Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Cynic or Optimist. Which are you?

If your experience is anything like mine, than you probably know people who can only be described as “cynics.” What I have found to be universally true among my cynical friends is that they all deny being cynical and all say the same thing. “I am not a cynic. I am a realist.”

Non-cynics see them as cynics. We (and I include myself in that group) see their “realist” approach to the world as cynical, jaded, pessimistic and down right negative. Their reality is different than our own. It is shaded by skepticism, distrust and an expectation of disappointment. They also and always have tons of evidence to prove their point.

Non-cynics, on the other hand, tend to be positive, trusting, optimistic and filled with hope. We (including myself again) are the kind of people who really annoy the cynics in our world. They see us as being in denial, Polly Anna’s and unrealistic. The question is who is right? The answer is it depends on who you ask.

When we believe that something is true, than we are constantly looking for evidence to prove our belief. Below are some examples.

The cynic says “The weather is awful.”
The optimist says “There is no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing.”

The cynic says “Everybody lies.”
The optimist says “People only lie when they don’t feel safe telling the truth.”

The cynic sees “the glass as half empty.”
The optimist sees “the glass as half full.”

Ironically, cynics have not always been the pessimists we know them to be today. According to Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cynic ), “Cynicism originally comprised the various philosophies of a group of ancient Greeks called the Cynics, founded by Antisthenes in about the 4th century BC. The Cynics rejected all conventions, whether of religion, manners, housing, dress, or decency, advocating the pursuit of virtue in a simple and unmaterialistic lifestyle.” That doesn’t sound so bad, does it?

Wikipedia continues saying ” By the 19th century, emphasis on the negative aspects of Cynic philosophy led to a new and very different understanding of cynicism to mean an attitude of jaded negativity, and a general distrust of the integrity or professed motives of other people. Modern cynicism, as a product of mass society, is a distrust toward ethical and social values, especially when there are high expectations concerning society, institutions and authorities which are unfulfilled. Cynicism can manifest itself by frustration, disillusionment and distrust in regard to organizations, authorities and other aspects of society, and can result from a negative evaluation of past experiences.”

Hmmmmmm……..based on that definition, (rejecting conventions, advocating the pursuit of virtues, and being unmaterialistic) maybe I should be telling people “I am not a realist. I am a cynic.”

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