Scientists have uncovered a potentially deadly disease.
Well, they are social scientists, but still they are scientists. But just because this disease wasn't revealed in a lab environment doesn't make it any less of a threat to us all. This disease has been around for multiple generations. The scariest part is that the rate of spreading is increasing exponentially.
I hate to be so doom-and-gloom, as that really isn't my nature. But left unchecked, this condition could destroy us all.
According to multiple studies conducted by the Pew Research Center, we are much more cynical today than we have ever been -- even more than 15 years ago; much more than 25 years years ago; wayyyy more cynical than we were right after WWII. Our confidence, our trust, our belief not only in our institutions, but also in each other, according to these studies, is eroding faster than an Outer Banks sand dune.
There's nothing new about our lack of faith in politicians. All I have to do is read the graffiti on the walls of Pompeii to see that politicians haven't ranked high in our trust for multiple millennia. But these studies -- conducted by the Pew Research Center periodically for the purposes of comparison -- reveal that basically we trust no one, nor have faith in anyone -- not in religion, medicine, journalism, businesses; we've become not only separate and aloof, but suspicious and full of doubt.
The divide is widening.
The disease of Cynicism is spreading.
Yet, there is an antidote.
And it's very simple really.
Start with Curiosity.
When I say start with curiosity, I mean genuine curiosity. The type of curiosity that begs another person "Please tell me more about that!" It's the kind of energy that isn't just mildly interested, but rather flat-out fascinated.
I don't know if what I'm putting forth ranks up there with Newton's Laws or anything, but here's the Potts Hypothesis: If I'm in a state of cynicism, then I'm not genuinely curious; if I'm genuinely curious, then my cynicism disappears. We can arm-wrestle over the absolutism if you want, but I feel strongly that this holds up.
Also, another important note: Skepticism is healthy and part of our survival toolkit; Cynicism is a choice and it is destructive.
Genuine Curiosity vs Faux Curiosity
Why do I keep emphasizing genuine curiosity?
Because it's quite easy to pretend to be curious. It's quite easy to pretend to be on a search for truth when in reality being on a search for affirmation of opinion. Faux Curiosity often brings to the center of the ring a Tag-team Wrestling Duo that would make Vince McMahon blush: Confirmation Bias and Desireability Bias.
One only sees what it wants to see and the other only draws conclusions that support a specific point of view.
Genuine curiosity on the other hand is the stuff of wonder. Of amazement. Of endless fascination. Of discovery. Of problem-solving. Of learning. Of growth.
And when that level of curiosity happens between two people, think about the depth of connection, the incredible engagement, the breadth of understanding. And if that can happen between two individuals, what if that happens between two groups? Two parties? Two nations?
Curiosity squelches Sarcasm
I'll let you in on a little secret....I'm a Recovering Cynic. So I come not to bury cynics, because I am one myself. I lived a long time as a proud cynic, and I spoke with the cynic's favorite communication style: Sarcasm.
Sarcasm is funny, right?
Sarcasm requires wit, right?
Some of the biggest and best comedians and writers use sarcasm because it's funny and clever, right?
Well, yeah, actually it very often is a little funny.
You know what else it is? Destructive.
And right now, frankly, we don't have the luxury of using destructive measures simply to show our wit. We're just not in that place right now.
"Sarcasm" comes from the Greek "sarkazein" and later "sarkasmos," meaning "to tear flesh." So at its core, Sarcasm is an act of violence. It's destructive. And it is the stock and trade of the cynic. Cynicism can do more than tear flesh; it can tear neighbors apart, families into shreds; it prevents Person A and Person B, Group A and Group B, and Country A and Country B from ever coming together. What's worse, not only are they not coming together, but with every use of sarcasm, there is another click in the massive tectonic drift apart.
I'm a Curiosity Pusher
Why am I so big on Curiosity?
Because it's a start. It's a gateway drug. You can get hooked on Curiosity and all of the reward chemicals that go along with it: dopamine, noreprenephrine, adrenaline.
If Curiosity is a gateway drug, what is it a gateway to?
Well, fasten your seatbelts because there's a very loaded word about to come at you. I strongly encourage you to drop the cynicism when you read this word and resist any temptation to roll your eyes just for two seconds.
There I said it.
"Imagine...all the people...living life in peace...You-WHOOO-oooo..."
Curiosity may not be the answer in and of itself. But it's a start. It's a gateway. Instead of shutting a conversation down, Curiosity opens it up. Instead of closing a mind, Curiosity opens it up. Instead of creating impenetrable fortresses of Confirmation Bias, Curiosity tears down walls.
From there, who knows where that gateway will lead?
Maybe it's a cure for a potentially deadly disease.