On the Childishness of Cynicism
Thesis: Some adults never mature through the adolescent problem of dread, so they adopt a view of cynicism as a coping mechanism against their inability to see the world as redeemable, which view they convince themselves and others is a more elevated and intellectual view of life. It’s my argument that this bullying of hope is simply selfishness and weakness and is only overcome by humility and the Gospel.
Cynicism is childish. That’s what my thesis is trying to say. And it’s difficult, because cynicism advertises itself as being even more than adult and mature: as being enlightened. It’s advertised by hipsters who think they are the climax of civilization (the true lights of the world), self-aware people who are really savvy and in touch with culture and themselves, who know all about Ernest Hemingway and Jackson Pollock and Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus. It’s advertised as the adult-rated version of life, and it’s a Satanic evil when people who are finally coming of age actually believe it. In their haste to be mature, they become more babies than they were before.
It’s only at the crossroads of life that you choose to believe in the gospel of cynicism. At various stages in our lives we are faced with the shattering of our dreams, the challenging of our ideals, and when that happens, we either raise our head and believe in the Good, or we cut our eyes and smirk at it. We either grow up, or we fall down. We either learn to believe in fairy-tales again, or we bully those who do into feeling less-than. And Satan would have you believe that that smirk, that falling down, is Life. Well, it’s not.
Life is about Strength, Courage, Honor, and Dignity. It’s about Ideals and the tenacity of humans to hold to those Ideals. Life is eternal, wrapped up in the eternal God who is Himself Joy, Goodness, Beauty, and Strength. Life isn’t about cutting the legs out from under people with your witty cynicism to show how clever you are; it’s about building a tower of offense for the Good so that it can go forth into the dark corners of the world. Life is about spreading the Light into the created order by bringing order to chaos, infiltrating the darkness with Truth, Goodness, and Beauty. Cynicism is spreading a light that isn’t light; it’s spreading an anti-light.
The reason the cynical do that is to protect themselves. It’s absolute war to uphold the Ideals in the face of failures, death, destruction, and evil. It’s hard on you. It’s terribly hard to maintain that tension between death and life. But to sit back and refuse to believe in hope is to believe in evil more than good.
What’s the remedy? Well, for starters, courage. Courage to believe, to have faith in a God who is bigger than you and what your eyes can see. Faith is the antidote to cynicism, because faith looks beyond what your eyes can see and taps into the Eternal God of the Universe who will never let Goodness, Truth, and Beauty die. Maturity, and adulthood, is the accepting of that vocation over and above what your heart wants to believe: it’s the dogged determination to lay it all on the line and let your heart get broken over and over again if that’s what it takes to believe in the good, to see the best in people, to war against evil.