Tom Simard

Poetry, Music, and Prose

A Cynic

If I have any prophetic powers, and in fact, at present I am surrounded by a group of rather menacing looking men and women clutching onto large stones who are more than ready to cast them in my direction if I get this wrong, the image in your mind is of a snide, dismissive type, not a lot of fun to be around unless, of course, you’re someone who thinks Nausea was more entertaining than Catch-22.

I was actually thinking of Diogenes.

I would definitely not recommend defacing currency. I do, however, remember in the 1960s my brother drilling a hole through a Liberty Dollar to make a necklace. I hope an arrest warrant for him will not be forthcoming. But they were different times. When I was young we used to walk into stores without shoes and t-shirts. This is before they started putting up announcements of No Shoes, No Shirts, No Service. And I can assure some of the more incredulous among you that I was living in a metropolitan area at the time.

Here are some excerpts from The Life of Diogenes:

“Plato defined man thus: ‘Man is a two-footed, featherless animal;’ and was much praised for the definition; so Diogenes plucked a cock and brought it into his school, and said, ‘This is Plato’s man.'”

“A certain person was admiring the offerings in the temple at Samothrace, and he said to him, “They would have been much more numerous, if those who were lost had offered them instead of those who were saved;” but some attribute this speech to Diagoras the Thelian.”

” The question was put to him what countryman he was, and he replied, ‘Citizen of the world'”

“Once, while he was sitting in the sun in the Craneum, Alexander was standing by, and said to him, ‘Ask any favour you choose of me.’ And he replied, ‘Cease to shade me from the sun.'”

Giovanni Castiglione’s etching shows Diogenes in search of an honest man:

This entry from Wikipedia gives one a picture of Cynicism:

“Their philosophy was that the purpose of life was to live a life of Virtue in agreement with Nature. This meant rejecting all conventional desires for wealth, power, sex, and fame, and by living a simple life free from all possessions. As reasoning creatures, people could gain happiness by rigorous training and by living in a way which was natural for humans. They believed that the world belonged equally to everyone, and that suffering was caused by false judgments of what was valuable and by the worthless customs and conventions which surrounded society.”

They were strong believers in free speech and opposed war and slavery.

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5 thoughts on “A Cynic

  1. That was really interesting. I like to think of myself as fairly knowledgeable about not only the words I use, but in many cases, their origins. To be honest, however, I had never given “cynic’s” origins much thought.

    I rather like the small bit you’ve presented here (I’ll have to find out more), because, if I’m reading it right, cynicism in this sense seems to be a very positive idea. Contemporary cynicism, to my thinking, seems so nasty and negative, so defeatist. It’s like it sees the world as one big joke (which, I admit, I do, too), but as black and bitter one (which it can be), rather than just a straight up belly laugh, which I think it more often is.

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  2. I certainly regard them in a positive light. Instead of worrying about what was going to happen when we die, they thought the important thing was how we lived our lives.

    Take a look at The Life of Diogenes when you have a chance. Wonderful wit.

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    • I will. I’ve been trying to dedicate a certain amount of time for reading every day, with dubious success. But recently I’ve been enjoying e-books. I’ll put Diogenes on my list. Really, my pre-20th Century reading has been pretty spotty.

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  3. I’m quite sure you’re going to find in him and the other Cynics a kindred spirit.

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  4. Anonymous on said:

    I love entering the world of past philosophers and historical figures. Diogenes is a favourite of mine, mainly because I have fled to a metaphorical cave , and suffer the world mainly on my own terms. Terribley selfish, but I have to try and retain the small amount of sanity and hope I retain.

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