Resist Apathy and Cynicism

The problem of apathy has been on my mind for years. Especially during the times when I don’t care about anything including myself.

The almost chronic absence of care towards others, events in the world and yourself – apathy. But it often does not dance alone. Its partner – cynicism – usually takes the lead.

It’s a state that we’ve all experienced at one point or another for varying lengths of time and during the longer stretches of time where apathy was at its strongest, I started to think more about just how damaging it can be for how we view the world, other people and ourselves.

Maria Popova puts it well. Apathy is a “symptom of resignation” and cynicism is a convincing self-protection mechanism against it.

The problem with cynicism is its ability to convince us of truth where none is to be found. “oh the world is complete shit”, “it’s never going to work out anyway” “There’s no point in trying”. Tired phrases yet we’re enticed to believe them because we no longer have to try or care if they are true. Of caring. We no longer have to spend energy on finding the good or changing the world for the better because our efforts will be futile.

Cynicism becomes tempting when we surround ourselves with negativity and as a result “prove” to ourselves that the world is shit and can never get better. It becomes believable because it is based on something even if that is a very skewed and narrow perception of the world. Often, if we lose ourselves in the news without the understanding that negative news sells better than the positive, we mistake it as the only way to view the world and other people. From this we utter misguided statements like “being positive is presenting a false perspective of the world” when it could be making it more balanced. It would be a grave mistake to assume that the only facts in the world are presented in newspapers and 24 hour news cycles.

However, this mustn’t be mistaken as a plea for blind optimism. Such mindsets can be as harmful as blind pessimism as hope for a good world without any critical eye is naïve. This is a reminder that examining the world honestly does not mean we should examine the world negatively. It is very possible to be rationally optimistic about the world or at least not assume everything is so bad that there’s no point in caring about it.

We shouldn’t fall into the trap of normalising the bad because we assume that’s all there is then convince ourselves to stop caring. This becomes particularly pronounced in the world we live in at the moment. Western politics seems to be growing more divisive at the front line of things and also within personal discussions. It creates barriers (figurative ones, President Trump) and these needn’t be strengthened by the simple fact that they’re allowed to stand in the first place.

We can afford to care. We can afford to be optimistic when the facts allow it. We can afford to ensure that bad doesn’t prevail over good by allowing the bad to become normal.

It’s unhelpful to think that we’re powerless for that does not grant enough credit to the good that we can do to each other and on smaller scales. We we allow for good acts to become a habit rather than the rare accomplishment, they can also become as common as we say please and thank you.

It requires we keep people other than ourselves in mind. Whether it’s as simple as not interrupting the other person or buying them a coffee for no reason other than you want to, you can do good for others in way that’s appreciated greatly.

It’s something I’ve tried to include more in my personal days and I believe it has paid off. Not because I’m waiting for a special thanks at the end of the year. It’s a valuable habit that fights and actively resists against the prey of cynicism, apathy and hate.

These do not need to fill my day. Nor do I need to drag others down. For I want others to care. To appreciate the world and the helpful people in it. It helps keep us away from darkness and cold. We move closer to warmth, appreciation for the small and a desire to change things on a bigger scale.

To end, I quote Maria Popova directly:

Yes, people sometimes do horrible things, and we can speculate about why they do them until we run out of words and sanity. But evil only prevails when we mistake it for the norm. There is so much goodness in the world — all we have to do is remind one another of it, show up for it, and refuse to leave.

As always, thanks for reading :)

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I don’t have a title

The feeling of emptiness is an odd one.

It’s not something I can describe too well despite spending hours and hours just asking myself ‘what am I feeling?’ If I am successful in finding out what I do feel, it often takes a long while just to say ‘I’m feeling ok’. Or more frequently ‘I’m sad’.

This feeling is strange because I have an idea of what’s causing it. I’m trying to change it because I want to feel better. I’m aware of it. But it still washes over me like a huge water wave.

Over the past few years I’ve had problems with chronic pain and an assortment of various issues. While I don’t want to appear extremely self centered or anything similar, it bears down on my mental well-being. Noticing that other people are going through more or less than me doesn’t change anything. Why should it? They’re living their own lives and travelling their own journeys. Not controlling my own.

The chronic pain has become much like an annoying friend. He’s there from the moment I wake up to the moment I try sleeping and even tries interfering with me then. He’s disrupted a few important things which has affected my self esteem. He even tries taking away from the simple pleasures I have in life. Regardless of all of this, I’ve tried to get rid of him in a variety of different ways but he refuses to leave.

He’s still knocking on my door every morning but I have no idea when he’ll get bored and leave. The uncertainty is an extra factor I dislike about the whole situation. But I can do very little about that. No screaming or tears will suddenly create the magical deadline.

I compared this chronic pain to an annoying friend. He isn’t a friend. (just in case that wasn’t clear).

I’ll be honest, I’m not quite sure what the aim of this post is. I guess I just want to talk aloud instead of letting it boil over in my head. I’m not particularly angry or sad about this situation right now. I’ve been dealing with it for so long that I simply feel empty.

I do have techniques that I’ve slowly developed over this time and realisations that I’ve made (if that’s even the right term) over the duration of this problem. A few of them I’ve already shared. My posts on venting, selfishness and hatred are an example of this. I will share more since writing is fun even if I doubt or dislike a few of the things I write.

However, I’m not completely alone. I have a few very supportive people by my side who help as much as they can. So I’m thankful for that.

If there’s anything useful to take away from this post, I hope you find it because I can’t. Thanks for reading nonetheless.

Feeling empty is definitely strange.