The Importance of Being Earnest: A Guide for Today's Cynical World

As we collectively marvel, mouths agape, at the wonder passing over New York City—the space shuttle, the space shuttle!—we are reminded of how rare these moments truly are in today's cynical world.

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As we collectively marvel, mouths agape, at the wonder passing over New York City—the space shuttle, the space shuttle!—we are reminded of how rare these moments of wonder truly are in today's cynical world of snarky blog posts and curmudgeonly, ennui-filled responses to anything remotely fun or good or precious. How sad we are as a people that, in response to an icon of American engineering and space exploration swooping past overhead, this writer's response was to call attention to the fact that obviously it's a much bigger deal that people are wearing shorts in SoHo right now. (It is only 50-some degrees, people!). Meanwhile, better humans than us were sobbing on nearby rooftops over the joys wrought by this magical moment. But I am a part of the problem, not the solution, and my response was a defense mechanism, a posturing of judgy 21st-century proportions. The first step is admitting it, right? To admit it and then to do a better job at being earnest, honest, authentically joyful, less guarded. Basically, to be less of a snarky pain in the butt. Here are some ways to foster that.

If you see a celebrity. Instead of pretending that celebrity is "no one," and why would you care anyway about some random person who got paid way too much money to appear in a decidedly non-intellectual pursuit like a Hollywood blockbuster, which, frankly, you never see anyway—you don't even own a TV!—politely ask him or her for an autograph and say you loved them in Saving Private Ryan. Fight urge to sell autograph on eBay and spend all the money you've made on booze. Or, maybe you really don't care who said celebrity is. Get an autograph anyway! Then you've got something to sell to the salivating masses who spend their hard-earned money on such things. Wait, we're being cynical. Do that thing with your mouth that makes the corners go up, slightly, slightly, and now more so. Smile. Yes, smile! That's it, you're doing great.

If you're just walking around and see something pretty or nice or good-smelling. Stop. Despite the pain of coolness lost that you feel at doing so, marvel at it for a minute or two. Open your mouth and gape. How are those blooms so giant and lush and pink? How is that flower so beautifully fragrant? How is that space shuttle so shiny? The air so crisp, the grass so green, the hills so high, the valleys so laden with bubbling brooks of clear water, hyphenated by rainbows? How is the world so friggin' wonderful? Then, pull out your camera if you must and document it, put the pictures on your Twitter or Facebook or whatever social media appendage you prefer, and say something like, "This is beautiful!" Don't cringe while doing so. Don't drop your camera and curse. Don't make fun of it, or be self-deprecating. Wasn't that easy? Don't you feel sort of wonderful, yourself? (If you see a pretty human, however, don't gape or photograph. Instead, smile in a non-creepy way.)

If you like someone. Don't play a game. Don't pretend to hate them so that they never know that actually you like them. Stop being so scared. This is a rare moment in life, given that you are so cynical you never like anyone. So, act like you like them. Let like grow unfettered, if it sees fit to do so, without the hindrance of your neuroses and past baggage and secret and less than secret fears of rejection. Be nice, kind, generous, caring, all of those things that you actually would want someone to be to you. If they dump you, they'll feel really, really bad.

If you eat or drink something delicious. Shout or murmur "mmmmm!" and ask for more. Compliment the chef. Compliment the maitre d'. Compliment the hostess. Compliment yourself and your dining companions for your foresight in deciding to eat at said establishment. Tip big. Take home leftovers, and actually consume them, too.

If there's a natural event of monumental consequence. Let's say it's an earthquake, a hurricane, or that time the moon turned red. Remember that? That was awesome! If you just saw a red moon, aka, a lunar eclipse—those don't come around too often!—revert to "If you're walking around and see something pretty." Feel chills; use exclamation points, possibly more than one (!!).

If this was a potentially dangerous event in which, we hope, no one has been injured, emerge yourself unscathed and say things like, "Wow, that was a close one." Be very grateful that you and your loved ones are OK. Hug whomever is around, maybe weep a bit, depending on closeness and level of fear involved. Admit fear! You must admit fear. But move past it, grow, and tackle each day with renewed vigor, as these are the days you have. Incorporate the phrase "once in a lifetime" into your vocabulary, as much as possible. If it is an event in which people were hurt, or even killed, allow yourself to feel honestly sad, truly sorry for them, and, most definitely, do not tweet something snarky about how "it wasn't that bad" or "those people are just asking for attention." Also resist the urge to go overblown with your response: After all, you're not the one who suffered. Maybe send a donation; definitely spend some time with your own family, because if you don't appreciate them now, you have failed. We say this earnestly.

If someone does something nice for you, maybe without you even asking. Thank them. Consider maybe, someday, doing the same back to them, but don't make it a matter of tit for tat. Do it because you want to. Deep breaths, this is some next-level stuff, but it can be done.

If something makes you giggle and fall out of your chair. Giggle and fall out of your chair. Make no apologies for it, don't pretend it didn't happen, and instead, lie on the floor and writhe around for a bit laughing until others join in and soon your workplace or home or chair-falling establishment is one big human belly laugh, joyful and satiating, like in the days of yore. Then, everyone get pizza for lunch, and hug.

If all else fails, arrange a space shuttle to fly overhead your cynical urban habitat. Done.

Insets via Shutterstock by VioletKaipaYuri Arcurs.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.