31 December 2009


A week or so ago I found a regularly-updated philosophy channel on YouTube: the host has focused on Stoicism several times, which may be of interest to some readers here. This particular video sees him ask the question what Stoicism most offers the modern world given that we use technology to alleviate so much. His sees  Stoicism's approach to death as its most important potential contribution today.

15 December 2009

Struggling with Cynicism

It seems that the more I learn about society, the less I wish to participate in it.

The above statement may seem like a witticism of a sort, and sometimes it amuses me in a tragic sense, but it’s a true statement for me that expresses my increasing cynicism about society and my discomfort at that.

I think the American socio-, economic- and political structure is flawed in many ways. The majority of the nation is not in control its destiny: the people are routinely exploited, lied to, and manipulated. People have become addicted to being entertained: the emotional depth of their lives has dissipated. Their talk has become small talk, devoid of substance or relevance. We spend more time reacting to what television tells us than actually living life -- more time using people for our own entertainment than connecting with them: we attempt to console ourselves by endlessly buying things. The list goes on.

Perhaps many people think that society is sick for reasons different than my own, but they go on participating in it. I increasingly understand Henry David Thoreau, and sometimes wish that I, too, could run off into the woods and get away from the irrational and unhealthy society that has arisen in the United States. I even find monks to be understandable, and I want to live in a quiet little community somewhere with other people who find society objectionable and don’t want to participate it in anymore.

At the same time as I am thinking these things, I examine my motives and I wonder if I am not just becoming a perpetual whiner,  pacifying and even entertaining myself by finding flaws in society instead of living up to my own ideals and doing what I can to change what I can. I wonder if my cynicism is just a way of protecting myself from the emotional toll living fully would actually take.

At the same time, I think a good thing that I am so wary of this increasing cynicism, that I don’t want to give up.  It seems that many people do, and think themselves the better for it, but I am not convinced. I believe we must strive and fight in life, but my ability to do so is more and more impaired by my suspicion that I am merely kicking against a mountain.

How do other people prevent themselves from sliding into the abyss of jadedness?