizing upon this facet is catching a large whiff of the foul food and gagging — it is involuntary. But they continue on about their childhood, peculiarly distant but within the light of the room to be known, seen… it's been prophetically determined that if the virtue is gone, can the laughter begin?
The barometer has been established through years of social reform; just ask the famous who led us down this route. As described by his peers and parliamentarians, he was proper in nature, intelligent in letters, but mocking and self-effacing with a humorous twang: may I introduce the sage, Benjamin Franklin? People as such will be duly hidden in voluminous rants of their true character but I add that even the best of our historical figures were cynics. Take Denis Diderot, a paramount figure in the Enlightenment period with France and Britain, when he devised a play where the secrets of the kingdom were given away by talking vaginas. Now we have “The Vagina Monologues.”
Even if the DVD doesn't come out, movies are the way to learn how life is. The fabulous sex, the perils of the hero getting by unscathed, the fantastic soundtrack to go along their rite of passage (who wouldn't want their own soundtrack — ROY!… ROY! ROY! ROY! – sung along with ‘Eye of the Tiger' by Survivor). And then the ceremonious ending where everything is so conveniently wrapped up and finite — hah! As parsimoniously as we exist, regarding shelter and society, we live vicariously through our films, forget literature: I mean, who reads anymore, we forget how fun interaction with others can be, especially The Co-workers. How fun is it to push peoples' buttons and then tell them ‘Just Kidding' – the be-all-end-all to CYA.
Isn't a controlled sensibility the beginning for reaching happiness? With our high ideals of ourselves and puniness in comparison to the history of man, paving the way to virtue is dead. We cannot be afraid of what that desires and tempts most because being responsible is the absence of being teacher and thus is impartial. Stand stoic or be curious; be indulgent or become wise, for wisdom keeps you shooting straight. Think about it: is virtue possible when you have past rent due, a looming lay-off, default on credit, and lack of love? Who cares about the purity of virtue?
Higher education teaches how to complain, to cheat, and breeds excessive desire for greed. The limitless advantage of knowing mind and body but utilizing it for self-worth is the linchpin. Who says denying the truth is not the happiest way to pleasure? We can become more polite and less sincere: this is not shameful.
Reminds me of a joke gathered by Thomas Cathcart & Daniel Klein from “Plato and a Platypus walk into a Bar…”
A man is driving down the road.
A woman is driving up the same road.
They pass each other.
The woman yells out the window, “Pig!”
The man yells back, “Bitch!”
The man rounds the next curve, crashes into a huge pig in the middle of the road and dies.
The relativity lies in the simple attitude of hearing and listening. Why do I find this joke to be so fitting? We participate in an age where we are secretly protective of ourselves to the point of ridiculous antics and reaction. And it is this finite line where we have to be conscious in order for the benefits of cynicism.
The certainty of motive is up in the air. A genuine good-will is looked at more skeptically than one laced with deceptive misguidance; however, we hear and move on instead of listening and learning. With all above, be careful — as any mixologist will tell you: it's not what you mix with, its how much you mix with. I simply mix, shake and relax on the deck quietly snickering to my lack of wisdom, education, crime and sex.