Is cynicism a form of self-harm?
If you’d have asked me recently, how I defined myself? After a rant about ‘not doing goddamn labels’, I’d have conceded that one of my less salubrious traits is that of a cynic.
Trying to think back: is this hard-wired, or has the weight of life’s experiences simply turned me into a habitual sceptic?
Possibly, and yet I’ve long held a hope that I’m wrong; that there are more wonderful people out there than I’ve thus far had the opportunity to meet. Surely not everyone has an agenda, and personal gain compounded by ego isn’t what drives the majority?
I’m aware that I’m also to blame. I have a stoic streak a mile wide running through my core, and don’t find it comfortable expressing emotion unless I’ve been stuck in the trenches with someone first. I could claim self-protection: a need to be sure about people before fully investing; but that would be a lie. The truth is I got used to holding back; being the one who supports others while never needing the same in return.
Thankfully, life is truly a journey, and if we’re willing to seize opportunities to learn, then it always has the capacity to surprise.
And so it was, that the Tao Of Us trio ended up in Australia for the wedding of Ryan and Em. I expected to meet a few nice people; after all, these were my son’s friends: an eclectic mix of souls from entirely different continents. Nothing however, could have prepared me for what I experienced, and for the love we were all shown.
To be honest it made me feel ashamed. Ashamed because I found myself expecting to ultimately see some darkness showing through, as always happens when people can’t maintain a façade. Is this really who I’d become? So cynical that acts of human kindness are looked on with suspicion. In my defence, experience has shown that people often promise the world only to fall at the final hurdle; fading away when the going gets tough.
The reality is that we’re all flawed. Everyone is flaky from time to time, and that’s OK. None of us are going to get it right every single day, and do you know what? That’s OK too.
I feel so lucky right now to have had my outlook not just challenged; but changed. Changed by a collection of people who invested – not just their time, but emotion – so heavily into what was meant to be a simple ceremony, that it became a thing of utter beauty – I really hope the wedding video doesn’t show how much my lower lip was trembling.
The whole day was special: breath-taking scenery, a barefoot evening barbeque serenaded by rainforest creatures, more love in one room than I’ve ever experienced; even the weather showed kindness. Ok so the reception restaurant meal left a few of us with a slightly dicky tum, and the wedding night was a bit crowded: a colony of ants and a huntsman spider decided to turn up. But hey, these are the things that we laugh about later…..welcome to Australia!
Over the course of the following three weeks, I got to know these people; two in particular who continued to invest their time, kindness, and interest in us. They opened up their homes and their hearts, and despite personal tribulations, showed a degree of openness, honesty and authenticity I’ve rarely encountered before. To be a recipient of such unsolicited warmth was, and is, humbling.
The result being that this old dog has had his faith in humanity restored. Sure, the world isn’t all peace and love; in fact, a lot of it’s shit. But I for one, am shocked at how much impact can be made by so few. It’s shown me that we should never stop trying to reach out to others: never letting cynicism or the weight of evidence to the contrary, prevent us from aspiring to connect with those good people out there who’re on the lookout for kindred spirits.
It’s frightening to think that cynicism, masquerading as pragmatism, could have prevented me making such profound connections. What a loss that would’ve been; what have I already missed out on? Maybe wisdom is simply about recognising when we’re wrong and changing tack before it’s too late.
If these people hadn’t laid it all on the line, and given of themselves so freely, then I don’t feel I’d be fully open to meeting some of the great people I now know will be in my future.
I’m grateful that I could learn such a lesson now; grateful that I’ve acquired two amazing friends whom I know I’ll see again, on one side of the world or the other.
I miss them already……you know who you are!