At the beginning of this book by Mark Manson with the hopeless title, “Everything is F*ucked,” he says, “One day, you and everyone you love will die. And beyond a small group of people for an extremely brief period of time, little of what you say or do will ever matter. This is the Uncomfortable Truth of Life. And everything you think or do is but an elaborate avoidance of it. We are inconsequential cosmic dust, bumping and milling around on a tiny blue speck. We imagine our own importance. We invent our purpose – we are nothing.
Enjoy your f*king life.”
That is nihilism!
He goes on to say that people need hope almost as much as they need air. That, “depression is a crisis of hope.” Then he makes the point that his book is “against nihilism.” He says by starting with it we can argue against it. You can build a case for hope.
First, he points out some uncomfortable facts, like…symptoms of depression and anxiety, are on an eighty-year upswing amount young people and a twenty-year upswing amount the adult population. Not only are people experiencing depression in greater numbers, but they’re experiencing it at earlier ages, with each generation.” Also, that “…the wealthier and safer the place you live, the more likely you are to commit suicide.” He says that is “Because the better the world gets, the more we have to lose, the less we feel we have to hope for.”
Then he says, “To build and maintain hope, we need three things: a sense of control, a belief in the value of something, and a community.” The rest of the book examines these three areas.
The idea of having two brains is not new. He examines it here. The feeling brain and the thinking brain are how he describes it. The feeling brain is emotions and the thinking brain is logic. He says they don’t talk to each other very well.
The problem of self-control is an uneducated “Feeling Brain that has adopted and accepted poor value judgments about itself and the world.” Or as he says, “The problem is that, at some point, likely a long time ago, we got punched in the face, and instead of punching back, we decided we deserved it.”
I thought the hedge to this short section was perfect. It is “Our Self-Worth Equals the Sum of Our Emotions Over Time.” What an interesting way to look at it. He says, “Life kicks you around a little bit, and you feel powerless to stop it. Therefore, your Feeling Brain concludes that you must deserve it.”
He concludes this section by saying, “People suck, and life is exceedingly difficult and unpredictable.” However, he says we will encounter more suffering if we stay separated from others thinking we are either better than them or don’t measure up.
He goes on to discuss two more emotional laws. Did you miss the first one? The title of that section.
The author discusses this philosopher and I thought what he discussed rang true. He said “ Nietsche called the elite the “masters” of society, as they have almost complete control over wealth, production, and political power. He called the working masses the “slaves” of society because saw little difference between a laborer working his whole life for a small sum and slavery itself.” Isn’t that soothing to think about! Another idea accompanied this one – that people get what they deserve. He called it Master Morality.
Then he says the slaves (laborers) of society generated a moral code of there own that they were righteous and virtuous because of their weakness. “Whereas master morality believes in the virtue of strength and dominance, save morality believes in the virtue of sacrifice and submission.”
Manson says Kant “argued that the most fundamental moral duty is the preservation and growth of consciousness, both in ourselves and in others.” And Kant presents us with a “Formula for Humanity” which states, “Act that you use humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, always at the same time as an end, never merely as a means.” Kant is so hard to read.
This is when Manson throws “hope” in the ditch. Says if we act unconditionally then we don’t have to rely on hope. You just love someone not expecting anything in return.
Manson has some interesting things to say about pain. The first one has to do with the biggest pain, death. He says, “Death is psychologically necessary because it creates stakes in life.” I suppose you didn’t have something to lose you really don’t appreciate it. I know at my age death is at least a weekly thought. He goes on and says, “Without the pain of loss (or potential loss), it becomes impossible to determine the value of anything at all.”
Nassim Taleb wrote the book “Antifragile,” and Manson brings up that theme. He says, “the more antifragile we become, the more graceful our emotional responses are, the more control we exercise over ourselves, and the more principled our values. Antifragility is therefore synonymous with growth and maturity.
“…the quality of our lives is determined by the quality of our character, and the quality of our character is determined by our relationship to our pain,” says Manson.
So he says not to pursue happiness. Pursue pain. You want to be able to decide what pain you are going to pursue. He puts it this way, “When we pursue pain, we are able to choose what pain we bring into our lives. And this choice makes pain meaningful – and therefore it is what makes life meaningful.” That is profound! I choose the mountain. Go hiking. It is great pain.
There is more in the book, but this is a pretty good summary if I do say so myself.