The Cool Cynic

When people tell me I have an “attitude problem,” my first reaction is almost always,

“Yeah, right!” It’s the cynical nature in me. I’m just rubbed the wrong way by shiny, happy people. Don’t get me wrong; I don’t have anything against happiness. I just have a low tolerance for the “don’t worry, be happy” philosophy. It lacks depth. Shallow people are just in denial of reality.

When did this prevalent attitude to be cynical get to be so cool? We see it everywhere. The most popular TV shows reek of it. Movies, books and music do, too. We’ve popularized being aloof. The smart aleck is king.

So many of us want to be different from the norm, but in our attempt towards individualism, we fall right into the trap of the “cool” crowd. The “in” crowd. A lot of trends are started by non-conformists.

I can readily identify with those who rebel at the positive thinking platitudes of motivational plaques. If all it takes is an inspiring, pithy quote and a pretty picture, then life’s problems would wilt away after chanting some affirmations while gazing at a sunset. It takes real honesty to recognize more is required than that. Maybe it will help short-term, but lasting change only comes through facing the stark reality of our failure to address our root problems. Better find out more about who made that sunset and inspired those positive statements if you want to grow.

The real reason I enjoy cynicism and sarcasm is it appeals to my sense of humor (see despair.com). Is that warped? Yes? That’s cool.

Solomon is the premiere cynic in the Old Testament. “Vanity of vanities. All is vanity” (Ecclesiastes). This from the wisest man to ever live.

Deep down I know being a cynic is not the answer. I really don’t believe everything is vanity. Solomon was making a point. A very valid one: All the knowledge and pleasure in the world won’t save you.

The idea of hopelessness nestles snuggly in the breast of true cynics. “What’s the use, anyway?” is the mantra. I don’t subscribe to that line. Not anymore.

But being cynical is still a part of my makeup—just as feeling compassionate for those who are hurting is part of my nature. How these two apparently contradictory ways of viewing life can coexist is just one of life’s many mysteries.

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I’m probably not going to stop enjoying sarcasm anytime soon. Being able to look at the world through this skewed perspective inevitably gets me thinking. I may laugh for a moment, but underneath it all, I’m seeing once again our plight as wandering, lost sheep.

Do you ever wonder if Jesus cracked jokes with the disciples? I can’t find anything like that in the scriptures to forward to my email friends. But, I’m sure the Lord had a great sense of humor. Doesn’t it shine through when he invited himself to Zacchaeus’ house for supper? “Hey, Zach, come down from that tree you nutty little guy. I’m coming over for some eats!” (Luke 19:1-5).

There’s a beauty in pointing out the goofy stuff we do. Maybe cynicism is the wrong way to do this. Or, maybe not. The biggest problem most of us have is our self-delusion. We’re either too good, too bad, too smart, too dumb … ad infinitum. It’s funny. It’s sad. That combination makes me sarcastic. And, I can’t be sarcastic without being a bit cynical.

Is that cool or what?

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