by umair haque, coach, lover, vampire: https://umairhaque.com/how-to-be-loving-in-a-cynical-world-974d54f5baac#.osm96wnd8
Rebel Against the Three Kinds of Cynicism
How much of your day is spent at the behest of cynics? Or, worse, being one? I’m betting: probably the majority.
what we do now, right? Vent our bitter frustration to perfect strangers
about the leaders and institutions who’ve left us twisting in the
bitter wind. Bitch, whine, moan, a third of your life a day at the
screen. A third of your life. Hey, I’m as guilty as you. But it doesn’t help.
us be more loving. Which is, we learn too late, all that really
matters, the moment the doctor regretfully says: “Sorry. Your time’s
up”. The true
enemy of love isn’t suffering. It’s cynicism. Cynicism is the assassin
of love. It poisons its possibility, steals its gifts, attacks its
understandable. Cynicism’s got a razors’ edge. We’re looking for one,
to cut ourselves with, to relieve the pain a little. Yet I’m not
suggesting you go collect the assorted works of Barry Manilow, retreat
to the yurt, and live a saccharine existence of doe-eyed dopey hopeless
is an age in desperate search of rebellion. But cynicism is a cheap
rebellion. True rebellion has always been the fierce strength of love.
Not giving up on all that’s great, worthy, improbable, whole in you. But
standing up for it.
are three kinds of cynics: 1) people who want to make money without giving
anything to the world; 2) people who want power over people, not
possibility for them; and 3) people who believe they can lift themselves up
by pulling everyone else down. Each is just the same idea in disguise:
giving up on human possibility.
Erase the three kinds of cynicism from your life. Starting with you.
Then move on to the people around you. If you can’t cut them out of
your life, then at least ignore them when they tell you how, what, why
to live. And you’ll be a little, my guess is a lot, more loving now. Love is sharper than cynicism. Really want to be cut open, so your beating heart is naked in the light?
Be the other person. Reverse the three kinds of cynicism.
Do it because it matters, not just for the approval, mentions, fans,
money. Do things that give people possibility, not take away their
power. And most importantly, lift everyone - yes, everyone, no matter
how much they’re trying to pull you down - up. Not for a sense of smug
moral superiority. But because …
Embrace the Struggle To
Why do we want to be loving, anyways? The reason is simple. There is no reason. Love is the end of reasons. Not just in a trivial “hey man, love is craaazy” sense. Love is the end, not the means. The end of what? Of us.
love what we do, who we are, where we go, in order to be more creative,
true, happy, fulfilled, productive, efficient. That’s the conventional
wisdom. It’s right, in the sense that “that happens”. But it’s not
don’t love “in order to be” anything. We struggle so that love can be.
Love is the single great reason each and every one of us works, suffers,
toils, fights. We don’t love to struggle, we struggle to love. Love is
the struggle. And we find purpose, meaning, destiny, not just temporary
relief from the constant soul-crushing pain of a pointless life, only
when we really see why.
maybe I’m the last of the romantics. But that’s not why it’s true.
Don’t believe me? OK, imagine I gave you everything you ever wanted. Or
even better, ever could want.
All the cars, houses, objects, trophies, boobs, pecs, fans, designer
gold plated VIP room “experiences”. But there was a price. You’d never
really love any of them. And so they’d never love you. Would you take my
Any human not desperately running away from the midnight of their demons shouldn’t. There is everything to be lost, and nothing worthy to be gained. We don’t love so that things can happen. We exist so that love can happen. Can what? Unfurl, create, imagine, defy, build, give, endow, connect, breathe, move, happen. When
we experience those moments, which are better called movements, because
they happen without words, between people, that’s when we really feel
deeply alive, abidingly present, bursting with joy.
Embrace the right struggle. Not in a childish way. Not the struggle for having, owning, wining, dominating, and so on. Just the struggle to
let love be the end, not the means, of whatever is happening in you,
through you, with you, by you. Embrace it in every moment and not an
instant of this precious and beautiful life will be wasted.
Get Over Yourself
yet. When “we do” things that are really worthy, loving, great into our
memories, it’s not really the “self” in us acting, is it? If it was the
self, we’d never do them at all, because there’s no self serving
reason. They are self destructive. They blow apart who we think we are.
So who is the actor?
Get over yourself. I mean this in a zen way. Like a koan. So literally that if you really think about it, it should implode your mind. Good. Let’s take each word in my little koan one by one. Get. Obtain, move, flow, release, surrender. Over. Upwards, ascend, beyond. Yourself. The little idea of “I” being the only self there is. Get over it. Ascend beyond it. Climb through it. Let go of the rope.
Who is acting when we do anything really worthy in this life? Not the self. Something beyond self. If
you really want to be a little more loving, step back. Just be still.
Sit in silence. And see that the actor whenever there has been real
beauty, truth, connection, grace, fulfillment, nobility, rebellion in
your life was never you at all. It was the self beyond selves. I say that not in a poetic way, but again, in a zen way. Hyperliterally, so clear it should break your mind wide open.
The you in you and the me in me is not the actor of anything worthy. So who is it? The me in you, and the you in me.
us go one tiny step further. I know your brain hurts. If there is a me
in you, and a you in me, what is that self ? It is the pure self in all
of us, which is common to us. It is unchanging, inalienable, ever
present, not “me and you”, but “me in you”. Loving is the action, and the pure self is the actor. Making
contact with that true and pure self, not ego, and letting it act,
without effort, hesitation, with ease, grace, is all being loving is.
is what true non-judgement really is. Making contact with the me in you,
and the you in me. Really experiencing it. Anything less, and you’re
still a judgmental dick. Wait, did I just contradict myself? Yup, to
make a point. That was the I in me, not the you in me, the pure self,
All this, letting go until we can get to the pure self, where no judgment and compassion reside. That
is perfect movement in an imperfect world. It is discovering the
strength in your fragility and the heartstopping beauty in your
Now you are understanding what being loving in a cynical world really is. Rebelling for struggling to get over yourself. It’s the simplest thing in the world. And that is why it’s so beautifully hard.
Its really just a recapitulation of the old Puritan myth that you’ve got to suffer to be saved. Do you?
I know plenty of people, especially young people, who’ve worked themselves to the bone. Educationally, professionally, personally. And guess what? There’s no pot at the end of the rainbow anymore. They’re not very successful. That’s not a judgment. Just an observation about society these days, and it’s lack of opportunity.
Hard work doesn’t equal success anymore. Maybe it never did, but that’s another topic.So what does? Doing something that matters.
Changing human lives in some small but significant way. Really giving, affirming, improving life. That’s not to say billions of dollars will shower down on you from the sky if you do.
But: a) your skills will be in demand because you’ve created a demand for them; b) you’ll have a decent life; and c) it won’t kill you inside to live it. You’ll have sense of abiding meaning, a reason for being here. That’s worth much, much more than money.
Success doesn’t equal relentlessly pointless hard work, or even smart work. There’s no need to crucify yourself for it. You won’t be saved that way. Mattering, which is a freer, truer thing than success, comes from “doing stuff” with a point. Breakthroughs. How do you have them? First, be human. Be open, humble, vulnerable, here. Then you’ll begin to be inspired, driven, touched, pulled, called to do something that matters a lot, even in a tiny way.
Polish the Mirror, Don’t Break It
So where do life affirming breakthroughs come from? Not from hard work in yesterday’s sense. You can work on an excel spreadsheet forever and hello, mediocrity. Breakthroughs that matter really come from the very skills that we (massively) undervalue today. Let me gift you a pointed example.
You’re at a job interview. The recruiter says: so what are your skills? You say: empathy, courage, grace, rebellion, imagination. The recruiter says: “next!”. We undervalue those skills. That’s why you shouldn’t. Those are the ones you really need to build a life that matters.
Don’t give up on them no matter what, no matter what recruiters, bosses, counselors, mentors tell you. They’re wrong. They are the skills you really need to create life affirming breakthroughs, not just the capacity to robotically suffer deep in your soul because what you’re spending your days doing doesn’t matter at all.
So go rebel. Cultivate them. Forget about this comfort zone nonsense. Read great books, see great art, have big ideas, ignore the cynics. Will that make you uncomfortable? Probably. But it will also make you whole, true, really here. More human. A little more every day. Not just more broken. I can break a mirror in many ways. But the real question is whether I’m polishing it. Both are a little uncomfortable for the mirror. But only one makes it clearer. Truer. Wiser.
Go Up. Not Through
You can go further and further past the discomfort zone. You can hit the agony zone. Beyond that is the numbness zone. And after that lies the zone of self destruction. That’s the “get out of your comfort zone” thinking taken to its logical limit, right? Just keep going.
You’re going the wrong way. Each step you take in this direction makes you sadder, angrier, more bitter, desperate, alone, afraid. Slowly, you’ll begin to reject people, ideas, human possibility itself. You’ll end up saying: “hey! Everyone should suffer just as I had to suffer!!”. That’s more or less the story of now. Don’t just go in the direction of more suffering. What should you do? The answer’s more subtle than that. Go up. Here’s what I mean.
Do what the wordless voice inside you says. That’s your intuition, your “gut feel”, your moral compass. It’s really your spirit, your inner ocean, the true you. It’s leading in the way of a natural, effortless way of being, acting. The whole blind swordsman thing. But there’s a lot of discomfort getting there.
Sometimes, your inner voice, your ocean, tells you things that require your little mind, your fragile and needy ego, to suffer. That’s good suffering. It says: “this person, place, idea, way of life isn’t right for you. Let’s find a better way”. Listen.
Now you’re going up. Towards a higher level of being. Your mind is suffering. It’s wondering, asking, maybe a little anxious. That’s OK. Because m deep in you, there is peace, stillness, opening a sense of rightness, not tightness.
Now you can feel gratitude, compassion, justice, beauty, right? That’s where breakthroughs come from. Most of us do the opposite. We dent our needy, fragile egos with more pain, because that’s what we’ve been told to do. Just take the pain of the pointless job, the abusive relationship, the dead end career. Grin and bear it. It’s good for you. That’s bad suffering. It just makes us hurt, and hurt without purpose leads to self destruction.
The ego telling itself to suffer for no reason just because “suffering is good”, and the spirit telling the ego to suffer for a transcendent reason are two vastly different things. Two very different ways of moving in this world. That’s what the little drawing above says.
When the needy ego leads you into the zone of pain, you’ll end up in the wilderness. Lost, alone, maybe numb with the cold. It doesn’t know how to go anywhere. When your inner ocean leads you towards doing what matters, yes, you'll suffer along the way. But that suffering has a real and mighty purpose. Have you guessed it?
It is teaching you how to love. And why. And so giving you the greatest gift of all: letting you know what this little life really is. Not just suffering without a point. But the pain of the seed breaking open, so the tree that holds the forest that holds the sky can be born. All that. Is in you. Suffer well.
Umair, Philadelphia, August 2016
umair haque, coach, lover, vampire.