When Tempted By Cynicism

I find, sometimes, that it’s tempting to be cynical.

When things don’t work out, it’s tempting to paint the whole world in a gray and downcast tint. Throw up my hands, declare, “We’re screwed,” and slam down on optimism as naiveté.

It is tempting.

But I’m not sure we should let ourselves be bought out by cynicism. Show me the happy cynic, the soulful cynic, the cynic who is in love with aliveness?

So, what I do – which is small, but not, I don’t think, inconsequential – is remind myself of how I want to be in the world.

Of Sherman Alexie who said: “Cynicism is stupid and joyfulness is genius.”

Of Neil Gaiman, who said to a bunch of graduates: “Life is sometimes hard. Things go wrong…And when things get tough, this is what you should do. Make good art.

Of Leonard Bernstein, who after JFK’s assassination, said: “This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before.”

Of Toni Morrison, who listened to a friend when he told her: “‘This is precisely the time when artists go to work—not when everything is fine, but in times of dread. That’s our job!’”

Of how it’s always easier to destroy something than create something. But it is the creators and not the destroyers who move the world forward.

So when tempted by cynicism, let’s not forget we can create – art, possibility, kindness. And no matter how small, any bit of creating counts. Because as Desmond Tutu would say, “It’s those little bits of good strung together that overwhelm the world.”

The Lightning Notes is funded solely by kind donors. If something here strikes you, I’d be grateful if you’d consider donating. Click to Donate!