My latest, greatest writing assignment was to write poetry inspired by a graphic novel about a Japanese/Canadian Wiccan lesbian who gets into a relationship with her female English teacher. Putting aside my own thoughts on mature content in young adult graphic novels, I was struck by the abject cynicism that pervaded this text.
(As an aside, to those of you who have been following my whiny “identity” narrative, I should tell you that I’m not the only one who breaks stereotypes in this class. In our discussion of this novel, a very animated conversation erupted as future English teachers expressed their extreme distaste of the English teacher character. After nearly everyone had clearly expressed both their disgust and (what they thought universal) ethical standards regarding teacher/student relationships, one girl slowly raises her hands: “Um, just to add to this conversation, I started dating a teacher in high school, and he was fired because of it, and we’ve been together for six years! WHHHHAAAT!” she waves both hands. Nervous laughter. Awkward. Turtles. Floating BELLY-UP.)
Back to the novel: the simplest yet most important lesson I learned (two summers ago) was this:
My generation is cynical.
In class, we study hundred-year old notions of modernism, and we’re depressed for days after reading Samuel Beckett’s Endgame. We’re aware of the constructivist and relativist theories of the postmodern age, and we understand the skepticism of that time period.
But what we do not understand are the features of our own age. We do not articulate how we have moved beyond skepticism and have fallen deeply into cynicism.
There’s a difference of terms. Skepticism is a questioning attitude toward knowledge, facts, or beliefs. But cynicism goes much further: it pushes beyond healthy questioning until there is “a general distrust of others’ apparent motives or ambitions, or a general lack of faith or hope in the human race or in individuals with desires, hopes, opinions, or personal tastes that a cynic perceives as unrealistic or inappropriate, therefore deserving of ridicule or admonishment. It is a form of jaded negativity.” Wikipedia
These are the features of our time: frustration, disillusionment, and distrust.
And in our Post-postmodern age, I believe we’re on the line between either cynicism… or fanaticism.
So, maybe, does… anyone want to do a Bible study about this? Because I would totally come!
I wrote a sonnet (a nice little convention, I must say) in response to reading the novel. Tell me what you think.
Today the cynic killed his skeptic mate
as questions died on lips reserved for hope
and faith in scientific facts and dates
that reason Him away to breathe and cope.
Today the cynic murders life itself
and massacres the faith of fresh desire,
and smothers breath til death is life and health,
and joyless life is real and fake as fire.
Here lies a cynic jaded; Corpse, beware:
New life is in my intravenous prayer.