Cynicism is easy to cultivate. It's a defiant mindset somewhat like a self-preservation tactic. It's not hopelessness, but a sense that life is pointless. That's my take on it.
I'm prone to become cynical until I realize where it leads me. Personally, I see cynicism as an attitude of pride—I know better than others, but I don't care. Perhaps I'm overstating it, but that's how I see it.
Nihilist philosophy is like cerebral cynicism. Its answer to the question of the meaning of life is another question, "What's the point?" This may seem like an oversimplification, but this is the tone of Ecclesiastes—King Solomon's philosophical lament. But hold on! Some valuable insights can be drawn from this apparently cynical observation of life.
Neither the wise person nor the fool will be remembered for long, since both will be forgotten in the days to come. Both the wise person and the fool will die. So I came to hate life because everything done under the sun seemed wrong to me. Everything was pointless. [It was like] trying to catch the wind. I came to hate everything for which I had worked so hard under the sun, because I will have to leave it to the person who replaces me. Who knows whether that person will be wise or foolish? He will still have control over everything under the sun for which I worked so hard and used my wisdom. Even this is pointless. [vss 16-19]
Then I fell into despair over everything for which I had worked so hard under the sun. Here is someone who had worked hard with wisdom, knowledge, and skill. Yet, he must turn over his estate to someone else, who didn’t work for it. Even this is pointless and a terrible tragedy. What do people get from all of their hard work and struggles under the sun? Their entire life is filled with pain, and their work is unbearable. Even at night their minds don’t rest. Even this is pointless. [vss 20-23]
There is nothing better for people to do than to eat, drink, and find satisfaction in their work. I saw that even this comes from the hand of God. Who can eat or enjoy themselves without God? God gives wisdom, knowledge, and joy to anyone who pleases him. But to the person who continues to sin, he gives the job of gathering and collecting [wealth]. The sinner must turn his wealth over to the person who pleases God. Even this is pointless. [It’s like] trying to catch the wind. [vss 24-26]
(Ecclesiastes 2:16-26 GW) [Context– Ecclesiastes 2]
Key phrase— Who can eat or enjoy themselves without God?
[bctt tweet="Who can eat or enjoy themselves without God?"]
What is the life situation that causes King Solomon to view life as pointless?
Why does he come to this conclusion, and how does this effect his outlook on life?
What conclusion does all of this thinking bring Solomon to realize?
How does this realization bring a better perspective and value to life?
The problem of cynicism is what it leads to—a dead end. Why? Because pride—self-exaltation—leads us into an isolated and introspective mindset. In other words, we can't see beyond our self.
Every human being—all life on earth—has a time-limited life span. Even the time we think we have can be cut short. So, if our whole world revolves around ourself as the central most important thing in the world, then life can appear pointless.
Solomon's realization of what brings satisfaction—the existence and presence of God—changed his view of life. It brought him to view life from a different perspective. He saw a continuity to life beyond himself.
Make it personal...
Read through the Scripture text again to consider and answer the following questions
What are the things that cause you to lose sight of the value of life?
What (or who) is most important in your life? Does it help you see beyond yourself, or make you more self-focused?
How does acknowledging God's existence help you have a better outlook on life?
What are specific ways you can view life beyond yourself?