Monday, January 18, 2016

Another Expanding Year of the Practice and Art of Gentle Cynicism

Cultures that endure carve out a protected space for those who question and challenge national myths.” [1]

I have traversed another year aware of the expanding, living dynamism that comes by way of the practice and art of gentle cynicism.  While this site provides numerous examples of my thinking and musing around this practice, gentle cynicism has and continues to be a dynamic filter of sorts (dialectical in aspect, phenomenological in mind) between myself and the world that in a way sifts chaff from wheat, i.e., what is accepted from what is best, what misses the mark from what is actually participating with or working toward a higher ideal/reality/vision—Shalom, the Way, Tao, The Middle Way, truly and fully living substance.

The Society of Gentle Cynicism has become a personal nomenclature for me that identifies a way of existence in a culture that is at large unaware that it follows a failed dominate script (story ) that promotes an illusion of safety, health and happiness. This dominant script in the society at large is therapeutic, technological, consumerist militarism [2] that unfortunately imbues almost every dimension of the common life.  Gentle cynicism supports disengagement from and relinquishment of that script while mediating the de-scripting and disengagement and the unfolding via a steady patient intentional articulation of an alternative/counter script that opens the actual, self−becoming, self−development experiencing fully and realizing human flourishing.

While the roots of gentle cynicism may go back a ways for me (and have ancient roots), my experience in the military between 2003-8 became an encounter that called for serious engagement and relinquishment from the dominant script. See “From Soldier to Conscientious Objector” [3]. After more than eight years  Gentle Cynicism” continues to be a way of moving through (not stepping away from) tensions where there is a complex array of easy-to-get-to thin practices, answers and ideals on one side; while on the other, profound, thick sources of questions and insights that invite persistent souls toward the way of becoming more fully human. The task is one of becoming comfortable with doubt, negation and integration via dialectic process knowing that forms are dynamic and developing in time.

My recent projects practicing gentle cynicism have focused around how I work and live in the day-to-day, being aware of the challenges that comes from living in a society that widely turns a blind eye, is ensnared by the technological craze at the expense of their minds (geist); taking on the dominant story, for they have no story; and realizing that I need and want to be and stay awake/alive in a way that surmounts the dark reality expressed by Thomas Merton, and William Stafford.

The flesh and passions, of themselves, tend to anarchy, being at the mercy of sense stimulation, and hence responding blindly and automatically to every stimulus that presents itself . . . the psyche of man struggles in a thousand ways to silence the secret voice of anxiety. [4]

If you don't know the kind of person I am
and I don't know the kind of person you are
a pattern that others made may prevail in the world
and following the wrong god home we may miss our star.

For there is many a small betrayal in the mind,
a shrug that lets the fragile sequence break
sending with shouts the horrible errors of childhood
storming out to play through the broken dyke.

And as elephants parade holding each elephant's tail,
but if one wanders the circus won't find the park,
I call it cruel and maybe the root of all cruelty
to know what occurs but not recognize the fact.

And so I appeal to a voice, to something shadowy,
a remote important region in all who talk:
though we could fool each other, we should consider--
lest the parade of our mutual life get lost in the dark.

For it is important that awake people be awake,
or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep;
the signals we give--yes or no, or maybe--
should be clear: the darkness around us is deep. [5]

Why resist in anxious quest the vast, expanding universe defending our plans, imaginations and desires against the cruel, dark world, when instead we could go with a flow that overtime unfolds a journey, hidden wholeness, expressions of reality, all infusing essential substance and knowing within and around our human lives with dignity, contributing to eudaimonia.

 I commit afresh to the practice of and Society of Gentle Cynics . . .

Touring as a recusant
of hegemonic norms, arrive
a gentle cynic
negating Deus Aderit. [6]

[1] From “How to Think”; e.g., Prophets, Artist, Poets, Writers, Journalist, Philosophers, Musicians, Theologians
[2] Tim Suttle, “Walter Brueggemann’s 19 Theses Revisited: A Clarification from Brueggemann Himself” (4/15/2014);
[4] Thomas Merton, The New Man
[5] William Stafford, “A Ritual to Read to Each Other”, The Darkness Around Us Is Deep. New York: Harper Collins, 1993, 135.
[6] Daniel J. Seifert, the last stanza of “The Ride” 2012.