Cynicism As Positivity
OFTEN SEEN AS NEGATIVE, TRUE CYNICISM IS VERY OFTEN THE MULCH OF IDEALISM...
Preface: I first published a version of this article on LinkedIn and beBee not very long after the Producer platform was launched. Since then, I've had some additional thoughts on the matter, which I would like to share with you. Not to beat a dead horse, but because I believe there is a genuine truth here that is frequently overlooked.
We generally these days take cynics to be people who display an attitude of scornful and jaded negativity, as well as being people with an ingrained distrust of the integrity and professed motives of others. In other words, we take cynics to be those among us who epitomize a crappy outlook on life. Hold that thought...
In fact, the term "cynic" can be traced back to a school of ancient Greek philosophy, circa 400 BC. The Cynics of those days believed that one should live a life of virtue in harmony with nature. Philosophical cynics rejected conventional hunger for wealth, power, and fame. Instead, they sought to live a life free free of material possessions and shallow desire.
So you see, buried beneath a modern day edifice of scorn and seeming hopelessness, one finds a vault wherein there is room for optimism and positivity.
Wow, I don't believe I said that whole thing! Didn't think it was still in me, having left academia several decades ago. But anyway...to get back on point...
Cynics, I submit, are of the world, steeped in its realities, yet unaccepting of its shortcomings. They refuse at all times to go quietly into the night, but kick and scream and flail their fists — all the way to oblivion, if necessary.
Idealists envision how things ought to be, while realists accept them as they are. Only cynics compare the two, and rail against the disparity...
And in our continual effort to prove them wrong, they are like an anvil against which a blacksmith's hammer forges a strong and useful tool.
I am personally not a big fan of Reinhold Niebuhr's exceedingly well known and widely lauded "Serenity Prayer" because I believe it unwittingly provides justification in most people's minds for doing nothing about almost everything that is wrong in this world.
As I see it, Niebuhr was an unrealistic idealist to think it of benefit to counsel people to accept that which they perceive cannot be changed, have the courage to change that which can, and the wisdom to know one from the other.
As any true cynic will tell you, if we had an iota of wisdom in the first place, the world would not be in the state it is in.
Cynics may disagree with you. Indeed, they may even be disagreeable. But...
that does not make them trolls, nor clarions of negativity...
We've just passed the beginning of the New Year according to the ancient Hebrew Calendar. It is a time for spiritual renewal, and a commitment to greater understanding. And in that spirit, I commend to you the true cynics of the world. For they may, indeed, be key elements in our potential to achieve something better.
So, hug a cynic. Or pat one on the head. Perhaps take one for coffee or a beer. Maybe even really listen a bit to what some of them have to say. Keeping in mind that cynicism frequently spawns positivity. — Phil Friedman
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About me, Phil Friedman: With 30 some years background in the marine industry, I've worn numerous hats — as a yacht designer, boat builder, marine operations and business manager, marine industry consultant, marine marketing and communications specialist, yachting magazine writer and editor, yacht surveyor, and marine industry educator. I am also trained and experienced in interest-based negotiation and mediation.
In a previous life, I was formally trained as an academic philosopher and taught logic and philosophy at university.
The (optional-to-read) pitch: As a professional writer, editor, university educator, and speaker, with more than 1,000 print and digital publications, I've recently launched an online program for enhancing your expository writing: learn2engage — With Confidence. My mission is to help writers and would-be writers improve their thought and writing, master the logic of discussion, and strengthen their ability to deal with disagreement.
To schedule an appointment for a free 1/2-hour consult email: firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to speaking with you soon.
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