Cynicism, "realistic pessimism"

Theravāda in the 21st century - modern applications of ancient wisdom

Cynicism, "realistic pessimism"

Postby duckfiasco » Fri Jun 21, 2013 6:51 pm

I notice among a lot of my friends a deep anxiety that the world is just terrible.
I've heard "I'm not a pessimist, I'm a realist" while they clearly suffer from these worries.
Whenever a piece of bad news comes out, dismay follows.
Hatred bubbles up for entire blocs of people.
They feel those in power or those with certain opinions are ruining everyone's lives, including theirs.

It breaks my heart to see.

Views like this are hardly new.
There may however be a special concoction of painful views coming together in our time.
Pessimism is in a frame of modern objectivism: our mode of deductive rationality is absolute and objective, therefore the final word on everything.
Things are "just so" and we have no real control over our reactions or experience in life.
Bad people "out there" are hurting my peace "in here".
Pessimism is constantly saying "that's just how it is" and objectivism feeds this externalizing: it's the world I see that makes everything bad, the world says itself how it really is, nothing else.

I have no idea how to help this kind of suffering so prevalent among the people I know.

How can we be generous with the Dharma with those who are skeptical of anything remotely religious?
Anything that ruffles the uncomfortable security that pessimism provides?
Those already overburdened with so many views?

What do you respond when a friend tells you, "to be realistic now is to be a cynic"?

Thank you for sharing your opinions, or any ways you may have approached this as well.
:popcorn:
duckfiasco
 
Posts: 29
Joined: Tue Jun 04, 2013 8:37 pm

Re: Cynicism, "realistic pessimism"

Postby binocular » Fri Jun 21, 2013 7:20 pm

duckfiasco wrote:What do you respond when a friend tells you, "to be realistic now is to be a cynic"?

I've noticed that when people are in the state when they talk like that, they are generally not receptive to what I or anyone else present may say, so I might as well say nothing, and practice equanimity (and attend to my priorities).

Statements like "damn life," "to be realistic now is to be a cynic" would take pages and pages to unravel philosophically, and that requires a good dose of concentration and education - and most people don't have that, so there's not much point in trying to address such statements directly.
binocular
 
Posts: 1351
Joined: Sat Jan 17, 2009 11:13 pm

Re: Cynicism, "realistic pessimism"

Postby fivebells » Fri Jun 21, 2013 8:14 pm

Realism/cynicism/world-weariness is a good place to start. It's samvega, the emotion which drove the Buddha to practice in the first place. Learning that you can cope by shaping your intentions, perceptions, feelings and cravings leads to prasada, confidence that there's a way out.

If you're not going to pursue the way out, you're probably better off with positivity/optimisim/enthusiasm, though. :)
fivebells
 
Posts: 299
Joined: Thu Mar 12, 2009 12:52 am

Re: Cynicism, "realistic pessimism"

Postby mirco » Fri Jun 21, 2013 9:13 pm

Hi df,
duckfiasco wrote:I have no idea how to help this kind of suffering so prevalent among the people I know.

How can we be generous with the Dharma with those who are skeptical of anything remotely religious?
Anything that ruffles the uncomfortable security that pessimism provides?
Those already overburdened with so many views?


A few days ago I chaired a meeting and I wondered that some people mentioned how they like being there, which is no standard. Afterwards a guy told my he like the way I did my job. Now, reading your post I understand what happened. I simply did not let my mind become affected with the others fears and sorrows during that meeting I stayed open with loving acceptance to whatever was going on and what people where telling. That is, in fact, all good I can do that has best outcome. No dragging will ever help.

Don't let your friends mental states affect yours. If you are sure about your faith in good or certain about Dhamma through your insight - stay with it. Practise. As a result, you will stay relaxed, calm, clear, & loving, even if the world around you is collapsing. Accept your mates as they are. You cannot change them. You only can change yourself. People like being together with relaxed and kind people and it affects their minds. Stay in a loving and accepting state of mind and return to it, whenever lost.

Reminds me of the Kakacupama Sutta: The Parable of the Saw
Positive Response of Love

"There are these five modes of speech which people might use when speaking to you — speech that is timely or untimely, true or false, gentle or harsh, with a good or a harmful motive, and with a loving heart or hostility.

"Some might speak to you using speech that is timely or untimely;
some might speak to you according to truth or falsely;
some might speak to you gently or harshly;
some might speak to you with a good motive or with a harmful motive;
some might speak to you with a loving heart or with hostility.

On all occasions you should train yourselves thus:

'Neither shall our minds be affected by this, nor for this matter shall we give vent to evil words,
but we shall remain full of concern and pity, with a mind of love, and we shall not give in to hatred.
On the contrary, we shall live projecting thoughts of universal love to that very person,
making him as well as the whole world the object of our thoughts of universal love —
thoughts that have grown great, exalted and measureless.
We shall dwell radiating these thoughts which are void of hostility and ill will.'

It is in this way that you should train yourselves.



Be well,
Mirco
I get what I give
mirco
 
Posts: 362
Joined: Mon Jun 07, 2010 2:12 pm

Re: Cynicism, "realistic pessimism"

Postby retrofuturist » Fri Jun 21, 2013 10:44 pm

Greetings,

I have not found cynicism/pessimism of any form to support the cultivation of Right Effort.
SN 45.8 wrote:"And what, monks, is right effort?

[i] "There is the case where a monk generates desire, endeavors, activates persistence, upholds & exerts his intent for the sake of the non-arising of evil, unskillful qualities that have not yet arisen.

[ii] "He generates desire, endeavors, activates persistence, upholds & exerts his intent for the sake of the abandonment of evil, unskillful qualities that have arisen.

[iii] "He generates desire, endeavors, activates persistence, upholds & exerts his intent for the sake of the arising of skillful qualities that have not yet arisen.

[iv] "He generates desire, endeavors, activates persistence, upholds & exerts his intent for the maintenance, non-confusion, increase, plenitude, development, & culmination of skillful qualities that have arisen: This, monks, is called right effort."

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


Dharma Wheel (Mahayana / Vajrayana forum) -- Open flower ~ Open book (blog)
User avatar
retrofuturist
Site Admin
 
Posts: 14626
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 9:52 pm
Location: Melbourne, Australia

Re: Cynicism, "realistic pessimism"

Postby SDC » Fri Jun 21, 2013 11:20 pm

We have our ideas about how the world should be, how life should be. If the world is like THIS then I will be HAPPY.

Some of us rush to adjust (or yap about adjusting) the circumstances in life to be in line with what we think is right rather than adjusting ourselves to the circumstances.

The reason your friends feel this way about life is because they are so confident that they know what they need to be "happy" and have likely convinced themselves that they will never have it. They are heartbroken that their fantasy about how life "could" be is not ever going to be. The fantasy has corrupted them and until they question the fantasy and question their own thinking they will never emerge from despair. They underestimate and fear the ability they have to adjust and develop so instead they are taking the high road by asking the world to do the hard work and change for them.
User avatar
SDC
 
Posts: 982
Joined: Mon Dec 14, 2009 11:08 pm
Location: North Jersey

Re: Cynicism, "realistic pessimism"

Postby Sein » Sat Jun 22, 2013 4:39 am

I used to find myself "a realist".
The nature of the world is not "happily ever after" and there are not always "happy ending".
But that the way the world is, and that drives people practice.
You could used this reference
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/thanissaro/affirming.html
But, your friend could have joy or equinimity from practice meditation.
Sein
 
Posts: 9
Joined: Tue Jan 08, 2013 12:25 pm

Re: Cynicism, "realistic pessimism"

Postby appicchato » Sat Jun 22, 2013 6:02 am

Cynicism and pessimism are apples and oranges...
User avatar
appicchato
 
Posts: 1561
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 12:47 am
Location: Bridge on the River Kwae

Re: Cynicism, "realistic pessimism"

Postby mirco » Sat Jun 22, 2013 6:05 am

appicchato wrote:Cynicism and pessimism are apples and oranges...

Well, most apples and oranges a kind of healthy. Not so cynicism & pessimism ;-)
I get what I give
mirco
 
Posts: 362
Joined: Mon Jun 07, 2010 2:12 pm

Re: Cynicism, "realistic pessimism"

Postby lyndon taylor » Sat Jun 22, 2013 6:36 am

I think he means they are quite similar.

lets try that again; aren't you saying the amount of difference between cynicism and pessimism is similar to the amount of difference between apples and oranges, they're both fruit, they're both round, but in other respects they're quite different
Last edited by lyndon taylor on Sat Jun 22, 2013 10:33 pm, edited 2 times in total.
18 years ago I made one of the most important decisions of my life and entered a local Cambodian Buddhist Temple as a temple boy and, for only 3 weeks, an actual Therevada Buddhist monk. I am not a scholar, great meditator, or authority on Buddhism, but Buddhism is something I love from the Bottom of my heart. It has taught me sobriety, morality, peace, and very importantly that my suffering is optional, and doesn't have to run my life. I hope to give back what little I can to the Buddhist community that has so generously given me so much, sincerely former monk John
User avatar
lyndon taylor
 
Posts: 848
Joined: Mon May 02, 2011 11:41 pm
Location: Redlands, Southern California, USA

Re: Cynicism, "realistic pessimism"

Postby appicchato » Sat Jun 22, 2013 10:17 pm

lyndon taylor wrote:I think he means they are quite similar.


Quite the opposite...
User avatar
appicchato
 
Posts: 1561
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 12:47 am
Location: Bridge on the River Kwae

Re: Cynicism, "realistic pessimism"

Postby duckfiasco » Sun Jun 23, 2013 2:58 am

Thank you everyone for the great replies.
I found especially helpful the sutta on universal love regardless of how others speak to us.

I wasn't however making the case for cynicism or pessimism, neither would I say cynicism and pessimism are the same.
The connection I make is that those I know who are generally pessimistic extend this view to the motives/minds of others.
In this way, they struggle with a deep cynicism as well.

I also suffered from pessimistic regarding the world for a long time.
It resulted in a lingering depression and total isolation from others.
So seeing similar views in those close to me, I want to try to spare them the possible destination of such negativity.
I know the Three Jewels were of immeasurable help to me, but I doubt my skill to directly share this remedy.

I guess I was hoping for some kind of expedient way to turn pessimism on its head.
You know, how those Zen masters say a snappy one-liner and voila, instant insight for the listener :tongue:
But maybe patience and a loving attitude are what's needed.

Doesn't anyone else know people with such a painful relationship with the world?
Maybe it's a generational thing :tongue:
duckfiasco
 
Posts: 29
Joined: Tue Jun 04, 2013 8:37 pm

Re: Cynicism, "realistic pessimism"

Postby fivebells » Sun Jun 23, 2013 6:52 am

You're not going to turn a long-habituated world view on its head with the work of a mere moment.

You can effect a slow change by emphasizing positive observations and rewarding other's positive observations with warmer attention.
fivebells
 
Posts: 299
Joined: Thu Mar 12, 2009 12:52 am

Re: Cynicism, "realistic pessimism"

Postby Dan74 » Sun Jun 23, 2013 8:53 am

duckfiasco wrote:You know, how those Zen masters say a snappy one-liner and voila, instant insight for the listener :tongue:
But maybe patience and a loving attitude are what's needed.
\:


Sorry this is off-topic, but what you say about Zen is a misunderstanding.

The ancient texts that relate these dialogue took place between a master and a monk who was ready for the insight. One who had been practicing hard for many years usually and the exchanges focused on the monk's sticking point.

The metaphor that is sometimes used to describe it is a chick trying to peck its way out of the egg and the mother hen helping out on the other side. One has to be quite close to freedom for such efforts to work. And of course the mother hen has to know exactly where the chick is stuck.
_/|\_
User avatar
Dan74
 
Posts: 2617
Joined: Sun Mar 01, 2009 11:12 pm

Re: Cynicism, "realistic pessimism"

Postby Aloka » Sun Jun 23, 2013 11:47 am

duckfiasco wrote:But maybe patience and a loving attitude are what's needed


Yes, I think to be patient and kind and maybe to steer the conversation towards something that's more positive in their lives. You don't need to preach anything or plan "snappy one-liners" - just be warm, cheerful and spontaneous.

.
User avatar
Aloka
 
Posts: 3503
Joined: Wed Jan 21, 2009 2:51 pm

Re: Cynicism, "realistic pessimism"

Postby Crazy cloud » Sun Jun 23, 2013 1:13 pm

Dan74 wrote:
duckfiasco wrote:You know, how those Zen masters say a snappy one-liner and voila, instant insight for the listener :tongue:
But maybe patience and a loving attitude are what's needed.
\:


Sorry this is off-topic, but what you say about Zen is a misunderstanding.

The ancient texts that relate these dialogue took place between a master and a monk who was ready for the insight. One who had been practicing hard for many years usually and the exchanges focused on the monk's sticking point.

The metaphor that is sometimes used to describe it is a chick trying to peck its way out of the egg and the mother hen helping out on the other side. One has to be quite close to freedom for such efforts to work. And of course the mother hen has to know exactly where the chick is stuck.


Sorry this might also be a litlle ot .. But, I mean that you dont have to wait till somebody calls you a master of something, to master listening and responding with wisdom from your own heart. If you have the dhamma inside, and use your heart and your mind to investigate what the other actually needs, then its only a matter of patience and waiting for the perfect moment to serve the special wisdom you'we prepared.

Have had many nice "zen-moments" with noumerous "students", and I'm far from any degree of master of this or that, only an open heart and some patience ..

remember a moment of "zen" that happened to me, about 30 years ago. And the individual that served as my master of the moment never knew what his few words of wisdom resulted in, and that it actually has saved my life. There are buddhas all over the place, in my opinion

metta
:candle:
your name Mori means forest like the infinite fresh green distances of your blindness
User avatar
Crazy cloud
 
Posts: 188
Joined: Sun May 12, 2013 8:55 am


Return to Theravāda for the modern world

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests