Saturday, January 23, 2010

Quote of the Day: Conan the Brave...or Conan the Naive?

“All I ask of you is one thing: please don’t be cynical. I hate cynicism — it’s my least favorite quality and it doesn’t lead anywhere. Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you’re kind, amazing things will happen.” -Conan O'Brien


It's my personal quote of the day because I was thinking yesterday about this; if one can be rational without being a rationalist, can one be justifiably cynical without being a cynic, if the object of the cynicism is deserving? And there is a part of me that wants to say that it's easy for Conan to say that; he is, after all, walking away with 30 million (well, before taxes, cough-cough.) Is it cynical for me to say that? If I believed that people are inherently dishonest, then yes. But I don't have a lantern, so don't call me Diogenes just yet...

Conan's a comedian, not a philosopher (and given that comedians are given to cynicism, good for him for breaking the mold.) He's right, in the sense of not just "giving up" or making excuses to not even try. But I think there needs to be an elaboration here, lest Conan come off as simply naive. I'm not a cynic; nor am I a Pollyanna optimist. I'm a romantic realist. That means accepting that people have free will, and can opt to do good or bad. What it requires is good faith and benevolence, but street sense as well. The Great Seal of the United States (check your dollar bill, y'all) sums it up best: olive branch and sword. What it requires is not an open mind, or a closed mind, but an active mind...and, as Conan certainly realizes, contract laws...

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