Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Henry Rollins - On Being Cynical


In this short video clip (from Provoked) Henry Rollins rants and preaches on the "intellectual cowardice" of cynicism. He's been there and done that, and he can't do it anymore - which does not mean he does not have righteous anger. He admits that for him life sucks and he would rather not be here - most days he is miserable and he has "contempt for life."

BUT, what keeps him here is that he knows life would be thinking, "Ha ha, you wimped out, you couldn't handle me." So he wants to kick life's ass - he wants to "make life run for its life." He wants to "be a pain in life's ass." He refuses to let life kick his ass with its unfairness and annoying happy people.

Compared to Rollins, I feel mellow and easy going (and those who know me know how far that is from the truth). More below the video.

Thanks to Michael at Archive Fire for posting this video clip.

I feel his anger and frustration - I have my own experiences that made me a cynical, bitter, angry, misanthropic young man. Maybe we all do - at least those of us who have embraced cynicism as a lifestyle choice.

But sometime around 30 or so, it began to shift. My perspective widened, or opened, or something. I don't want or need to kick life's ass - I want to swim with the current and not fight against it anymore - to align with whatever purpose seems to be unfolding in my life.

Unlike Rollins, I do not have contempt for life. The more I look at and heal the old wounds that made me cynical in the first place, the less miserable I feel. These days, I actually enjoy my life - but I am not one of the happy, shiny people, nor am I some kind of "floating Buddha," to use Rollins' term.

Some days seriously suck - some days the politicians and corporations and government and the guy leaves his dog outside to bark all night and the people who text while they drive and the men who hit women and the women who hate all men and the parents who neglect their kids and the assholes who hurt children or animals and the insurance companies who deny claims and and and and . . . . Some days it makes me want to check out.

And then Mogli licks my hand or Jami laughs at one of my stupid jokes or a child in a store smiles at me or a gray-haired woman holds a door for me or I see a father rocking his baby to sleep or the sun creates purple and orange art in the clouds at sunset or a Facebook friend makes me laugh or or or or . . . . And I remember that beauty is in the details, in the small moments, in how I hold the world in my heart.

And then the question is . . . How to reconcile both experiences - to feel the laughter through the tears. I can't ignore the ugliness, it fuels my desire to help people as a personal trainer, as a coach, and soon as a mental health counselor. And I can't allow it to crush my spirit the way it once did.

So I try to remain mindful of my feelings, of my anger, of my joy - I try not to let all the ugliness become cynicism and despair again. And I try to limit my exposure to the culture of fear and suspicion that permeates our media - I try to focus on the next thing, and the next, and the next . . . and one day I will have lived a meaningful life.

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