By Matt Cutugno
Indio, CA, USA
The original Cynics were from a school of classical Greek philosophy that flourished in the 5th century BC. They espoused a life of virtue in harmony with nature. These Cynics rejected conventional desires for wealth, power, and fame. They advocated a simple life, free from earthly possessions. Further, they believed that the world belonged equally to everyone, and that suffering was caused by mistaken opinions of what was valuable and by the worthless customs and conventions that abounded in their society. They were often mendicants, wandering the streets preaching their philosophy.
I admire people who pursue life simply and without pretensions. I believe our society could use more “thinkers” and fewer “doers” and I could fancy myself a Cynic, though I doubt I’d look good in a toga.
Cynics nowadays have nothing to do with classical Greek musings. Rather, these folks believe that everyone, and everything, is motivated solely (or primarily) by selfishness. Our modern cynics fancy themselves incisive, but are instead myopic. They expect the worst in people and, naturally, that’s what they get.
Curious, isn’t it, these two kinds of Cynicism. Clearly something, somewhere has been lost in the translation from the ancient to the modern application.
A Cynic of old would be, in my opinion, an interesting person to be around, an original thinker who sees things uncommonly, who marches to a different drummer, and who is committed to a life other than one dictated by societal expectations.
A cynic today is a drag to be around. They invariably make terrible company. After all, let’s say you greet a friend: “Hi, how are you doing?”
And he responds: “Well, we live in a racist, bigoted, police state, and if Fascist politicians have their way, all our rights will be completely taken away. How do you think I’m doing?”
The modern cynic maintains that not only is the glass half-empty, but that it’s smeared with dirt and unsafe for drinking. They confuse the value of criticism with their own jaded views.
Seems to me there are two kinds of modern cynics. There are the young cynics, who, while they believe the world sucks, think they can change things and improve upon them when their time comes. I suppose you might consider them optimistic cynics. I can begrudgingly admire such young people.
Then there are the older cynics, who believe the world sucked in the past, presently does, and will continue to do so in the future. I have no use for these folks and I despise their annoying, unending, spirit-deflating pessimism.
I wish modern cynics would understand that our lives are what we make of them, and when they describe our society and the world in ugly terms, they are really talking about themselves.
Matt Cutugno's profile at Stay Thirsty Publishing