on cynicism

I’ve been talking to a couple of my friends recently, and I found that they have become quite cynical, realizing that I’ve also developed a sense of cynicism and disbelief towards many things, especially new.

I wonder if it’s a natural stage that we all go through. Childhood obliviousness (unless one experiences an uncharacteristically rough childhood), teenage angst/cynicism, adult acceptance.

I’m still stuck at the stage between teenage angst and adulthood.

It’s like that rather cliched picture with a kid gazing at a field of flowers, an adolescent looking at smoke and destruction, and an adult finding the beauty above.

I sometimes wonder if not all people experience these three stages, as in whether some people get stuck in obliviousness, or angst. Of course, this is all based on the assumption that there are these three stages, and we’re going to go along with that assumption.

Combined with the hormones, stress from school, stress from social situations, stress from family, and existential angst, I think it’s pretty reasonable for teenagers to develop a cynicism against the world, more often called “angst” or “the emo phase”. Both of these terms have relatively negative connotations associated with them, and are a little bit different from being cynical.

Of course, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being cynical; rather, cynicism is valuable because it helps develop our critical thinking abilities, teaching us to poke at situations and people a little bit deeper than what appears on the surface, think about motives and social patterns.

I guess this is one of the reasons why I like Reading Literature so much (directions: read “Reading Literature” in a lofty British accent).

See, I’m critical of myself.

Even that sounded lofty. To be read in a British Accent.

Back to the point, to read literature is to prod at fictional characters and their situations, to think critically, to find underlying patterns that can be interpreted in multiple ways. To read is to ask the Big Unanswerable Questions.

I think reading breeds cynicism, but maybe it will also heal it.

To read is to empathize with different characters, to find compassion for everyone and everything, because in the end, we really are all human.

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