The Cynicism of Middle Age

My husband, co-worker and I have had a few conversations recently about how cranky we feel toward the world. We’ve been grousing about situations that aren’t quite working right on the local, state and national level, wanting desperately to help fix some of these situations or put the right people into positions so that they can fix them. “Fixing” them meaning to create situations that allow the majority of people to live in relative peace and prosperity without having to fight quite so hard just to survive.

As it stands, it appears that the people who have all the power want to keep that power to themselves for their own gain. To heck with the rest of us hoi polloi. We can see the political maneuvering (not just in politics, mind you) to game the system and it makes us angry.

And cynical.

We’re all in our late 40s, so smack in middle age, and we’ve lost our youthful idealism. (I just had another friend about our age say that he, too, is often cynical.) We’ve experienced too much of the world, including how difficult it is to affect change because of the imbalance in power, and we’re frustrated.

I was talking about this cynicism with another friend, someone who is a little older than I am. She said that things are different now, far more contentious and polarized than they have ever been in her life. Her comments indicate that some of this cynicism is justified and it may not be related to being middle aged.

Do we want to be cynical? Heck no. It wouldn’t take much to make us less cynical. Having even a few situations resolved in a fair and transparent manner would help. Watching the power players being called out and/or held accountable for their manipulation of the system would also alleviate some of our cynicism. (A hopeful sign is having Bernie Sanders throw his hat in the presidential ring. He’s a defender of the masses.)

Lest you’re tempted to tell me to “Lighten up, be thankful, stay positive, don’t give in to cynicism,” Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh would suggest allowing me to feel what I feel, to be mindful of it. Discussing my cynicism allows me to figure out exactly what’s bothering me about the state of the world and to find ways to work around what I can’t personally change. Ignoring the cynicism makes it grow.  (See Thich Nhat Hanh’s discussion on dealing with anger in “Together We Are One,” pages 92-96.)

Knowing I’m not alone in my middle-aged cynicism also helps.

How about you? Are you feeling cynical about the world (no matter what your age)? What can we do about it?

5 thoughts on “The Cynicism of Middle Age”

  1. The funny thing is that both sides of the current political mind set feel exactly the same way about almost the exact same issues, just through the opposite end of the looking glass. Both sides see the other side as wrong, and to both sides compromise means “see it my way dang it!”
    A hand up on one side means to provide something that the masses cannot provide for themselves. To the other side it means getting the masses the tools for getting it themselves. The gulf is not that wide, the goals are very similar.
    There are rich people on both sides who want to make more money – regardless of the cost. For every Koch Brother there is George Soros. For every Palin there is Joe Biden. For every Michelle Bachman…. Ok there is an exception to every rule.
    What I am trying to say is that as much as we look for fixes that seem fair to everyone, as long as we keep electing people who only agree with our view that will be difficult to get. A person who stands for Ying, will always have a person who believes Yang is the way to go.
    Personally I think much of our angst comes from the media – they tell us how bad things are. When we were growing up Walter C would give us the facts and tell us good night. Today MSNBC does not provide fact, they provide opinion as proof and ignore anything to the contrary. The same at Fox News, CNN, et al. Oh for the days of Pravda – at least you knew it was just propaganda…
    Mary is 100% right, The best way for us to work with our cynicism is to do so publicly – while working out those things that are bothering us about the state of the world and to find ways to work around what we can’t personally change. Ignoring the cynicism makes it grow
    Oh – Thank goodness for Marco Rubio throwing his hat into the ring, he is of the masses, he has seen what it takes to rise above preordained classes. Same goal as Bernie Sanders – different methods.

    1. Morganna – Thanks so much for taking the time to leave such a long and thoughtful reply. You are absolutely right that both sides think they are correct in what they want to do with the government, but from opposite ends of the spectrum. I’ve been mulling this concept over and may write another blog post about what has occurred to me regarding this, but it needs a little more cooking in my noggin. Thanks for the inspiration!

  2. we have a choice how we view our extremely short, sweet life, don’t we? anger is an energy that, once transformed cultivates compassionate words & actions of the heart! may you be well, even in this difficult world 🙂

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