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comment by coffeesp00ns
coffeesp00ns  ·  1812 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: I Don't Want to be Cynical

It's easy to become cynical in a world where we are inundated with information about how shitty the planet is. As bad as it is, this is STILL the best time to ever be alive as a human. We've never been healthier, happier, better fed, or more egalitarian than we are now. That doesn't matter though, suffering isn't a Penis-measuring contest. the secret to prevent being cynical or encouraging cynical behaviour, I've found, is to give a fuck about the right things. You know the old Alcoholics Anonymous prayer?

   God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
   The courage to change the things I can,
   And the wisdom to know the difference.
Well I'm not the praying type, but I did my best to glean the information from it I found useful: Don't give a fuck about the wrong things, Give a fuck about the right things - For you.

Of course, this raises the question of what to give a fuck about, and what makes something the right or wrong thing to give a fuck about. In my opinion, these are one or two of the things you should NOT give a fuck about:

- Things that are "wrong" but that don't directly hurt people (like that really shitty merge about 1/3 of the way through your commute that's always backed up, and you KNOW that if everyone just kept to the lefthand lanes and let people coming onto the highway have room to get up to speed it would be fine but NO ONE ever does that and it makes you crazy because if we were just a LITTLE bit more efficient then we wouldn't have this stupid slow down on my commute and so on and so forth).

- The bad habits that other people have / how other people live their life (if it doesn't directly affect you) . Don't let judgement control your life. Right now there's a girl at my school (she's a sophomore this year). Last year she showed up, super clean cut, a bit bible-thumpy. She started to hang out with a lot of the band kids who were of african descent (to whom I bear no judgement) and this year she showed up with a weave and her best attempts to adopt African american fashion (whatever she percieved that to be in NE Ohio). She's gotten a HUGE amount of weird looks and judgment for it, and I think it's bullshit. I treat her exactly the same as I ever did - I'm not overly friendly, nor am I standoffish. I wave hello in the halls, ask about a day if we happen to be in the elevator together. I see in her my own attempts to find myself and my identity.

Some things you decide to not give a fuck about may even be completely worthwhile, things like charities, or social causes. That's fine, One person can't care deeply about everything, and many people you meet will be upset that you don't care deeply about the same causes they do EVEN IF you try and keep up.

Here are some of the things you SHOULD give a fuck about:

- Things you can change in your daily life that will make your life,and the life of your community better. Social issues that matter to you. Whether it be composting, or talking with your neighbours to create a sense of community, or calling your city counsellor about that sidewalk near 4th and Elm (you know, the one that's weirdly tall? the one Mrs. Patil has a hard time getting over nowadays since she had that fall. You talked to her, so you know that, right?)

- Your hobbies. ALWAYS make time for the things you love to do. thenewgreen is not a professional musician (by which i mean that is not the method by which he makes his living). He is the original definition of Amateur, before it became a bad thing: One who works at and practices something because they love it, not for financial gain. All of the people I know who are displeased with their lives feel that they have no time for their hobbies. Most of them "don't have time" because they don't make time. MAKE TIME for the shit you give a fuck about.

I think all this can be TL:DR'd into "Figure out what you give a fuck about - then give a fuck about it. Then stop giving a fuck about the things that you don't give a fuck about."

My problem with cynicism was that I cared too much, about too much, and the disappointment made me hard of heart. By focusing on causes I truly find worthwhile, and my loves and hobbies, I have been able to find meaning in what I do and become less cynical about my life and place in the universe (that is, an insignificant speck).

thenewgreen  ·  1811 days ago  ·  link  ·  

That is some good advice. They say that ignorance is bliss, and while I am not ignorant nor am I completely blissful, I like to think that I am a relatively informed and happy guy. This isn't because I do not care about the perils of the world or allow myself to feel pain or remorse as a result of them, it's because I also take comfort in the joys of the world. I sincerely think that if the everyday good, decent and downright angelic deeds of our fellow humans were compelling enough to warrant press coverage, there'd be less cynicism. More good than bad happens from my estimation.

Naive? Nope, in fact I think it's the opposite view that is naive.

Also, who you calling an amateur? I've made hundreds of hundreds of dollars from music. :)

Actually, my best moments with music have involved charitable concerts. The New Green raised over $6k for two causes, Re-Member and for a friend battling cancer.

The plight of the Native American, the fact that so many battle cancer, these things can make you cynical but when you see how many people care to effect positive change, you realize the good out there too.

I'm a cup half full kind of guy.

coffeesp00ns  ·  1811 days ago  ·  link  ·  

I guess in a way I'm saying "ignorance is bliss", but i think (and I think you get this, I'm not trying to infer that you don't) that it's a slightly more nuanced version. I don't really ignore the things that i'm "not giving a fuck about", I'm just accepting that a human only has so much energy, and so much mental capacity to concentrate on the things that matter.

I think part of the reason we become so cynical is that we attempt to deal with and care about so many things at once that we become overwhelmed, and we allow the problems and faults of the world to swallow us. If we focus on fewer problems more intensely, I feel we can do more good.

I'm reminded of a parable I once read. I have no idea if the author is actually some 10th century monk as quoted here, but the words ring true to my personal philosophy, and why I really do believe in working towards #ourbestselves.

I wanted to change the world

   When I was a young man, I wanted to change the world
   I found it was difficult to change the world, so I tried to change my nation.
   When I found I couldn’t change the nation, I began to focus on my town. 
   I couldn’t change the town 
   and as an older man, I tried to change my family.
   Now, as an old man, I realize the only thing I can change is myself, and suddenly 
   I realize that if long ago I had changed myself, I could have made an impact on my family.
   My family and I could have made an impact on our town.
   Their impact could have changed the nation and I could indeed have changed the world.
   - Written by an unknown Monk around 1100 A.D.
OftenBen  ·  1811 days ago  ·  link  ·  

    I'm just accepting that a human only has so much energy, and so much mental capacity to concentrate on the things that matter.

This is the part that I struggle with. In my own mind I'm some sort of superman who has the mental energy/ emotional capacity to mourn (And then attempt to fix) everything. It almost feels selfish sometimes to just pick those things that I would call 'close to my heart.' I mean, the career that I'm pursuing is the issue that I care most about that I think I can make an actual difference doing, but it very rarely feels like enough.

Also, when I wrote this yesterday, I was having a pretty shitty day coming out of a not stellar weekend. When I'm feeling down all the little mental stuff I swear that I have beaten back comes surging up at once and it can feel overwhelming. The cool part, and the big difference between now and say, a year or two ago when I was at my psychological nadir, is that now, I can recognize a bad mood early, I recognize an unhealthy impulse early, and know that I can control it, the sooner I recognize it, the easier it is to manage. Like yesterday, it sucked, I got home, talked about it, had a beer(Instead of 6 beers), watched Jurassic Park and went to bed. I DIDN'T beat myself up for not handling things perfectly, for making mistakes. Which again, is pretty neat. And I think I've done a pretty good job so far of not letting a shitty start to the week ruin the whole week.

OftenBen  ·  1811 days ago  ·  link  ·  

    My problem with cynicism was that I cared too much, about too much, and the disappointment made me hard of heart.

This is exactly my problem.

    By focusing on causes I truly find worthwhile, and my loves and hobbies, I have been able to find meaning in what I do and become less cynical about my life and place in the universe (that is, an insignificant speck).

Working on this bit. Sometimes it satisfies, other times it doesn't.