Optimistic Cynic

I wish that people were all kind and loving and anything except selfish and self-serving—I wish that I could believe that. But they are not. We are not. We all are concerned only with our own well-being and there’s not a damn thing we can do about it. Well…that is not necessarily true. Many people—those who appear altruistic, philanthropic, or otherwise concerned with the well-being of others; those who immediately took offense at my original statement and are quick to write this off as the sad fiction of a cynic—they have discovered something to do about it.

Not change, mind you; human nature is the same as irrefutable fact as far as you, me, and our foreseeable posterity are concerned. There are some things about who we are that we cannot change. So, no, they did not change the facts, they just changed their perception; they tricked themselves. They convinced themselves that they were kind and lo and behold, it made it true for all intents and purposes. That is the secret, is it not? The secret to all things: perception. It allows us to individually create our own truth that can be as far from the real Truth as we damn well please, and that has been the key to much of our positive development and may very well be the secret to our salvation.

Call me an optimistic cynic. Oh that’s oxymoronic in your book? Well be more open-minded. I am an optimistic cynic because I believe in the inherent evil of humans and still hold hope in our ability to overcome it. Maybe a better term would be Old Testament dreamer—I subscribe to the doctrine of original sin yet eschew predetermination and believe in our own fate-changing potential. Does that make any more sense? Really I am just a recovering humanist who is farther along the process than most—at least I’ve admitted that we have a problem. Those who act well (are kind, gracious, sweet, attractive, and all those beautiful qualities in a person that make those around them believe in humanity) sure seem to be farther along, but they missed the fundamental step of realizing what the problem is that they are trying to fix (by being kind, gracious, etc.), so they are now stuck treating the symptoms instead of the disease.

Hunger, war, poverty, hatred, apathy, greed, inequality; these are all the symptoms of the disease that is human nature, or at least a fundamental part of human nature which is to selfishly strive for our own good no matter the consequences. Really it is an animal instinct, so maybe it should not be pinned on humans specifically, yet animals tend to work better as a species (for the species) than our own society of collective individuals. Animals are naturally, biologically, as selfish as people—we are just better at it. We developed big complex brains so that we could think up new imaginative ways of being selfish. We developed layers of selfishness, so deep and convoluted that some people get lost in them and come out the other side believing they are not selfish. How about that?

We are bad and capable of so much good. We are ugly at the core and able to cover it with so much beauty you might never even know. Overcoming human nature—there is nothing more human that that.


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