Welcome to another installment of Solidarity Thursdays. With the wise words of Jaysen Waller at The Metta Garden blog, Esther Emery at Church in the Canyon, and t r i s k a i d e k a p o d as my companions we set out this week to discuss Cynicism. Thanks for reading and please join the conversation by leaving a comment, submitting a topic, or linking to your own blog.
If you’ve ever spent any time around a truly deep and committed cynic, you’ll know that there isn’t much point in arguing. Indeed you may not even have to argue to meet the cynic’s denigration. There are few things that will escape the scornful eye. There are myriad examples in my life that have led me to consider the cynical attitude more deeply, one being that I tend to BE a bit of a cynic. It’s this part of myself that I have been in constant conflict with for many years. The cynic remembers all the bad stuff that has happened to them in the past and uses those memories as the predominant bank of knowledge when considering new questions or challenges with which they are faced. This is primarily a protectionist attitude and one that likes to trim the fat from any expenditure of energy. It can come in very handy when looking for the most efficient solution to a problem, and is a very useful tool when used to point out where we may not be meeting our ideals, but as I’ve considered this attitude within myself and in the world I’ve come to believe that as a default reality, it only stands in the way of expression and innovation and creative solutions to our problems.
To take an extent example that affects us all, we have seen an ideological gridlock in American politics that can only be attributed to cynicism at it’s most debilitating. Among politicians on both sides of the aisle, we see a belief that things won’t change because things don’t change, a deeply cynical view of our world, especially because if one is diligent in their study of history, they will recognize that things DO change, although often quite incrementally. We have a tendency to give up when things do not turn on a dime and thus become more and more cynical. You’ve likely experienced this yourself in a work environment when you or a colleague makes a suggestion that is shot down immediately by someone who’s been there longer and claims that it’s all been tried before. This person rarely offers any suggestions, you may notice, to try and solve the problem. What I believe that person is failing to recognize is that incremental change is happening all the time, so if we’ve tried it before and it didn’t work, it is possible that the forces that stood in the way of success have changed and thus paved the way for success this time around. In American politics today, we see each side of the aisle stubbornly sticking to old ideas and insisting their way is the only way based solely on the past and a cynical view of the “others”, while refusing to listen to their constituencies that are crying out for compromise, recognizing that things have changed, if only incrementally, allowing for a new and inclusive solution.
Let’s look at an example outside of politics that highlights the inverse of the cynical trap. In the past week, two glowing examples of lives largely without cynicism have moved on to another realm. Dave Brubeck and Ravi Shankar are no longer with us in the physical sense, but their contributions will be with us forever. Their work in moving music forward highlights what is possible when cynicism is not allowed to overcome the creative spirit.
Dave Brubeck was fascinated with time signatures, and although jazz music takes its liberties with 4/4 time by syncopating the rhythm, it was Dave Brubeck who moved jazz forward by employing a new time signature in a catchy and hip tune that would become one of the most important pieces of music written in the 20th century.
“Take 5” changed the game and proved that experimental and ambitious music could still be accessible to the general public. Cynicism doesn’t allow for that type of risk. Cynicism plays it safe and sticks with the Big Band style that dominated the jazz scene in the previous decades, or even Bop in the standard 4/4. Even the cynicism within Brubeck was challenged and overcome when a dreaded meeting between he and the Avant-Garde jazz man Charlie Mingus produced one of the easiest sounding pairings of the era between two men who were very far apart in their ideas about the genre, in their chance collaboration on Mingus’ tune “Non-Sectarian Blues”.
Ravi Shankar actually admits that when he was first approached by George Harrison of The Beatles, he was skeptical of his intentions. Why would this Pop star be interested in the traditional ragas of India?
Imagine if that skepticism or cynicism had overtaken him at that point in his life? Instead he went on to change the way we see music outside of the mainstream, and the world and music are better for it.
There are infinite examples of this kind, and my point in bringing these up in particular is partly an homage to their legacies as I celebrate their lives, but it is also about recognizing that creative ventures are not possible if the default position we take in life is contradictory. If our first response to a suggestion or a thought from others or within ourselves discredits the thought outright, no change will take place. No innovation will come. No beautiful music will be made. Instead, if we can stop those contradictions and engage with new ideas, or even old ones for that matter if we consider how incremental changes affect new attempts at those ideas, we are more likely to succeed in our endeavors.
If you would like to read more, please check out Jaysen Waller at The Metta Garden Here
Or Esther Emery at Church in the Canyon Here
Or t r i s k a d e k a p o d Here
Thanks for reading…