Thursday, November 12, 2009

Encountering Skepticism

Or is it cynicism?

I wrote a post about this topic a long time ago and it's even a chapter in my book The 100% Factor. And I've been thinking about it again since I saw the new Michael Jackson movie This Is It on Sunday.

It wasn't the movie that got me thinking about skepticism - or cynicism - but the reaction I got from a friend of mine when I told him I'd seen the movie.

I get that we all have our own opinions, formed through experience, upbringing, conditioning, programming, and what one of my fellow master minders yesterday called "mother-father-teacher-preacher" influence.

My friend had a less-than-positive reaction to my attending the movie based on his opinion about Michael Jackson.

Even more interesting to me than his reaction, was my reaction to his reaction. I was very touched and moved by the movie, which caused me to want to utilize every ounce of talent and ability I have to serve the world. I guess I wanted him to be open to my interpretation of who I experienced Michael Jackson to be from that movie. His opinion of Michael Jackson was that he was "odd" and "weird" and "different." I asked him, "different than whom?" and he said "normal people."

So then all these questions went through my head in a split second. Really? Is that true? What is normal? Who sets the standard? Do we all have to be aware of that standard so we know what it means to be normal? Are we not OK if we're not normal? Am I judging him the same way I perceive he is judging me? If we have differing opinions about Michael Jackson, am I normal or is my friend normal? Do I even want to be normal?

Which brings me back to what I perceive as the distinction between being skeptical and being cynical. For me, skepticism is healthy when it is seen in an open-minded way of gathering information in order to make an informed decision. To me cynicism, on the other hand, has an underlying bias built in. There is no ability to create a dialogue (suspension of previous assumptions in order to learn something new) in cynical mode because the person's mind is already made up.

I suppose the fact that I even feel the need to write a post about this topic shows my bias toward open-mindedness, which seems a little oxymoronic. Underlying the entire topic is my innate desire to connect with people on a more-than-surface level, so I suppose that is my own lesson here.

What do you think? Is there a distinction in your mind between skepticism and cynicism? Or does it even matter?


At 7:48 PM, Blogger Pinkie50 said...

In my opinion skepticism has a healthy component that invites thinking and dialogue...opposite of that is cynicism. The cynic hides feelings and emotions behind a brittle barrier that not ask me to think out side 'the box' is too dangerous and scary...I might have to change my mind.

At 12:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would agree with Pinkie, even adding that in my mind, a cynic adds a layer of smugness in their certainty. I enjoyed Craig Ferguson's (CBS) thoughts: "I always feel that people who are certain give me a problem. And I'll tell you what I mean by that. People who say "I absolutely know what God wants." And I say, "well, if you absolutely know about God--that He exists and you know what he wants, and you know all this stuff, then you don't need faith. Because faith is only for people who experience doubt. Because if you have no doubt, then you can't have faith. You have certainty. Or...pathology. In order to experience faith, it is necessary for you to experience doubt."

I know that's a round about way to get there, but it's what I think of when I think of skepticism. It thrills me when someone expresses skepticism. It means the brain is in gear and willing to take in more than what is considered to be already known. In my line of work, people who are new to what I do and don't posess any skepticism--who just jump in all ready to believe--are quite frightening and make me want to crab-skuttle away.

I'd have a long dinner with a skeptic before a cynic or person of concrete certainty any day.

Laura E

At 7:13 AM, Blogger Jodee Bock said...

Thanks, Pinkie and Laura! You're both right on and I am so grateful for your thoughts here! As we embrace the skeptical, we learn to be more open-minded ourselves, and to develop our mental muscle of perception. We also get a chance to develop our thoughts into artful action. Together we can send love and light to the cynics. It's not where anyone is bad, it's where they/we are wounded. With expanded awareness come more choices.

Thanks again to each of you!


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