Nick Cave on cynicism

I’m subscribed to Nick Cave’s Red Hand Files, where he answers questions from the public. Cave is frank and honest; many of the responses explore grief, with Cave sharing his experience of tragedy. He can also be playful, sometimes sanctimonious and pompous, but it’s amazing to see an artist being so open with his audience.

One particular quote has stuck in my head, from an April 2022 edition, where Cave from about cynicism:

Cynicism is not a neutral position — and although it asks almost nothing of us, it is highly infectious and unbelievably destructive. In my view, it is the most common and easy of evils… Unlike cynicism, hopefulness is hard-earned, makes demands upon us, and can often feel like the most indefensible and lonely place on Earth. Hopefulness is not a neutral position either. It is adversarial. It is the warrior emotion that can lay waste to cynicism. Each redemptive or loving act, as small as you like…keeps the devil down in the hole. It says the world and its inhabitants have value and are worth defending. It says the world is worth believing in. In time, we come to find that it is so.

There are so many things in life that are choices that we pretend are not. People are driven into despair, but cynicism is an attitude, an approach to the world. It might not be as easy, but it is better to choose hope.

Don’t Save the Best

Metafilter recently linked to Thomas Whitwell’s List of 52 things learned in 2023. At number 8 was the specialness spiral:

A specialness spiral is when you wait for the perfect time to use something, then end up never using it at all. “An item that started out very ordinary, through repeated lack of use eventually becomes … seen more as a treasure”

I heard a story from my sister’s in-laws of a neighbour who kept all their best china on a dresser, rarely used. One day the dresser tipped over, broke everything and it was wasted. Then there’s a quote from Emma Burbeck, who wrote a list of things she wished she’d done differently. Among them, “I would have burned the pink candle sculpted like a rose before it melted in storage.”

This is something I’ve been prone to, until I read Craig Mod quoting a friend of his about what to eat from your pack when hiking: “Always eat your best thing. That way you’re always eating the best thing you’ve brought.

Saving the best for last seems a somewhat puritain attitude, and risks never getting to enjoy that thing.