“Finding the Good in the Bad”

I have been called many names.

Many of them are not nice, and in some strange way, I admit, I kind of get off on it. I’m probably a bit sick and certainly a bit twisted, but there are few who aren’t, and those folks probably think that some divine intervention will help them pay for their groceries, the nice guy finishes first and true love conquers all.

I sometimes wish I could be like that.

With that being said, I’m incredibly human. I cried during “Bambi” (and “This Boy’s Life” for the same reasons), I have abandonment issues, I like fresh fallen snow, trick or treating, and been incredibly devastated by both a girl and a sports franchise (which in both cases, are a waste of tears.) Yet, I think that one of the things that makes us the most human is that no matter who you are, when the lights go out and you are left with only your thoughts, we all end up in a fetal position; rocking back and forth from time to time when the volume of everything that you bottle up just explodes out of you.

This is why therapists make the GNP of Luxemborg. We’ve got issues a plenty.

So, as a result of my “sick-twistedness” and this column’s prose, I inevitably get called a “cynic.” This however, (and you may call me sick for saying this), could be considered a compliment.

Throughout history, some very famous people are either considered or considered themselves to be cynics. Here’s a few: Twain, Thoreau, Oscar Wilde, Shakespeare, Nietzsche, Aesop, Machiavelli, Salinger, Dylan, Vonnegaut, Thompson, Orwell and Voltaire. These idealists who basically live to try to show the world that amongst others, we as a human race need to realize that:

How we live our life is so far removed from how we ought to live. (Machiavelli)

There are well-dressed ideas just like there are well-dressed fools. (Nicolas Chamfort)

Modern day cynicism however, or the “Howard Stern school of cynicism”, if you will, is not really about having ideas that happen to go against the mainstream for the greater good based on some idealistic or altruistic way of thinking, but rather just having a smart ass reply to everything, or just neglecting to ever enjoy yourself.

So essentially, to be a cynic in these times, you don’t necessarily have to stand for anything, you just have to be against everything.

Every week in this paper, the publisher writes a hodge-podge of items that he enjoys, and calls the segment “Things I Like.” It lists random things that the publisher likes, and becomes the cup of warm hot chocolate on the greatest of cynics cold, cold heart. This is the type of optimism that makes you feel good inside, and it is truly what journalism lacks, as there is no real emotion or any piece that fills the void between journalism that is shrouded in bitter cynicism (hard news stations) and ruined by extreme fluff pieces (talk shows, morning shows, and feel good pieces).

Yet, each week, “Things I Like” effortlessly makes you want to stop and proverbially smell the roses. It makes me want to join “cynics anonymous” or join a Baptist choir or something as equally uplifting.

At the root of it, it helps me remember that I am a genuinely good person, or at the most cynical of times, wasn’t always so damn jaded. I pay my taxes, I open doors for women, I play peek-a-boo with strangers’ babies in line at the grocery store, yet unfortunately, I find myself bothered by more things that I consciously enjoy. Was I born a cynic, or was cynicism thrust upon me? Was it the walking around the world that is filled with such negativity and injustice that did it to me, or am I just as many folks would assume, generally a miserable person?

Here are a few of my least favorite things, and though I try to laugh at them and myself most of the time, I can’t seem to just swallow them as being “just the way it is” kind of thing:

— Leaders who don’t lead us anywhere worth going

— Self-help books and the publishers that pay those authors

— Dr. Phil and his condescending southern drawl

— People who pay in change at the supermarket

— “A” students who end up less successful than “C” students

— How we measure success

— Driving in Ocean Pines

— Wimpy, whiny white boy songwriters like James Blunt

— Ism’s

— Business jargon (i.e. memos, utilize)

— Elitists who were merely born into money

— People who think overpriced “Sysco” food is fine dining

— Gangsta’ Rap

— How the nicest people in the world have the most tragic things happen to them.

— Political Christians

— The screaming parents at youth sports games

— People who talk about their dogs like they’re kids.

— Women who start every phrase with “My Boyfriend…”

— The fact that dead celebrities are still making more than I’ll ever make.

— How easy it is to offend people.

— That you are measured by how much you have rather than who you really are.

— That common sense is not really that common with most people.

— Them, They, and Those People.

I feel a hundred times better, but not really. It’s the equivalent of putting fix-a-flat on a tire that is shredded. I wrote this column not to rip off the publisher but rather to get off my chest some of the things that were building up, as this week, one of the nicest people I’ve ever met was told that they have a very serious illness.

Grace is many things: It’s a style in how you do something, it’s unconditional love, it’s my favorite Jeff Buckley record and it’s also being given something that you don’t deserve. My friend has never been anything but positive and yet he faces something so negative. It makes me wonder how can someone have such blind faith when justice is apparently so equally blind. Yet, he has handled himself with such optimism and grace that it is unbelievably moving and heartbreaking at the same time.

So, I look at my cynicism and compare it to his optimism and I realize that like Woody Allen, “I wouldn’t want to be apart of a club that would have me as a member”, I may need to join “Cynics Anonymous.”

Sometimes all the human spirit needs to overcome some hardships is holding on to a few of the things that makes it the happiest.

So I’ve hoping to be a retired cynic, an aspiring optimist, and a hopeful realist that believes that someday the good guy will finish first and true love may in fact, one day conquer all.

Email me at [email protected].