English is fun. Well, other languages are a hoot as well, Especially the ones were a dirty word in that language is an ordinary word in English. Like French, with a word that leaves you wondering whether to fuck or buy furniture.
There are some fun words that mean one thing when uppercase and something else entirely when lower case. Unless it is at the beginning of a sentence, then you are left with deciphering context to derive meaning. Probably one of those things that drives the English-as-a-second-language people batshit.
Cynic is such a word.
Uppercase Cynic (Cynicism)
The Cynics were a bunch of Greek wise guys who philosophized way back when. The core of Cynic (see… capitalized) philosophies state that purpose in life is to live true to one’s own self, in harmony with nature. To live virtuously, eschewing the quest for wealth and material possessions in favor of a life of self-discipline and simplicity. Nice.
Lowercase cynic (cynicism)
A cynic is someone who forms every opinion of another human being from the assumption that every other human being is a selfish asshole with a motive.
This leads us to the dilemma of the cynical Cynic and the goal of authentic living. The view that for most folks, authenticity is being a selfish asshole. All the other Cynical perks like self-discipline and simplicity never seem to meld up well with selfish assholery.
Cynicism failed, though the similar banner has been taken up many times since. My own favorite is the Transcendentalism embraced by Thoreau. Gotta love Henry. That dude knew bullshit. He even knew his own bullshit, which is rare and special.
Cynicism was a failure, because as happens so often with schools of philosophical thought and systems of religious belief. Some asshole feels the need to go to extremes.
Next thing you know, adherents are given a list of what constitutes authentic behavior (there goes simplicity). Virtue, instead of being the simple act of two parts:
- Don’t be dick.
- Be kind always and help others when needed.
Virtue now becomes a subjective list, One day you look and there is a Bullshit collective. Top heavy with self-motivated assholes and filled with people who are either drinking the kool-aid or looking perplexed and wondering if they are in the right place.
Balance, elusive balance, where hangs thy lantern?
Extreme Cynics and extreme cynics for there no balance lies. Finding balance and authenticity is not easy for the cynical Cynic. To see the beauty and majesty and wonder of the natural world while looking at people with suspicion and distrust. Sometimes balance takes two. And sometimes authenticity is a puzzle with missing pieces.
For the cynical Cynic, those pieces came in the form of someone who sees not only the good and wonder in every person, but the story that each person is. Wisdom and virtue were in the cynical Cynic’s allowing the worldview of another in and allow that worldview to be a catalyst for personal change into a Cynic less cynical.