When Cynicism Makes Way Too Much Sense

You probably didn’t notice–maybe a few of you did–but I’ve been away for a while. It’s been almost a month since I’ve written anything here, and I feel like my lack of writing has been a little bit dishonest. I’ve been in a bit of a dark place for a couple weeks, and I think I’ve been avoiding writing anything. I try to be hopeful on this blog, but sometimes it’s harder than others. Nobody is hopeful all the time. So I just decided not to write…. Well, I guess that was part of it. Another part was me looking at ideas and beginnings of posts, and then literally sighing the words, “Ahh, fuck it.” If I’m being honest….

Both things are very scary.

Both things are very scary.

I was going to write a post titled “Getting Ebola For All The Right Reasons” about all the people putting themselves in harms way in order to try to care for the sick, or even going into highly infectious areas in the hopes of telling the stories (through writing and pictures and video) of the people whose lives and families and communities have been devastated by this disease. And how celebrating those people and that best part of our humanity is such a better use of our energy than being fearful about contracting a disease that has infected less people in this country than there are people who have gotten dumped by Taylor Swift. There are so many stories of hope and humanity selflessness in the midst of this outbreak, it is such a shame to focus on fear. But while trying to write those stories, I felt myself thinking, “What’s the point?” I don’t know…. I still might write about it.

Scott DesJarlais, pro-life republican representative for the great state of Tennessee.

Scott DesJarlais, pro-life republican representative for the great state of Tennessee.

And then the mid-term elections happened, and it got me down. I know it shouldn’t, but it did. Something about this election just made me feel very cynical. I live in a state where they just reelected a man who is running as a “pro-life” candidate, but who encouraged his wife (at the time) to get two abortions, while also having affairs WITH WOMEN WHO WERE PATIENTS OF HIS and then pressuring at least one of them to have an abortion after he got her pregnant. And I’m not saying that he or anyone else is beyond redemption, but can we really find no one else to represent us who doesn’t have this colossal level of a well-documented moral and ethical failure?!? He was elected because he has an “R” next to his name. And things seem very dark….

The truth just sounds different.

The truth just sounds different.

In addition to this, the abortion amendment to Tennessee’s State Constitution–the one that I wrote about before this post–passed. I thought about writing about this as well…. About how the way that Tennessee’s amendment process works is that in order for a constitutional amendment to get ratified, it needs to be on the ballot in a year that people are voting for Governor, and if 50% + 1 of the number of people who voted for the Governor vote “Yes,” it passes. Well, in this election the Governor’s race was not even close. There was never a doubt that the republican incumbent was going to win a second term. I had not even seen one advertisement for the democratic candidate…. I’d be willing to bet that 95% of the people in the state could not have even told you the democratic candidate’s name. So with that race already in hand, many MANY voters who identify as “pro-life” decided to leave the ballot blank in the Governor’s race, essentially making their “Yes” vote for the abortion amendment count as one and a half votes. All for what will amount to regulations that will made it next to impossible for poor women to have access to safe, affordable abortions when they actually need them, while keeping them very available to the mistresses of rich doctors-turned-politicians. This amendment takes the right of a woman to make her own reproductive decisions and puts those rights and decisions in the hands of people like Scott DesJarlais. And again there I was, just wading along, waist-deep in “What’s the fucking point….”

Maybe “hopeful” is a synonym for “naive.” Maybe cynicism is just wisdom and time.

And then there’s family stuff and sickness and stress and money worries…. And then there’s pipelines and immigration and beheadings and every other story on NPR.

I’m not out of this funk yet….

But I turned off the news for a couple of weeks and just tried to listen to funny podcasts. This seemed to help a little. And then, while driving around with my kids, I listened to a perfect pop song called “Shut Up And Dance” by Walk The Moon. And after it finished, I said, “I think we’re going to listen to that again.” And we did. And it was awesome. You should probably listen to it as well…. Here it is:

But my thoughts kept coming back to how next-to-freaking-impossible it is to have any effect whatsoever on another human being, even when the things you are saying and believing are as rational and true as anything you know in the world. It’s hard enough to change myself…. I don’t know why I would be so deluded as to think I can change others. Too many John Hughes movies, I suppose…. And I started saying the Serenity Prayer to myself….

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.

There's no such thing as too many John Hughes movies.

There’s no such thing as too many John Hughes movies.

And a strange thing happened. I started to remember what serenity felt like. And I started to feel more courageous. And a little more wise. And I thought about how we don’t speak the truth to change people’s minds…. We speak the truth because it’s the truth. We don’t love our enemies because they’re going to magically become loving as well…. We love them because they are the image of God, and they are worth loving. And we don’t stop fighting the battle when it looks there’s no hope of winning…. We keep fighting because there are kids watching. And they are learning how to live. And they may someday be able to win the battles that we couldn’t.

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17 Responses to When Cynicism Makes Way Too Much Sense

  1. troy says:

    keep working on it buddy, although you and I have a very fundamental philosophical difference, you seem to arrive at a very similar take on situations that I do. human nature, the more you try to button it down, the more it finds ways to express itself un ugly ways…as you have just pointed out. be the best ‘you’ and people around you will benefit and give it back, sometimes the circle is bigger than others, some ideas get traction, some don’t. humanity, whatever that means, is fascinating and that’s about the nicest thing I can say about it. accept the good, reject the bad.

  2. I know the darkness of which you speak. I live in Kentucky. The very people who so desperately need government assistance vote for candidates who want to limit/remove that assistance. I do not understand. I feel your pain, brother.

  3. Jan toraason says:

    This makes so much sense and came at just the right time. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  4. troy says:

    since you like the music…watch/listen to the end. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7SVr-YK0_80&index=4&list=FLEpfDf76f_VpJM7-mM0r8gg
    always lifts me some. high on life, sometimes…higher. music and a clear, blue sky

  5. Your discouragement is Completely understood and perfectly expressed. And many of us are feeling the same way. Your conclusions are inspiring and encouraging. Speaking the truth in a logical, caring, hopeful way is your gift and I, for one, hope you continue to inspire with your thoughts and words.

  6. Laura Ohlwein says:

    This sums up how I’ve been feeling lately and had a beautiful message at the end that I needed to hear.. thought you might like it too

  7. Julie Hill says:

    Just about exactly the way I’ve been feeling – but we also have to remember that somehow things have improved and changed in the past, and no doubt they will again.

  8. veronica says:

    I feel your pain. I’m so disgusted with my home state of Tennessee that I can’t begin to express it. Amendment One is an affront to women everywhere. I have two adult daughters, and I’ve told them that I don’t want them to ever live in Tennessee while this amendment is in place. And people I know – intelligent, educated, nice people – voted for Scott DesJarlais. It’s like an alien temporarily sucked their brain into a jar when they went into the voting booth. It is depressing and discouraging, but keep plugging along and keep telling the truth. There is always reason to be optimistic that change will come. Hopefully sooner rather than later.

  9. Joey Tipping says:

    I was so sad reading this blog until I got to the Serenity Prayer and what you wrote after that and then I just smiled and smiled and smiled! Yes, you’ve got it….deep in your soul where it counts! Your children and wife are truly blessed! Try not to lose hope…I don’t because I read your blog! God bless you.

  10. Dean says:

    Thanks for the lift out of the doldrums. I share many of the concerns that you do. I have to to keep hoping that things will eventually get better. Most people are basically good but often misinformed and misguided. Thank you again and keep up the blogging!

  11. I can totally relate! “I try to be hopeful on this blog, but sometimes it’s harder than others. Nobody is hopeful all the time.” This is exactly how I am feeling. Thanks for putting it into words and for ending (as we hopeful people strive to do!) on a positive note.

  12. Mary Linda says:

    I can’t find a recording of this song on-line but here are the lyrics to my favorite song that speaks to the weariness I think you’re talking about. Billy Bragg.
    Some Days I See The Point
    Never saw a meaningful tv advert, I don’t think shopping is a metaphor for life
    Don’t waste my time at the gym in the morning, try to keep trim by living my life

    Wanna feel the wind blowing in my hair,
    Wanna hear the waves crashing on the beach
    I’m not seeking easy answers or inner peace
    I’m just looking for some release

    I want to help to make the world better but I can’t do it all on my own
    Try to keep the lid on my disappointment ‘cos cynicism’s such a cop out I know

    Watch the shadows of clouds moving on the hill
    Open my eyes and drink my fill
    On those days that I feel dejected
    I come up here for a bit of perspective

    Gonna follow the path that climbs up through the trees
    Walk along the cliff top and gaze out to sea
    I feel free when I come up here
    And if it’s clear some days I see the point

  13. PW says:

    Welcome back! You were missed!

  14. skyride says:


    Your writing is APPRECIATED!

    I think you needed to hear that. While I don’t agree with everything you write about, I always appreciate your perspective, and a huge part of that is your optimism. I am quite the cynic, and let me tell you…There are, like, a lotta cynics in the world. One can’t be an optimist all of the time, but if that’s who you are at heart, I would be so sad to see that flame get smothered by too much static from the cynical part of Real Life.

    Thank you, for sharing that song. Sometimes a beautifully-produced, cheesy pop song is just what the doctor ordered.

  15. jonpeck777 says:

    Although I pretty much disagree with a lot of your political points, I like the way you think. It is genuine and the world needs more of it. I think it’s how God made you. I like it and what you have to say. Even if I don’t agree often, the process that exists in your blog posts is awesome and necessary. Thank You!

  16. I love reading your writing. I always look forward to my emails with new material.

  17. OathBound says:

    “We keep fighting because there are kids watching. And they are learning how to live. And they may someday be able to win the battles that we couldn’t.” Beautiful. I think I will put this up in my office.

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