Are you Cynical or Wise?

At some point in my life I was watching some random series at Netflix and I heard the phrase.

You still have the benefit of your ideals.

Although I am well aware writers may not have put much attention into that line –at least not on its own since it was nearly irrelevant for the series–. For me, it was an action-trigger. It fired something dormant inside of me.

For whatever reason, this concept has been strongly-imprinted in my mind.

The first law of motion states:

An object in a constant state of motion will keep its current speed unless a force is applied on to it.

This was such force.

What are ideals?

Ideals are conceptions of things on a perfect state. Untainted. Pure.

Ideals are based on imagination rather than knowledge.

Things like

  • True Love
  • Heroes
  • Rock stars
  • How Politicians and Public Figures should behave
  • The concept children have of Their Parents as immortal protectors
  • How you look at Your Children

Ideals are –at some extent– white-lies we tell ourselves. Sometimes we do so in order to lessen the shortcomings we can see in things and people we love.

The main reason why we have them is to feel safe. This same reason leads thousands of believers blindly into faith, regardless of what they may call their God.


Who has ideals?

Everyone has ideals.

They are best received by inexperienced young minds. As children we tend to believe in things that are not real. Magic, unicorns, super heroes and so on.

We teach our young to believe lions and bears are lovely stuffed animals that protect them from bad dreams. We teach them to believe that everything is all right if mommy or daddy said so.

As humans, we believe things because we have limited knowledge. Ignorance is after all, such a beautiful bliss.

Even the Bible says so –A cautionary tale to keep people ignorant, or a warning for those of us with inquisitive minds?–.

For with much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief.


Why do we lose our ideals?

Simple. The more you know the less you believe.

As we grow older, we also grow aware of how things really work. We understand trust can be broken. People can turn against you, some of them may even hurt you. And this knowledge changes you. It changes the way you think of people as well.

Having ideals is a great experience. However, nothing in this life involving humans can ever be considered perfect. Therefore, ideals are lost because they are conceptions of perfection.

We humans –as a species– are imperfect. Our emotions are sometimes overwhelming, and they can take the best of us without so much as a warning.

Do you remember the last time you yelled at someone you loved? Probably. But, Do you remember why? This is less likely.

When you hurt someone you love, well, that shit cannot be taken back. We have hurt someone, and wish we would’ve not.

Nonetheless, what’s done is done. In this case, as responsible humans, we need to be accountable for our choices and actions. This includes spending necessary amount of energy and time to make it up to those we love and have hurt.

So ideals get lost as we grow older, because now,  we know better. Ideals are lost because we are no longer just children playing with toys. They get lost because we can’t simply-say how sorry we are anymore and some how make it alright. Ideals get lost because as you age, forgiveness becomes more and more of a difficult thing.


Then we are Cynical

It’s said that Oppenheimer was very excited to know his experiment had worked. That he walked with pride when the bomb went off on top of Hiroshima.

But it is also said that he was very upset with the government when the second bomb was deployed on Nagasaki.

It is not likely that anyone will ever be able to grasp the real feelings and experience of the man who created the hydrogen bomb. That is for him to know alone.

However, let’s consider his regret as something real. Let’s consider he really felt the guilt of becoming an instant-mass-murderer.

Now I have become death. The destroyer of worlds.

Oppenheimer’s predicament is a very dramatic one. This is the reason why I like to use it. Very few things can convey a message with such impact.

He used his knowledge of physics to make a bomb. He took the decision to turn what he knew into a weapon of mass destruction in order to turn the war around.

Pay attention now. This is something I want you to remember. Knowledge will make you cynical if you let it.

When you know more of the world, you use this knowledge to control the outcomes of every single situation you deal with.

A person can easily start to look at people as numbers and variables in an equation that needs solving.

Anyone can think in terms of profit and loss, and take every decision from an economic stand point. We do this because it is easier than facing the fact that those are people’s lives we are playing with –Remember 2008?–.

Knowledge –as wealth– can become an addiction. It can alienate and transform a person into a  robot, an evil one for that matter.

Every single time you take a decision there’s a price to be paid.

You have to make sure not to bring your work attitude home. That you are not becoming as much of a boss at home as you are in the office. You have to find a balance.

If you stop your pursue of knowledge here, you are done. You are now a cynical man. a man who will care for no one but himself. And if that is what you want. Then I guess it is ok.

But, aren’t you curious to know what’s on the other side?


When you become Wise

By now, you know knowledge is a heavy burden sometimes. This is the reason why so many people –unknowingly– prefer to be ignorant.

Ignorant people don’t have to make choices. They outsource all thinking and opinions to TV, Social Medial, Faith, Government, Chance and the Kardashians.

You are different. You are one in a million. You have continued your pursue of knowledge through thick and thin, through Kanye and Kim.

Now, you have ditched-off the power-lust from your earlier years. Now, you know other people are important too. And what’s more important, you are steadily starting to realize, that you care for others as well.

Not just your loved ones, but your neighbors –As boring as they may be–. You care for your city, or your country. And you are ready to start doing something about it.

This means you are ready to let the ready to listen to the voice who will bring you true knowledge. You are ready to let go of pretenses and embrace substance of something real.


Will you really become wise?

I honestly cannot tell. But this is something we should all aspire to. Being wise is being able to make the right choices. It enables you to give good and uncompromising advice to those in need. To take action-to-help others. To be there for others.

Beware that being wise doesn’t mean telling others what to do. Is being able to ask the right questions, so anyone can find the right answers.

Paul Graham wrote

To eliminate the random biases that come from your own nature and from the circumstances of your upbringing respectively. That’s not all wisdom is, but it’s a large part of it.

Remove yourself from the equation, become Zen. This is not a choice for a couple of days, is the path you will walk for the rest of your days. No matter where you want to go next.


Why would I want to be wise?

Being wise sounds like a lot of difficult work. You will most likely fail at it while trying. And that’s ok.

Wisdom is not built from knowledge alone. It is not built on top of success alone. Wisdom is the path you walk when you are moving to a better place and when you are recovering from a mistake.

You can’t decide to become wise. You can only decide to acquire wisdom.

Are you familiar with the name King Solomon?

David made Solomon king of Jerusalem. Solomon was granted unparalleled wisdom, having ask for this himself before God. It has been said that God granted Solomon this wish because he didn’t ask for his own life, or for the dead of his enemies.

In a particular tale the King’s wisdom is put to the test. On some random night, two women gave birth to baby boys, but only child would live to see the light of day.

Solomon order the child to be split in to two exact halves, so each mother could keep one-half of a child. The real mother of the child screamed and pledged King Solomon not to kill her son, she would rather give him away before seeing her child dead.

The King noticed the second woman standing still, he new then she was lying –or assessed she was no mother material–, and so the real mother got to keep her child.

Being wise, comes with age, there is no shortcut for this process. This can only be learned by experience and self-control. It doesn’t come naturally to man, and is not a path that is easy to walk.

Humans have been longing for wisdom since ancestral times.

The Lakota. A Native American tribe had a beautiful payer for the Great Spirit

I seek strength, not to be superior to my brother,
but to fight my greatest enemy – myself.
Make me always ready to come to you
with clean hands and straight eyes,
so when life fades, as the fading sunset,
my spirit will come to you
without shame.

Nordics said Odin gave up his own eye for wisdom

Wisdom is knowledge of things and the ability to take the right course before each eventuality. But wisdom cannot buy you certainty.


The only certainty is Death

Castaneda deems Death to be the last enemy of knowledge. And it is true. No one can escape death.

But before we die

  • What if we try to make better choices?
  • What if we make choices based on reason and not plain emotion?
  • What if we consider others as people and not property?
  • What if we treat each other with kindness?
  • What if we try hard to be selfless, to give without the need to get back?
  • What if we learn something new?
  • What if we read just another book without pictures in it?
  • What if we travel to the other side of the city just for fun?
  • What if we break free from routine and take more chances?
  • What if we try to make conversation with someone we do not particularly like?
  • What if we dance like there is no tomorrow?
  • What if you decide that the only thing keeping you from being all you can be, is yourself?

At the time being, the only certainty we have is that everything dies.

But I am also certain that you can choose to live your life in a way that inspires others. In a way that inspires you.


2 thoughts on “Are you Cynical or Wise?

  1. Creo que hay una línea muy delgada entre tener el conocimiento y ser sabio. Y, como dices, tendemos a volvernos cínicos para protegernos. La información es poder, pero no necesariamente te convierte en un mejor ser humano, la sabiduría si, porque está llena de experiencia, de observación y experimentación, es el resultado de haber probado y llevar un conocimiento a la acción. La reflexión hominiza, sólo que debemos aprenderlo porque la sociedad moderna, generalmente no nos lo enseña. Saber que podemos elegir ser cínicos o sabios es un gran paso.

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