“Stoicism is the wisdom of madness and cynicism is the madness of wisdom,” said Bergen Evans. Both stoicism and cynicism are stances that spill over the borders of the normal; hence the nuances of madness. Can’t one be normal and yet be wise?
Psychologist Erik Erikson described wisdom as “detached concern with life.” Detachment implies a transcendence of emotions while concern involves a certain degree of emotions. If the stoic and cynic in ourselves can come together in a rational understanding, we will be sanely wise.
Life inevitably takes us through a multitude of experiences. Some are good experiences while the others may be bad. Joys and sorrows are intermingled in life. There are both successes and failures. A time may come in our life when we learn to rise above the urge to celebrate joys and successes and lament sorrows and failures. That’s when we have become wise.
As we grow older we should acquire greater integrity of being. Integrity is a psychological state in which the external factors don’t unsettle us much: neither positively nor negatively. In other words, we don’t rejoice much over good things happening, nor do we weep over bad things. We have learnt to accept them all as integral part of life.
Integrity is a unique personal style. It is a particular way of facing the external realities. With a fair degree of equanimity.
Integrity and wisdom are two sides of the same coin. They are not much different from each other. One cannot be found without the other.
It may be much easier to come across stoics and cynics than people possessing integrity and wisdom. It is easier to suffer injustices stoically than to understand them wisely. It is easier to look around cynically for a coffin when you smell flowers than to absorb the pain of the realisation that the fragrance of flowers is as ephemeral as the innocence of children.