Friday, August 11, 2006

Cynicism and Wisdom are Not the Same Thing

Too many people mistake cynicism for wisdom.

Cynicism is, in reality, a cheap pretender to wisdom. It comes nearly free--which wisdom most certainly doesn't--and it encourages all manner of dishonest behavior.

In truth, cynicism and dishonesty are the best of friends. A world that mistakes cynicism for something better is the kind of swamp that breeds 'journalists' who forge documents to suit their ends, photographers who reconstruct photos to further their righteous causes.

Wisdom demands that truth have a fighting chance, no matter how difficult or unpleasant it is to discern; cynicism promotes my way at any cost, and promises that truth is less important than agenda.

Cynicism is not only the enemy of truth, but it's the enemy of joy, as well. The best a cynic can really manage with respect to creating and sustaining joy is a smarmy sort of self-satisfaction. It's a cheap thrill for the person delivering it, and it's no thrill at all for the honest reader.

As an honest reader, myself, I have no appetite for it. Not on the web. Not in a newspaper. Not in a novel.

Genuine writing, writing with a chance to move me, demands honesty. And I'll even take my proclamation farther than that and say that genuine living--genuine thought and reaction--requires honesty.

As a writer, don't fall for the seductive simplicity of cynicism. It's true that you could roll out of bed tomorrow and adopt the mantle of cynic, embracing all the smug self-confidence that brings. But the rewards are shallow, and the world around you will be diminished for it. Do yourself and your readers a favor and aspire to wisdom, instead.

Note:. I plan to post examples of cynical and honest writing in the next couple weeks.

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