The elegant art of cynicism


Sometimes when I walk outside on a sunny day, I feel the sunlight weaken.

When I show up at a party, the mood takes a southward dip.

And when I see a red door, I want to paint it black.

Do I exaggerate? If so, it’s only to make sure you get the point.

That there is beauty in hope, optimism, and faith, I do not doubt. The glory of a freely happy mind is something I enjoy vicariously through others. In their music. In their warmth. In their smiles. I witness cheerful people every day. Kids. Couples. Dogs. Friends. Old folks enjoying lemonade on the porch. It’s all peachy. It’s all grand.

But ultimately, these things are not for me.

I’m here today not to whine about being the world’s worst cynical bastard. But to explain how being this way can bring great contentment to one’s life. It’s true. I’m not joking. I’m completely serious.

Let’s begin with a simple chart:

hope and doubt

Are you upper left? Sweet. Lower right? Let’s hang out…

I think the above pretty much sums up the difference between skeptics and cynics. Most people, depending on what day of the week it is, probably fall somewhere in the middle of the Hope/Doubt chart. Maybe they’re happy-ish one day, a little down the next, and just kind of existing the next. Feelings are fluid things for most people. They move as the mood wills. As for me, I’ve a confession. I’m about two inches to the right of ‘Cynic‘ and another two below ‘Doubt.’ Every day. Always.

And I’ve never been happier.

I suppose it’s true that when imagining a cynic’s state of mind, the terms unhappy, hopeless, or miserable come to mind. Cynicism is equated with negativity, depression, or a general disgust with life. “Gloom and doom,” they’ll say. “A real Debbie downer.” or “A fly in the ointment.” It’s cool. I get it. Being a cynical sonofabitch isn’t for everyone.

But in reality, there’s an elegant art to cynicism. A true freedom of spirit. An approach that can bring absolute peace to one’s mind.

Consider this:

  • A contented cynic can never know disappointment
  • Nor despair for all the world’s ills
  • Nor feel the pain of broken dreams
  • Nor suffer the frailty of emotion over the hard truth of reality
  • Nor endure a broken heart
  • Nor succumb to the horrors of hatred
  • Nor fall so low as to never rise again

A lot of you are thinking: “Yeah maybe, but cynics will miss all the good stuff, too.”

Not true. We just take it all with several grains of salt.

But what about love?”

Piece of cake. We just don’t fall to pieces when it ends.

Doesn’t being a cynic make people…I don’t know…kind of heartless?”

Nope. Just entirely in control of their feelings. And aware of the difference between hopes, dreams, and reality. Because, let’s face it, hopes are hollow without action. Dreams are stone dead without dedication. Doubt (even self-doubt) is healthy. And reality always wins. Always.


J Edward Neill (Cynical bastard)

For even darker thoughts, read this.

This too.