In all honesty, I think it's easy to feel really cynical about life on planet earth. Generally, we human beings are good at making war, good at messing up our relationships, good at squandering the earth's resources, good at doing next-to-nothing about the rise of displacement and xenophobic violence and the increasing distress caused by the AIDS pandemic. It seems we're good at everything except being good. And this, I guess, is why my students are cynical. Who wouldn't be cynical when the message plastered all over the media is one of a world in turmoil.
But something rather surprising is evident in the cynicism of so many of these twenty-year-olds. It's not the sort of cynicism you would find in a jaded old businessman who has squandered his life in pursuit of mamon, nor is it the sort of cynicism you would find in someone who has spent their whole life going from one heartache to another. In fact, the cynicism I find is a mask for something far more profound, which you could even call hope. Underlying this apparent bitterness at the state of the world and the fallibility of human beings is a profound and deep desire for something better. Underneath the sorrows expressed at the pain that people cause each other and the environment is a yearning for something that could help them to transcend this madness. Not only is this a yearning for what is not-yet, but a profound sense of what ought to be. My question, as always, is where does that sense of 'oughtness' come from? Perhaps it is the echo of a voice from a distant memory that has existed since long before we were even born.