Being cynical but not burned out, one is put in an uneven spot. On one hand, you remain relatively open minded to most things and people, and this mind state fills life with a certain verve. On the other hand, though, you often feel surrounded by folks you don’t relate to, sometimes don’t like and almost always want to mess with in various ways for your own amusement. The contradictory nature of these positions makes things somewhat stressful, yet easygoing.
How to explain this paradox to someone that doesn’t experience it? Um, I don’t know. I can’t find the words. This is not to say that my vocabulary is non-good – “bad” if you will. I know words and stuff. My vocab is as big as… as… well, you know. It is rather good. It’s just that some things, like the appeal of “American Idol,” are impossible to wrap language around. It’s not worth trying. This, my last column of the year, is for those that know what I’m talking about. The rest of you can move onto some other diversion if you feel like.
When you’re cynical but don’t take yourself too seriously, there are many people who will write you off. True cynics – i.e. those bitter about, burned out on or defeated by life – will think you’re a joke. Weightless people will think you’re too serious, weird or dark. Either way, these people won’t care for you all that much. This is fine, seeing as probably you won’t care for them either.
The way I see it, there’s really no choice as to who you are at your core. The choice is whether you’re true to it. Being simultaneously lighthearted and earnest is a lifestyle, same as being in the circus or driving a Saturn.
You might say I’ve been trained to be this way, having moved to nine different cities in my lifetime. All this migration translated into a transitory existence, where I got to know a series of people for a few years and then moved on to another set. Interactions and connections with people were cut down to a minimum, leaving me to my own devices. Though this led to many insights into life and people, it also produced long stretches of dullness.
Boredom is my antagonist. Loneliness has never really been a problem because I prefer doing things solitary-style most of the time. Concerns about the purpose of life started tapering off in high school when, after reading one philosophy book too many times, I became jaded on the whole “What’s the point?” debate. For me, it all comes down to enjoying life in a way that’s genuine and clear-eyed. So I’m left with boredom to deal with.
Everybody has their own approaches to this problem. Some watch lots of television. Some drink or get high all the time to numb the world temporarily. Some attempt to pervert nature through genetic engineering. Some juggle. Nothing works for everybody. I can only elaborate on some of my approaches, offer a look into my own mechanics for others to read.
Due to the solitary nature of much of my time, I’ve cultivated quite a bit of interests that require no one else. An abridged off-the-top-of-the-head list: books, being a music geek, writing, comics, painting, watching people’s faces, being a history buff, drawing and so on. I’d recommend all of them.
Connecting with interesting people is probably my favorite way to pass the time. Talking to women that are absorbing and authentic probably tops the list on this front, but even the conversations with unappealing people have potential. One strategy is to steer the chats’ trajectories into weird or usually untouched directions to see their response. When you’re talking to arrogant people, whether they be dumb or smart, it’s amusing to see how far you can mess with them before they get really pissed or confused.
The last thing I want to do here or elsewhere is tell people how to live. The writer George Bernard Shaw once said, “Never take any advice from anyone.” For most part, that’s a quality rule, but if I must tie up the last few months of writing with anything, it’s a few words to be considered: Don’t let the world get in your way. I wish you all a life less ordinary.
Daily Nexus columnist Drew Atkins may be a cynic, but he appreciates daffodils as much as the next person.