Cynicism and Resignation

I saw an article on Brain Pickings today that really struck a chord in me. It has nothing to do with Panama, except I hope as expats and ambassadors from our home countries we all come here with a mind that is positive, happy, and uplifting for those around us.

The article is “On the Soul-Sustaining Necessity of Resisting Self-Comparison and Fighting Cynicism: A Commencement Address” by Maria Popova. She is a writer, blogger, critic, and the creator of Brain Pickings, and also a cyclist. This was her commencement address to the Annenberg School for Communication.


She says that we must resist comparing ourselves to others. There are opportunities to compare everywhere – income, looks, intelligence, job, family, etc etc. We often find ourselves not measuring up and feeling like there is always something more to be had, something out of reach. This wears you down until a state of resignation sets in. It also robs you of your own experience, your own life, makes you feel hopeless and cynical.  This is not a happy or productive way to live. Others can’t tell you who you are or what you are worth.

You can choose to be destructive or constructive, to lower people down or lift them up. In building and lifting up others, you also lift up yourself. Do not buy into the culture that rewards tearing down. Don’t take the easy road. Do what it takes to build, to give hope, and follow your own vision.

Read the article. I can’t say it nearly as well as she does.

One side thought also spoke to me, especially after my experience in the USA and after encountering so many homeless there –

“I came to Penn straight from Bulgaria, through that same confluence of chance and choice (and, yes, a lot of very, very hard work — I don’t want to minimize the importance of that, but I also don’t want to imply that people who end up on the underprivileged end of life haven’t worked hard enough, because this is one of our most oppressive cultural myth and reality is so much more complex).”

Don’t worry, I’ll also talk about Panama here but sometimes something grabs me and I have to go off on a tangent. There is life in Panama, and then life in general and being a sentient human being, and it’s all part of my existence.

About Kris Cunningham

We live in David, Chiriqui Provence, Republic of Panama! This blog is about some of our experiences in our new country.
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12 Responses to Cynicism and Resignation

  1. Muchas Gracias, nice diversion!


  2. I am loving your stories from Brain Pickings. I read that article this morning, too. And, really it does have something to do with Panama and life as expats. When we lived in the states, I never wanted to have a party in my house because we had used furniture and an old house. When I compared my house to others, I always felt uncomfortable and kind of embarrassed. Although our priorities were never materialistic, I always compared my house to my other professional friends who lived in huge, new homes with fancy furniture and the latest gadgets.
    Then, we moved to Nicaragua and the campo, where our neighbors have dirt floors, no running water, and an outhouse. It was the strangest feeling, kind of like a reverse comparison. This time I was embarrassed and didn’t want to flaunt what we had in comparison to our poor neighbors. It made me feel guilty every time we came home with a new purchase that they would never be able to buy. Same feelings, different comparisons to others.


    • I also like that publication and was interested to learn who is behind it. I have the article on solitude going around in my head as well, especially now since Joel is in the states and I’m here on my own.
      Yes, I so understand what you are saying. I got an old funky car on purpose, but it’s still out of reach for so many who can’t afford any car at all, as is our house and probably most of what we have. But, look at your neighbors who have so little in material things, but such wealth in community, kindness, and human spirit. If I compare myself to that I come up short. We could hardly get to town for talking with all of them along the way.
      As a visiting nurse I was in everyone’s homes. Those rich people with the fancy houses, I don’t think they are any happier than the poor folks on the other side of town.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Very good points here, Kris, awesome post! A reminder to stay humble and not compare ourselves to others is always a good thing. We fall into that trap all too readily. Thank you, for this today.


  4. Carole says:

    Thanks for unusual blog. I read it and found it really interesting. I know what you mean about material things, I never wanted to invite people over thinking we were not up to there standards. Especially since we have 4 dogs, so the house wasn’t as clean as I would have liked it to be. If we were having company everything had to be perfect. Which I have since realized that it is not as important as it was.


    • I’m glad you liked it. I find as I get older I care less and less what others think. But, that doesn’t mean I’ve stopped running around sprucing up the house every time I think someone is coming over. Maybe one day I’ll get better about that.


  5. ME BE in Panama says:

    In the short nine weeks we spent in Boquete this spring we were glad we had resisted the urge to rent a car. We learned a lot about the local people taking various forms of public transportation, but even more about ourselves. By & I are minimalists by American standards, and that’s a choice we’ve consciously made. But as middle class Americans being car-less is foreign to us just as it is to most, with the exception of many New Yorkers and various other metropolitan people who actually have exceptional public transit operations. However on the whole having a car, a home, a refrigerator, a microwave, a bed with a mattress, a shower with consistently reliable hot water — well these are just in our experience. And as such, they are our expectations. Now that we’re back in the states shedding nearly all of our “stuff” we realize that, while the “stuff” we accumulated was nothing compared to many others, it certainly is way more than these two people needed.
    When we return to Panama our “inner barometer”, as she calls it, will be developed with our new Panamanian neighbors in mind. Not because we have to, but because we choose to.
    Thanks for sharing this insightful post Kris. Cheers, Mariah


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