Wednesday, August 1, 2012
Struggling as I do with an appalling memory, I still believe that long ago I thought that if everI got older I'd become less of a cynic. Which is a sometimes confusing word. In the Ancient Greece, A Cynic, was a member of a sect who thought that virtue was the only good and self control the only way to become virtuous. Consequently, The Cynics were apt to spend more time than is healthy pointing out the flaws in others. Of modern definitions of "Cynic", the one I best understand refers to a person who thinks that others are motivated by an always transparent self centeredness. And I mostly think this because when I was at boarding school, we were not supposed to be cynical about the motives of those under whose care we found ourselves. They were perfect, we were badly flawed.
The ancient philosophy of cynicism is said to have been inspired by Diogenes, whose father was probably a banker of some sort. Diogenes himself was once exiled for defacing currency, he was once captured by pirates, he is said to have made a habit of urinating on table legs. He was pretty much homeless, and unwashed, and his indifference to wealth and proper behavior was probably very irritating to be around. And it is said that one morning, while Diogenes was waking up to a chilly day, in the public square where he had spent his night, enjoying the warmth of sun as it brought heat to his body, Alexander the Great walked up to him. When the powerful and often scary Alexander asked Diogenes what favor might be granted to Diogenes, Diogenes replied "You can stop standing in my sunlight."