The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: Book Review

Written by: Audrey Tinnin

In Mark Manson’snovel The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, the reader delves into a journey towards unraveling topics relating to success and happiness. He begins by describing a man whose life revolves around chasing pleasure and affirmation. Eventually the man begins to see himself through a different lense, and recognizes his own flaws and failures for what they truly are. 

I do agree that we can find peace in taking responsibility for our own actions, and realizing that we aren’t all that unique. Manson briefly brushes on this topic, but I believe that the emphasis that our current culture places on individuality can tend to be detrimental to our own psyche.

 There’s this quote by astronomer Carl Sagan, that seems to echo a similar point Manson makes. It says, “Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it, everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of.  The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every king and peasant, every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there-on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.” 

Some might suggest that it is depressing to think about being so insignificant, but I believe it can be rather liberating to know that we live on a “mote of dust.” The problems that we tend to agonize over on a daily basis aren’t that important. 

 It is ironic that Manson references Albert Camus (although I would also argue that Camus is not a philosopher based upon the conventional definition). I have read his novel The Stranger, and I can also recall that Camus was a womanizer that cheated on his wife and drank his life away. 

Lifestyle aside, I found his book to be somewhat disturbing but not unlike George Orwell’s 1984. It challenges the reader to consider the impacts of giving into the lies and inconsistencies that exist within the dominant culture.

I do however, object to Manson’s views on choosing our own values. A man could say they value something, and easily change their mind the next day. In this case, the past value no longer holds any true meaning. Everyone can recall a time in which he was wronged by someone. Where is he getting this sense that there is a right and wrong, if he is able to subjectively control his own values? 

In order for someone to understand that a line is crooked, they first have to acknowledge that the line was straight. This point also contradicts Manson’s views on finding freedom through commitment and restriction. 

Manson’s perspective on entitlement is rather insightful. He mentions how often people nostalgically reflect on war time as being purpose driven and meaningful. This topic is closely related to the novel Tribe by Sebastian Junger. It talks about how humans often thrive during hardship. It sounds sort of paradoxical, but it aligns well from a historical and tribal standpoint. 

People think fondly of the war because it was through those challenges and hardships, that they had to rely on each other and come together. Junger points out how individualism has made us more isolated and depressed, and often breads entitlement. As cliche as it may sound, I agree that by recognizing and accepting our own ignorance and mortality, we can begin to appreciate and accept the simple and mundane parts of  life that aren’t exactly “instagram worthy.” 

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