Friday, March 11, 2011

Cynically Speaking - Who are these Cynics etymologically !!!!!

CYNIC  - """pronounved ‘ sin – ik’  """-  sure would have heard of this word many a times.  Is it the person or is it the attitude of a person ??

Cynic is a person who tends to feel that all people are insincere and selfish. "Cynicism" is the outlook of a cynical person.  It all depends the moods and attitude and at some point of time we perhaps would have exhibited such cynicism when other talk with belief or would have got dejected as people around us would have rejected our idea with cynicism without giving a thought to it.  It is indeed a sinking feeling….

When it comes to thinking and attitude, the power of positive thinking can change and improve one’s  life.  It all about viewing things positively and having an attitude that people are indeed sincere and tend to do things for the benefit of others also.  For achieving success in life, one needs to constantly think and believe that self is good and worthy.  One has to drive away the thinking that the World is bad and entire humanity is loitering around with daggers to harm one.  such a feeling will only drown one more and will push one to dejection.  Down and out and not being able to come to terms with the society.  Is that what one desires ?  no certainly not…….

Being cynical can also put a heavy toll on one’s health.  The cynics tend to mistrust and suspect everyone else and in the end are hostile to others. Hostility, anger, distrust all can lead to depression, blood pressure, heart disease and some other ailments.  

All this is what we perceive of Cynics as we read them to be in the modern day.

Historically, the cynic movement constitutes intellectual phenomena and traces back to Greek times.  It is written that Cynics as a group and as a philosophy roamed in the roads of classical Greece and Rome – civilizations of the past – preaching their view of social and political protesting against the time honoured customs and traditions of those times – rebels who revolted against the tested traditions of yore !  Ancient Greek philosophy could be traced to 6th BC and through the Hellenistic period.  Greeks dabbled with wide range of subjects including political philosophy, ethics, metaphysics, aesthetics and more.  Other than Plato, Aristotle and Socrates – there were many others who left indelible imprints on the western thought with their clear unbroken lines of thinking and thoughts converted into dogmas.  Philosophy itself is perceived to be a Greek creation.

Now coming back – the word CYNIC  as a noun would mean

1:   One who believes people are motivated by self-interest only.
2:   A person  with a negative outlook, one disposed to find fault.

The word has a strong Etymology.  Etymology is the study of history or words, their origin and how their meaning have changed over time.  It is a branch of study and great research goes into texts and study of finding out how they were used in the earlier periods.  

The word Cynic etymologically is derived from Greek kynikos.  Diogenes was popularly known as ‘kyon’ the greek word for dog.  According to Greek mythology,  Kyon Khryseos  was a golden dog set to guard the infant Zeus and his nurse Amaltheia.  Kwon is also dog which has the source of canine, kennel, canary hound and more.  

Cynics was the terms used to describe the ancient Greek philosophers who practiced self control, austerity and moral virtue.  Actually all good virtues.    The movement is reported to have been founded by Antisthenes and perfected by Diogenes. Antisthenes is considered to be a pupil of Socrates.     Why people with lofty ideals were labeled as cynics meaning dog-like belies logic.  It does look derogatory but there are some theories that the Antisthenes taught the principles to the society in a gymnasium nicknamed white dog.  It is also likely that the Elites of those days, would certainly not have liked questioning their dogmas and could have attached a derogatory label to the group who revolted and questioned their thinking.  

In the history of humanity, men as a rule don’t like being questioned. In all ages – Yes men and those who appreciate on face have thrived at the cost of others.  

One group holds that the first cynic Antistheses taught in the cynosarges gymnasium at Athens.   Those who followed the cynical movement were believed to be indifferent of their way of life, make a cult of indifference reportedly leading a life of dogs – walking barefoot, sleeping and living on roads and cross roads.  They were considered shameless and the attribute of the dog was foisted to them also.  

Dogs have the quality of guarding and can distinguish between friends and enemies but the group which was touted as outcasts were not likely to have been favoured with bouquets but would have been.  Thus a school of thought of Greek times who could live rejecting all conventional desires of wealth, power, fame and pomp were subjected to humiliation rather than any praise for their practicing virtues.  

Like many other philosophies, it would have lost its followers and had a natural death with the changing times.  Thus, perhaps, those early day CYNICS were not as bad as the modern CYNIC and perhaps cannot be bracketed together, as they lived by some principle and not the ones who had derisive thoughts on others.

Regards – S. Sampathkumar

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