Thursday, December 13, 2012

Is Cynicism Simply Laziness?

Cynic: wikipedia
I got a wild hair this week, mostly because I've been attempting to sell our 1992 Ford E-350 van, which is old and worn-out and has too many miles on it. Everyone who looks at it tells me that it's old and worn out and has too many miles on it.

Yes, I know what's wrong with it. That's why I told you the same things you're repeating to me now!

Then there's the news. The fiscal cliff. The Mayans. The radio prank call ending in suicide. Speculation over Chris Christie's weight as it relates to any presidential ambitions.

I'm tired of negativity and cynicism, tired enough to tell my wife, "I think cynicism is laziness. It's too easy to approach every situation with a negative attitude, to not think. It's a simplistic. It's unproductive. It's unattractive."

Truth be told, we both have more than one cynic, one person with a constant negative outlook, in our family trees. And we once had a mutual friend who was a cynic with a capital-C. Luckily, he's no longer in our lives. He divorced his wife and left the country. And full disclosure requires me to note that I can be cynical. Why is no one from AIG, Lehman Brothers, HSBC, or Bank of America in jail? And my wife has occasions where she slips as well. But she's prettier than I am, and so it's not so unattractive on her.

We talked about the cynics we know, and probably don't love enough, and then she said, "You know, if you think about it, to approach every situation as an optimist, in a happy mood, could be laziness too."

That stumped me. I don't like her pointing out that I am not thinking things through.

But now, six or seven hours later, I think she's wrong.

Cynicism is laziness. Happiness (let's say in this context, optimism) is less laziness than a directed emotion. It simply is not easy being happy and optimistic, at least consistently. It's difficult to approach life with an optimistic attitude. Certainly an optimist is more likely to get hurt than a cynic, and hurt in assorted ways, from the practical to the emotional. Consistent optimism takes consisten courage.

And so here is what I think I've learned today:

  • Optimism opens itself to the world, which is difficult, dangerous, and sometimes stupid. 
  • Cynicism cowers in a corner, and if it isn't lazy, it is fearful.
  • My wife is smarter than I am.

I'll mention the first two points when my wife and I talk again this evening. There's no need to mention the third point. She already knows that.
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