Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Are you now or have you ever been an optimist?

I am not of two minds about cynicism. The two things I have to say about it are not unrelated. And I consider myself an expert. My own father labeled me a cynic not long after I started my schooling. I see it now as a symptom. There has grown up in the world a malaise so common the symptoms confer status.

Most cynics are just bruised optimists.

Cynicism is a cheap way to feign sophistication.


ggazic said...

I like this post. I actually considered myself an optimist not too long ago, but I think I confused optimism with patience and a generally positive mood. Miles has an engineer's impatience for inefficiencies, and I saw this as a problem for us.

Do you consider yourself cynical, then? By your previous posts, I would conclude that you aren't. Poetry and courage and truth - I'd say you're carefully and thoughtfully idealist.

GreenSmile said...

Thank you. You see right through me. I cannot abandon idealism and still think a scientist's approach to life is rational. Idealism is where we all start if we don't have too sick a childhood. Where we loose it is in how our culture trains us to accept reverses, assess blame and hide our hurts. No natural force undoes idealism or makes it seem a lie unless one's definition of natural force includes the errors and failures of so many to realize where they were best off to draw the cicle of "my family, my community". You have to basically throw in with the devil, thinking that greed, short sightedness and selfishness are the dominant forces in the world, to abandon idealism. If you do that, you would have the mean comfort of a thosand affirmations whereever you look. You would presume politcal and economic systems built to harness those forces have the right idea and will prevail. You would feel supported and justified in your own reluctance to share for the common good and indeed be mistrustful of most representations that there is any such thing as a common good except a grudging truce that keeps neighbor from robbing neighbor. Cynicism is seductive, self-fullfilling and so pervasive as to have submerged from awareness in most of our voters. It is considered self-evident in most political debate, too hard to analyze in public without loosing your audiance. Listen to Rush for an hour if you can stand it and see if there isn't an undercurrent in his logic and his selection of facts that would assuage the last traces of guilt one might have at trying to keep for himself all that his work has gathered...Rush is already on to the next battle front, the battle for idealism being largely conceded. Weren't you taught by your peers to use the name Polyanna as a synonym for unrealistic? And isn't it odd, if you study our jokes, to see that we reserve our bitterest cynicism for civil case lawyers and yet the earnest cry of "thats not fair" is first heard from the idealist. The courtroom is the best we can do to redress the wounds to idealism in a world we have consigned to the cynics
You may note that, for me, idealism and hopefulness are distinct aspects of a person's view of the world. But I suspect idealism is a thing more of the intellect and hope more a thing of the heart. And I may be a bit harsh on my fellow humans in this little diatribe...perhaps the zealotry of a recovered cynic? You can't hate everybody and still be an idealist now can you?

My last word on idealism: I know with certainty that the sun comes up every morning even if we have had nothing but cloudy days for years on end.

I must admit, I sympathize with Miles. I find it exasperating that many people go through life with out the slightest attention to how things work: leaving shoes right where others must walk, breaking or wearing things out by never observing which way the screw turns, taking up 1.5 spaces in the parking lot...shopping as if random access were effective in a necessarily serialized physical world. And boy do I loose it with a crappy tool that is not working the way it is supposed to!^)