Living with the Truth Stranger than Fiction This Is Not About What You Think Milligan and Murphy Making Sense

Wednesday, 12 October 2016


Cynicism for Under-Fives

There should be books on the subject.
Then again, I had to learn the hard way.

Anyhow, I might still write one
so long as no one cramps my style:

It's more of an art than a science.
And since when did you teach great art?

19 August 1989
My dad taught me many things growing up. Some of the things he set out to teach me stuck but not all, however, all the thing he would rather I’d never learned did. If you’ve never been a parent you’ll not appreciate how scrutinous young children are. And they’re fly with it. They learn early on to blend into the background and listen. It doesn’t matter if you spell out words: they know when something’s awry or afoot. They may not have the words yet but that doesn’t stop the relentless assimilation of raw data. The precious wee things don’t even realise they’re doing it. And things said can never be unsaid. Things seen can never be unseen. And damage done can never be undone. 

I wonder what my first cynical thought was. I, of course, won’t have realised I was being a cynic—I doubt the word was included in my Courtis Watters Illustrated Golden Dictionary for Young Readers—but that’s mostly the case with kids: we hate, we love, we covet—my mother was always telling me not to be covetous (whatever the hell that was)—and have no idea what it is we’re doing. The one thing I remember about later dictionaries was how inadequate most of the definitions were; they never really explained what words meant. I remember asking my dad about the word nihilism and his response was, “You don’t want to have anything to do with that.” I just wanted to know how it was possible to believe in nothing.

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