Cynicism, Hope and Despair
Cynicism reigns, so we are told. People are apathetic, dispirited, disillusioned, deeply cynical, resigned, passive. But why then, for example, are Che posters and banners popular again? Why is there more social and political activism now than in the glory of the ‘60’s counter-culture? Why did the largest protests in history occur in just the last few years? Why were there coordinated global protests over the war in Iraq on a scale that dwarfed the height of the Vietnam protest – before the war even began? People are tired of being cynical. Cynicism is depressing, and worse, vacuous. It leads nowhere. People are beginning to be fed up with being passively resigned to a world they are deeply discontent with. (And global polls show that the vast majority are indeed deeply discontent with the state of society and the world.) People are burned out on being burned out. After a while, cynical resignation begins to feel like a prison. A boring, stifling, dark and gloomy prison, with no windows and no doors. The claustrophobia itself becomes unbearable. Something has to be done, if only to break the nausea of boredom. Energy and motivation becomes not a luxury, not a nicety, but a necessity. And so it is now.
There is either a stifling living death of asphyxia by boredom and malaise, trapped inside the confines of a prison of cynicism; or else a break into a new energy and determination. Rosy-eyed idealism may not be attainable or even desirable, but cynicism and its attendant claustrophobia becomes unbearable after a while. That is when the break comes. A new day must dawn: living death is not an option. A determination sets in to do what is possible, and to test and see what is possible, and to not sit on one’s ass denouncing any conceivable action as futile. Anything less is atrophy of the soul. And more and more people are unwilling to stand – or sit, or lie down – for this.
There is an instinct for life in us, and it will not be quelled. It rises up and demands that we live fully, despite our disillusionment and sorrow, fear and doubt. Our instinct for life compels us to be more than the listless, sullen, apathetic and beaten living dead. It compels us to live with an aspiration toward fulfilling the fullness of our humanity. And that means having a determination to face the present and the future, our communities, lives and world, with more than a drifting and soulless passivity. It demands that we face life as human beings, as actors, and not simply as passive spectators or mere cogs in a machine. We are too human for that, and our instinct toward life keeps our soul alive. It can be temporarily suppressed, but it cannot be killed. It is alive. We are alive.
As human beings, we are still alive. The human spirit can never be fully vanquished. We are alive. And more and more, people are not content to merely exist, but wish instead to truly live. This is the hope of the future. This is always the hope of the future. It is the creative spark that keeps our hearts alive. Nourish it. Nourish that spark. It is unspeakably precious. Nourish it in yourself, and nourish it in one another. Without it, we are lost – soulless and drifting. It cannot be killed, but it can be darkened. Do not darken your soul with despair. Live while you live. Make it a full life. And that means living with love, and living as an active participant in this great play of life, and not merely as an observer. Live. Breathe. You are alive.
It has been said that, “Sentiment without action is the ruin of the soul.” If this is true, then passive hand-wringing is self-destruction. We have no more time for such foolishness. It is time to act.
August 17, 2006