Rendered Fat Content


Salvator Rosa: Diogenes searching for an honest man (mid-17th century)
"The cynic unerringly sees what's missing and misses what's right there awaiting recognition."

I have long held as a personal ethical responsibility the obligation to know enough to justify cynicism while steadfastly choosing not to become cynical. Maintaining this balance seems increasingly difficult, as the older I become, the more familiar I've become with entropy in action. In my relative youth, entropy seemed more theoretical than practical. The 1950s seemed far more futuristic and fresh than its shopworn post-millennium counterpart seems today. Twenty years into this once new century, the future seems considerably less promising and our mistakes much more encumbering. I suppose innocence started abandoning me in earnest after I crossed fifty. The experience haphazardly replacing innocence seems less sturdy and hopeful. I admit to knowing ever more of what might reasonably render me cynical, yet I persist in my insistence that I avoid becoming a cynic. I'm no cynic yet.

Yet I admit to peering out into this world with an increasingly skeptical eye.
I fancy myself less prone to swallowing seductive come-ons and feel immunized against the more virulent misrepresentations. I sense an underlying dishonesty when I read of some new breakthrough philosophy, usually recognizing within it at least one age old fallacy back at work again. I sometimes seem to be moving forward ever more circumspectly, tip-toeing on slippery stones, seeing more threatening creek than navigable path ahead. I tread carefully because I've tripped so often and I expect that an upcoming one might well prove to be my last. My grasp doesn't seem half as strong as it seemed before I learned to be cautious. I once set forth without giving a first thought as to where I might stop for lunch. Now, I'm unlikely to head anywhere without first considering my return trip. I suppose I'm more mindful than I used to be, which probably means that my life has evolved into more of an out of body experience. I mostly live in my head.

Anyone not periodically filled with dread seems to not be paying close enough attention, yet dread alone hardly satisfies any hunger. Dread seems to amplify the anticipated qualities every experience promises, sometimes to the point where anticipation becomes the primary experience and I might just chose to forego engagement. Just looking ahead sometimes satisfies my want to move there. This Damned Pandemic leaves me aching for an evening out somewhere. I've so-far managed to limit to responses to roiling possibilities around until I've quenched my thirst, settling for some less-worse alternative. It does not seem at all safe to initiate any excursion yet. Still, I sometimes take the car out for another excursion to nowhere, returning somewhat refreshed an hour or so later to re-mount my perch and continue looking out over a world I can't quite inhabit yet. It's lonely work.

I've noticed that some of my contemporaries have taken to worshiping the seemingly most cynical among us, practicing a second-order sort of cynicism: Cynic-ism. I in no way envy their devotion, for the cynics they worship seem utterly foolish. They feign a bravery indistinguishable from abject stupidity. They respectfully decline to abide by common sense mandates and subscribe to economic theories never once shown to be in any way effective. They base their stories upon obvious fabrications, just as if the laws of both physics and comportment do not apply to them. I wonder what about the pursuit of happiness repels them. I wonder where they concocted such primitive notions of liberty and freedom. Their world seems cold and dank, closed off to the possibilities only the presence of ethical responsibilities ever bring. Liberty unbounded loses its purpose. Freedom to do just any old thing rings hollow and false. Any right infringing upon any other seems more bother, a wrong needing urgent righting.

Hope never was the opposite of cynicism. Faith might offer a better counterbalance, and not necessarily a faith in better. I don't buy lottery tickets not because I lack hope, but because I retain my faith in the inexorable law of large numbers. The likelihood of becoming fabulously rich doesn't dazzle me, for I finally do not aspire to be different or better or more than I already am. I've achieved already. If my station in life disappoints me, I might simply adopt a better coping strategy. I reassure myself that at least I'm not a cynic feasting on demonstrably false premises. My future finally seems somewhat beyond aspiring. The cynic unerringly sees what's missing and misses what's right there awaiting recognition. I tell myself that at least I'm not a cynic yet, or so desperate as to adopt Cynic-ism as my religion.

©2021 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

blog comments powered by Disqus

Made in RapidWeaver