The Bitter Pill

Or: how to tell if you are a cynic.

Each day, faced with a cascade of decisions, every one in itself a tiny course correction on our philosophical path, we choose between A or B, and in so doing re-affirm our view of the universe. Some of these choices seem weighty and are, in as much, weighed carefully. Others are so miniscule as to be invisible, the mechanics of their resolutions seeming involuntary. It’s the totality which frame you as a pessimist, an absurdist, an elitist, an idealist, a romatic, or what have you. I’d like to focus on one of these seemingly miniscule choices today…

First some back story:

A think-tank in my employ came to a problematic conclusion recently, that though I call this site The Nonist, I, its author, am not in fact truly free of “isms.” It was an unpleasant finding to be sure. It struck me immediately that if word got out it could be quite embarrassing. My P.R. firm agreed whole heartedly and recommended swift action be taken.

In an effort to strip me of as many “isms” as realistically possible my stable of mystics, eugenicists, astronomers, and rogue-scientists have since been busy with a harrowing undertaking: to break apart the jumbled mass of choices that make up my Being in hopes of reverse engineering them and tracing particular flaws to their root causes. It’s been hard going and the results are by no means finalized. However, as is the case with many scientific undertakings, there have been discoveries made only tangentially related to the goal.

Which brings me to the “miniscule choice” I referred to earlier.

We have discovered a conclusive and reliable method to test for cynicism in humans. And believe me there is none of that poetic, wishy-washy, stuff about half-full / half-empty glasses involved. The test is simple and repeatable. All that’s required is access to The Food Network on your cable television.

To administer the test on your self simply do the following:

1. Turn on your television.
2. Enter the digits on your remote control which correspond to The Food Network or some similar program in which a “chef” prepares a meal in the course of an episode.
3. Watch the program until the climactic moment.
4. Take note of your own reaction to said climactic moment.

You’re finished, test complete. You now know for certain whether you are a cynic.

Let me explain:

During most television programs in which a “chef” prepares a meal the episode unfolds in a similar way. Ingredients are chosen. Anecdotes are told. Ingredients are manipulated. More anecdotes are told. Ingredients are cooked. Further anecdotes are told until finally the ingredients are gathered together and plated. These steps all lead directly to the climactic moment: the “chef” tasting the meal he or she has just prepared.

It is the choice of reaction to this crux which reveals cynicism in humans.

If you, as a viewer, watch the “chef” put a spoonful of food in their mouth, watch as they chew for a moment impartially blank-faced, then watch as the facial expression of the “chef” changes to one of eye-popping, head-lolling delight; if you hear the exclamatory sounds of pleasure and (after the careful, orgasmic, chewing is finished) the breathy statement of “Now that… is incredible” and you choose to believe, thinking to yourself, “That must have been… incredible.” Then you my friend are not a cynic. Congratulations.

If, however, you watch the “chef” put a spoonful of food in their mouth, watch as they chew the food impartially blank-faced, then watch as the facial expression of the “chef” changes to one of eye-popping, head-lolling delight; if you hear the exclamatory sounds of pleasure and (after the careful, orgasmic, chewing is finished) the breathy statement of “Now that… is incredible” and you choose to reject them utterly, thinking to yourself, “Bullshit. Tastes like poached couch-cushion for all I know!” Then you my friend are without doubt a cynic. Congratulations.

You see, as my staff of ambivalent mercenaries and avant-garde pediatrists have explained to me, the entire production is artifice. The kitchen is a set, the time is shifted, the chef is cooking for no-one, the senses involved in the production and its consumption do not include taste, and you can never, ever, ever take a bite of that food yourself. You can never know the truth of its flavor. You know this. You tacitly agree to the illusion when you tune in.

Only a true cynic could sit through the entire preparation of a meal, fully aware of the artifice, and upon seeing the “tasting face” of the “chef” feel compelled to reject their sincerity.

So essentially, our calculations reveal, that if you see that “tasting face” and choose, knowing full well it’s all artifice, to scorn or mock the “chef” in your mind anyway, then you are indeed an unabashed, scientifically cerified cynic. Wonder no longer.

If you also happen to notice that the chef does not actually offer an itemized recipe for their dish on screen (the way cooking shows of old always did) presumably because it would undermine sales of their cookbook which is the true cash cow, well then you are a cynic extraordinaire! We doff our hats to your permanently furrowed brow.

In any case if you are addled by cynicism and want to cast it off or trade it for that prettier and shinier model- optimism, remember that each and every choice you make compounds like the bone-dust that comprise a giant’s bread. You must be aware of your decisions, even the smallest, if you are ever to change. A perfect place to start is with the “tasting face.” Teach yourself to believe that and you can believe almost anything. Here is your mantra: “Yum, it’s delicious!”

Say it with me: “Yum, it’s delicious!”

“Yum, it’s delicious!”

“Yum, it’s delicious!”

See you are well on your way. Now if you’ll excuse me my staff of discredited phrenologists and atonal flautists are eager to continue the “ism-stripping” by driving a 16 inch needle into my brain. Wish me luck. Ta-ta.

05.12. filed under: !. ideas. lies. observations. 3