On Cynicism, Sarcasam, and Sincerity

So it occurred to me recently that this blog is near absent the sarcasm/cynicism which I am fairly well known for. I would be lying if I said this was intentional. I would also be lying if I said it did not bring quite the smile to my face — something I most certainly am not known for (well more of i used to not be known for, as smiling comes far easier these days and is no longer a reflex, and far more just a natural state).

As pretty much all my long-term friends can demonstrate, I am quite drawn to those with an urbane wit and who can dish out the sarcastic barb like a Pez dispenser upchucks rectangular, chalky, not very good candy. And, well I can sling it right back in spades. So much so, many people began to think, or perhaps always thought, I was incapable of being sincere. I would say something, in total earnestness, and people would have no idea if I was telling the truth. I would discuss why I loved something and people would think I was lying, rolling my eyes at them, snickering at their naivety, etc. I have long heard “I have no idea if you are telling the truth or taking the piss,” or some such response.

Once upon a time, this was very funny, and lead to many contorted looking faces and much eye rolling from me. But as it built to people always being sure I was being my typical ass self and never taking what I said seriously, well I realized I had a problem. One night, a few years ago, out with friends, I even remember having a long conversation about “what if my sarcasm is sincere?” Much to my dismay at the time, they rightly were having none of it.

It was about then when I realized I really was unsure how not to be my snide, snarky, sarcastic self. I also equally realized it was a total coping mechanism. It was far easier to be the detached cynic with nothing to root for/on than admit what I wanted was hard, difficult, or impossible. It made me sad. But, I did not set out to change this. It was the foundation for the self I created, and I know that by uprooting it, I would change myself irrevocably. And at that time, I was not ready for such an undertaking. I was not ready to have to change the sense of who I was.

Apparently, that has changed, at least in my writing.

In fact, this newly found sincerity is not entirely new, it was there when I wrote only for myself (well most of the time). When I did not color my words to disguise my failings, as I did not worry if others saw them, because they would not. And in fact it would sometimes come out to the world too (that 25 things list I did on FB years ago for instance), but never in such a concentrated manner that has occurred here..

So I wonder, what is it about the written word that allows me to embrace sincerity when for the most part my spoken word is still laced with, if not tethered to, cynicism and sarcasm? Is it that I do not have to look in another’s eyes while I am communicating? Is it that I know sarcasm’s power is fleeting and is only entertaining as it splashes over things abruptly? Is it simply the difficulty of conveying sarcasm though writing? Is it something far more complex or even just something outside of my knowledge base?

Recently, a newer friend of mine was looking through the pictures on my FB and told me later that she saw in many of my old pictures a person she would not much like to meet. It took me by surprise, as I thought, “who would not want to meet me?”, only to think of how I used to behave and how quick I was to rant and dismiss. Hell… I thought, I would not much like to meet that person either. And this got me thinking… sarcasm and cynicism as a default option is nothing more than toxicity. And not the kind with a quick half-life, as my friend could see it reverberating, radiating, from the past in my pictures.

And while I have been working on disentangling myself from the the lure of this default response for sometime, this prompted me to do so with even more urgency. I also realized that since I can do so here, I should have no difficulty doing so elsewhere, as in I know how to be sincere as the default option, so I do not need to learn a new skill. I just need to make it reality.

And that is what I am committed to doing. Making the sincerity from the blog, from most of my writing in general, leap from page/screen/etc into the real world. I will not say I am smothering the sarcasm/cynicism in me entirely, it will just live on in quick bursts, at proper times, and never strangle me with its toxicity again.

I will not erase these responses from my person entirely, there are still times that they will come out, but they will be rarer and brief. To do this, I will need to contemplate what and how I respond to things more slowly. This picture pretty much sums up what ideally will be how I respond to people:
THINK-before-you-speak

If these are not at the root of sincerity….

And don’t you feel good when other’s communicate to you in this way?
I know I do – good and respected. So how can I justify not respecting others the way I want to be? Simply put, I can not.

Now be honest people, who finds my embarking on this journey humorous and/or incredulous? Or something else of equal disbelief? Don’t worry, at times, I too find it strange and baffling, but also equal, if not more so, parts empowering.

But really other than a few short term laughs what positive results has this ever so detached sense of self brought me? Is it really in my best interest to veil up my sincere self? Is it in the world’s best interest for me to do this? Is not the lack of connection to others one of the major psychological issues of our age?

In my desire to keep evolving into the person I want to be, this is not an optional step. This is a necessary step. So this is where I ask for you to hold me true to this, so if you ever hear/see me slipping, let me know. Help keep me honest.

About Randy

I'm just a guy trying to out run his dying kidneys and live life as vibrantly as possible. Until I can't. I grew up in Tejas. Went to school in Vermont. And currently live in Brooklyn. But not for long....
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4 Responses to On Cynicism, Sarcasam, and Sincerity

  1. Steve Sole says:

    Did I meet the old you. If so, you were a good companion and great company. If that was the ‘old you ‘ I look forward to meeting the new version. Actually, I’m being mischievous, the man I met was most certainly the ‘old’ you. That said, great conversationalist, albeit, a little controversial at times. But that’s good.

    • Randy says:

      Gah! while this updated commenting system kills my spam, which was approaching 100 entries a day, it fails to tell me that I got a good comment too.
      Guess that means more checking in…
      but steve, you met me somewhere in between the worst of my cynical/sarcastic days and the present. actually closer to the present. yes, it got really bad for a while there.

  2. Leigh says:

    I definitely know the ‘old Ran-D’ and have gotten to know the “new Randy”. I enjoy(ed) them both. There has definitely been and evolution, but I am not sure they are quite as distinct as you may think.

    First, sarcasm or cynicism in person and sincerity ‘on paper’ (is there paper anymore?) makes total sense to me. Sarcasm and cynicism is a defense. It distances people from you. Often people use it to control the situation–they get to be the center of attention and deflect all the negative attention to someone/thing else. Sometimes it is innocuous. Sometimes it is not.
    If someone is sincere in person, then s/he has no buffer and (often) little control of the situation. Total sincerity means that the spectator is going to respond to the ‘real you’. Right there. And what if it is judgement? What if it is negative? What if it is something that is really, really important to you that you haven’t had a chance to work out in your head? It can be scary–and it can be highly rewarding, too.

    I’d guess you can be sincere in blog form (or non face-to-face form) because you have control of that. You can say personal thing–and choose not to read the comments. You can de-friend people, delete messages, etc. You can also delay reading until you are in a less vulnerable place.

    (Personal example: I used to scoff at people who wrote highly personal/emotional things on facebook. I thought–this is a glib and public place, why post something personal there? I’d changed my mind over the years, but it became especially helpful when I put my cat to sleep. I could be totally honest–inform people–and then I didn’t have to read the messages for days. I would read one or two…and then ignore them…and read another two or three. It helped me control the emotions. I’m not sure it was good, but it did help.)

    My last point…as this has gotten much longer than I ever intended it to be. Is you aren’t _that_ different from younger you. “Ran-D” _was_ sincere from time-to-time, but usually that was only when one-on-one. He would listen to you (ok, sometimes make jokes), but he would listen. He was far more sensitive and sincere towards a friend’s emotions–but told little of his own self.

    Today’s ‘Randy’ is much more aware of himself and his own self and more easily sympathizes with a friend. He is more openly positive and sincere. I’m struck by how concerned he is for friends and certain groups of people. Sometimes I still think he must be joking, but probably that is because it is difficult to shake off knowing ‘Ran-D’. He has always thrown himself into researching and learning things, but now it is a more self-reflective research and learning.

    However, he still has some very negative, sarcastic sides. Generally, it is focused towards American/Chinese/Myanmar, etc. politics/politicians, traditional medicine, and Christians. I’m sure there are others, but those are the most obvious. I’m not saying there aren’t justifiable reasons for the anger, cynicism, and sarcasm, but saying the anger/sarcasm doesn’t exist isn’t true. (I do think you alluded to the fact that you are still a ‘work in progress’, but I’ve noticed you saying/writing absolutes, so I’m pointing out here.) And sometimes they aren’t justifiable–particularly when talking about people of religious faith.

    So, there. You left yourself open to criticism and I criticized. I guess that’s the point and that’s what sincerity leaves you open to. That is the danger. The good part, ‘course, is that sincerity has allowed you to evolve. I am impressed how much you have learned in this journey. I’ve learned more facts/ real things about you in the past 3-4 years, than I did in the 15 years before. I hope very much to learn more as you learn and grow more.

    Hope you are ok with my over analyzing you–even if you didn’t ask for it. This is just how I have seen you change.

    • Randy says:

      holy crap leigh, i am thinking you miss those humanities courses or you are longing to write a novella!
      i can not agree more about the deflective/defensive elements of the sarcasm/cynicism equation. and this is exactly why i am trying to purge it. a hard rocky shell may be protective, but it inhibits growth. and i spent far too long doing this. sometimes i wonder how much of me now barreling head long into growth/evolution/wtfever is over compensating for refusing to budge for so long.

      i am not sure i agree with you on there not being such a difference though. there surely was a cycle, along those lines of a business cycle, where my high school/college days were far closer to me now than much of my NYC time. My bluster and protective shell grew layers that would put the earth’s crust to shame. and that is really what i am talking about as being so distinctly different.

      you are right, i was always able to be sincere when it was called for. and i would even say that even in my darkest hour of in the cynical/sarcastic black hole, i could jettison out and be there when someone needed me — why else would i have friends. but this was only with those i deemed worthy of my time/affection/friendship etc. i mean lets be real now, i have never been know to be one to humor or even tolerate ignorance etc. or at least what i would call ignorance, and frankly this has been to my detriment.

      as for being sarcastic/negative, i get what you are saying, but some of this is just being critical. and i think to some degree even if i were to gouge out my eyes with red hot irons i would not understand how not to see corrupted institutions of power, nor how to not speak out about them. and yes, i often find my voice is not being heard and even spoken over, which leads to being reflexive and insincere and amazingly cynical, etc etc… and this is not something i am happy with, and what i would much rather speak from the heart about. this is of course incredibly difficult, but with practice it should get much better.

      and let me tell you responding to this with out the snide comments = me all twitchy…

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