I have to wait another week or so before getting back to Mom’s tale; talking about her journey and illness is a draining experience for me. I need time between work and life’s other, necessary duties to recharge ye olde emotional batteries and to put my thoughts in order. On the topic of ‘necessary duties’, during my early morning tea-sipping and roaming of internet (a necessity, I swear), I came across this gem of an inspirational piece: The Subtle Art of Not Giving A Fuck, by Mark Manson. I don’t remember how I found it; a random Twitter post with an interesting picture lured me into a click, most probably. If you’re so inclined, click on the link for a scintillating, albeit profanity-filled read. If not, I’ll give you my interpretation of the post. In the piece, Mark takes what we all know and breaks it down into bites of common-sense. Mark makes a lot of good points about how negativity comes from sensitivity, about how we need to care about the right things and not care so much about the things that are beyond our control. I’m not going to reiterate all of his points, however, the underlying question with which I came away was: what do I give a fuck about?
Last night we had some friends over. The four of us talked about any number of hot topics, along with the usual death, big questions, life journey kind of stuff. I don’t do “simple”. I’ve never done “simple”. If you want to talk about the latest escapades of the Kardashians’, you’ll certainly feel out of place at one of my gatherings. It was hardly all serious though, and amid the deep discussions, we had drunken fun and laughed our asses off. In writing this blog and reflecting on the evening, I realize that I give a serious fuck about my friends, family and those close to me (including four legged and furry creatures). In that sense, I have become Mark’s perfect student. I don’t care about my friends and social circle to the exclusion of all other persons and struggles on the planet. To the contrary, I’d say that learning how to love other people is a trait that once discovered, opens the path to philanthropy. Indeed, I wasn’t much of a humanitarian or activist until I learned how to love other people. I never thought that I would ‘give enough fucks’ to ever speak on national radio regarding issues of racism and women’s roles in fantasy literature. Yet here we are (or were, last week).
Contrary to the latter part of Mark’s piece, where he describes the natural, often age-related decline in worrying about what could be important and instead worrying about things that are actually important—health, family—I find myself caring more and more about issues external to my existence as I get older. Perhaps it’s because I worry how the world, left unchecked and festering with evil and hate, will affect those I love. I suppose there could be selfish motivations behind my altruism: I am protecting those I love, those who make me feel “good” to maintain my drip-drug of happiness. But here is where I practice the subtle art of not giving a fuck and pay no fucks to the complications behind my reasoning. Fact is, I’m becoming a nicer person, a more tolerant person, a braver person. A person who takes less bullshit and has more attitude, sure, but a better person overall. I like Mark’s piece, a lot, and yet I find myself torn between my experience in life, and the new age leanings of focusing on what you can improve within yourself and your immediate vicinity and not worrying about everything else. Particularly the not worrying about everything else part, since I—as an optimist—don’t believe that there’s a problem in life that human will and ingenuity can’t solve. We made our messes and we can damn well unmake them. I think not giving too many fucks, and giving only the right fucks is a good way to live and not be neurotic all the time. Still, I don’t think it’s an appropriate prescription for every human being on the planet.
We need people who care. People who care too much. People who really, truly give a fuck about society. I’m not disagreeing with Mark or looking to discredit his points. I agree with everything he’s said. I would expand upon his piece though, and add that if possible, if you have the opportunity and inclination and “extra fucks” to give to important causes that you do so. Kindness and love perpetuates itself, and the seed of it has to come from somewhere. That isn’t some hippie, crystal-waving bullshit, it’s God’s honest truth. We can’t all be leaders, innovators and activists (well, we can in small ways—but that’s another blog altogether), and yet that capacity is in a percentage of us. And it’s a gift to care, to be sensitive to the needs of so many. A gift that if you have it, would be a shame to waste.
So, your homework for the week is to read Mark’s piece and decide how you’re going to spend your fucks in life. And remember, they may not be as exhaustible a commodity as you think. You may have a wellspring of humanity inside you just waiting to be tapped. If you turn out to be the next Ghandi, I expect an invite to all the good parties.
All my love,