Cynicism is a poverty of curiosity and imagination and ambition. Today, the soul is in dire need of stewardship and protection from cynicism. The best defense against it is vigorous, intelligent, sincere hope — not blind optimism, because that too is a form of resignation, to believe that everything will work out just fine and we need not apply ourselves. I mean hope bolstered by critical thinking that is clear-headed in identifying what is lacking, in ourselves or the world, but then envisions ways to create it and endeavors to do that.
There can sometimes be no end to cynicism. Or worse, cynicism is often branded as critical thinking. I experienced this many times, not just because I have had encounters with cynical people, but because I thought that with my training in cultural studies, I have to be cynical. There were moments in my life where I don’t believe in anything. I was deprived of hope or even the inclination for hope. I thought there is no use of family, community, or any categories that work to group people.
That doesn’t mean today I am uncritical, or that I am accepting of all conventional categories. Following Maria Popova, these days I find myself slowly learning about being kind and about opening my eyes to different kinds of lives, not just the ones I deem ‘progressive’ or ‘equal’. I am learning slowly that some people find comfort in the concept of family or in patriarchal, heterosexual relationships because life has told them that there is no other way to be, and it is not my task to pull them out of ‘darkness’ and ‘enlighten’ them through snarky comments or dark jokes I make with my friends. My duty, when I dare to venture towards that claim, is to ‘make a move.’ I see movement and progression no longer as a dearth of norms or conventions, rather acknowledge prevailing social system and to critically assess and later do something about it kindly and with compassion. Too much has been spent on assessing, and too much has been spent on doing that is dominating and controlling. I challenge myself these days to ask “What can I do?” Because in doing I find attempts to realize my thoughts in the face of others’ belief systems.