August 5, 2020

Cynicism isn’t Poison, it’s a Potion for Empathy.

It was a nice summer morning, or something like that, when I was first told that I was a cynical person.

I really don’t remember, but it sounds cute if I pretend that I do.

It had never occurred to me that the idea that people are generally self-interested was considered a bad thing. I thought it was common practice to assume that people always want what’s best for them, in any given situation. Apparently, I was wrong.

Therefore, as a Libra, an INTJ (introverted, intuitive, thinking, judging) personality, and someone who loves learning, I began to wonder why. It is these ponderings that I share with you, dear little sunshines.

To be truly skeptical is to be skeptical of being skeptical.

I conclude there is no black-and-white truth that determines which actions a human undertakes that are selfish. It is that nuanced grey that everything seems to exist in; this eternal back and forth of right and wrong, justice and injustice, or cookies and pizza.

Yes, we are hardwired and neuron-fired to err on the side of survival, but does that mean we are incapable of truly selfless acts? On the contrary, we are excellent at being selfless because the more selfless we are (to a point) the easier it is to be accepted by the tribe.

Does this mean that being selfless is, in the end, a purely selfish act? Probably. Does that matter on the grander scale? Probably not.

See, survival for the tribe means survival of the greater good. Whilst in the short term, being selfless might be selfish, in the long term, it is what helps ensure our survival and that—while completely paradoxical and wonderful—is what matters.

However, there are biological reasonings that need to be addressed; the proverbial and literal elephant in the room—we are mammals.

I am fully aware that these ramblings have only sketched an outline of the concept I am talking about, but don’t worry, I have found the paintbrushes, and now that our big, grey friend is drawn, it is time to colour her in.

As mammals, we are (with the occasional exceptions) genetically-wired to try and give our genes to the next generation of lovely, little humans who burp when we give them milk, and cry when we don’t. We want to procreate, and since we can’t have our neighbor, Timmy, give our genes away for us, our deepest need and craving is—sadly—selfish.

It is safe to assume that every action, through whatever complex and mysterious road it takes, comes down to, “How do I make sure that I don’t die before my genes do?” And because we have magnificent brains, that can make up equally magnificent stories, we have gotten very creative at disguising this concern as other things; things such as buying a nice car, getting that slightly more expensive anti-aging cream, working out, eating healthy, knowing pop culture, watching endless series, and even writing articles.

We have gotten so good at it, that when asked why we do something, we don’t immediately know. We must ask ourselves why at least multiple times before we get down to any sort of deep biological reasoning that makes sense on a physical level.

Thanks for that crisis, but how exactly is cynicism a tool?

Awareness is the first step to many things. To know that people are selfish is not a bad thing. It doesn’t turn you into a pessimistic cloud of negative vibrations.

Instead, what I would suggest is changing perspective.

Openly admitting that everyone, including yourself, is deeply selfish gets rid of a lot of problems that don’t have to exist; we can collectively stop pretending there is an altruistic reason behind any action. We can accept each other for who and what we are. It can make empathy for someones terrible mistake easier, because even though we might not agree with the line of thinking, we all agree on our fundamentally selfish motives. It will take away the need to be better than everyone else; it will make us less judgmental and mistrusting.

After all, if we know that everyone is selfish and has but one singular goal, what do we have left to judge and mistrust? The things we are born with, or feel, or get thrown our way like an astrological curveball moving a million miles per hour?

The only thing we should be judged for are our actions and the paths we choose.

Now, go out there and be skeptical, and cynical, and wonderful, my wonderful fragments of carbon. Have the best day of your life.


Read 4 Comments and Reply

Read 4 comments and reply

Top Contributors Latest

Chris Witteveen  |  Contribution: 800

author: Chris Witteveen

Image: Helena Lopes/Unsplash

Editor: Elizabeth Brumfield

Relephant Reads:

See relevant Elephant Video