I like to spend some time each day reading. I just finished a book called The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck, by Mark Manson. l like to read a wide range of non-fiction from which I can learn. My favourite outcome from such reading is an idea or concept that makes me think.
Review: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck
While poorly written and even more poorly structured, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck contained ideas and concepts that made me think. And, days later, I'm still thinking.
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I thought a great deal about the author's idea that many of us have a sense of entitlement, a sense that we are entitled to be happy. The fact is, we have no such thing and most lives, including the very best ones, involve periods of happiness, punctuated with periods of unhappiness and real pain.
Indeed, as Manson suggests, a full life requires periods of light followed by periods of darkness, hopefully followed by light again. It is the darkness that helps us appreciate the light. There is value in suffering.
A second idea that appealed to me - and made me think - related to the observation that life is a series of choices. We have the power, each and every one of us, to choose what we all give a fuck about and what we won't. Furthermore, most of the things we so often give a fuck about will not change, regardless of whether we give a fuck or not
What is more, as we grow older we tend to give a fuck about less and less. Everything matters to a child. Fewer things matter to an adolescent, bigger things matter to an adult and only the biggest things matter to an old person. I know that as I have grown older, I have given a fuck about fewer things. While I may give more of a fuck about big things, such as the self-centred nature of human beings, there are fewer things I give a fuck about today, including what those human beings think of me.
The idea that engaged me the most related to the importance and power of death, the destination we all have in common and after which we achieve a tangible equivalence. Manson contends that once an individual comes to grips with his or her mortality, and gets comfortable with the fact that they are going to die, they realise that there is nothing in life to be afraid of and very few things worth fiving a fuck about.
This idea may not be profound, but it is spot on in my view. It highlights the absolute importance of death and coming to grips with one's mortality, sooner rather than later.
As Steve Jobs noted in a speech at Stanford University: "Knowing you are going to die provides the greatest motivation to do something useful with every day." Jobs, like Manson, viewed death as a motivator.
Manson goes on to suggest that perhaps the greatest key to not being concerned about your own mortality is focusing on and ‘caring about things larger than yourself’.
This point was also made my Jim Carrey in a recent speech and exemplified in the philanthropic behaviour of Bill Gates and Warren Buffet. It is simple but profound. If you can focus on things much bigger than yourself, two things happen: you are about much less small stuff; and your own demise matters less and less.
I know for sure that I have no fear of death. I am comfortable with the idea that I may have less than 25 years of life ahead and that after that, I will be nothing more than a memory - and probably not an enduring one. Even the most famous of us are remembered for no more than a few hundred years, in a universe that is already 13.5 billion years old. Most of us might be remembered for less than a generation. Even if we are remembered longer than that, it will not be with any accuracy.
Each and every one of us will stop breathing one day and if you can keep that fact in mind, you will be more inclined to only give a fuck about the big things. You will be less likely to sweat the small stuff, like what someone thinks of you. You will certainly care less about wealth and the sham measure of the value of a human being that wealth is.
The sooner you can come to grips with death, without relying on the hope that there might be an afterlife, the sooner you will understand that in reality, there is nothing to be afraid of. The fact is, you are going to die no matter what.
And if you think belief in an afterlife will help, try again. Even the most devout believer, with very few exceptions, does whatever they can to hang on to this life. They may say they know there is a better life ahead, but they are not sure enough of this ‘knowledge’ to have the strength to face death with confidence and a smile.
Truly come to grips with your inevitable demise and there will be a lot fewer things you give a fuck about. Right now, I give a fuck about less and less.
It is truly liberating!