The biggest question mark and warning for anyone reading this book is that if its author, Mark Manson, truly mastered some art of not caring or of indifference, why does he feel the need to censor the word “fuck” in the title of the book? How can one write a book about not giving a fuck when they’re presumably too concerned with censorship? The matter for readers here now concerns whether this directly contradicts or invalidates any other advice Manson seeks to give, since he manages the impressive feat of contradicting his own assertion in asserting it. A brief survey of the text tells you more or less Manson’s positionality on a range of topics, and clarifies the contradiction in the title. Apparently, Manson values irony very highly when it comes to the act of not caring, so perhaps his choice to censor out “fuck” actually is a witty way for Manson to say that he doesn’t even care about what you think he’s saying, though some readers might consider that giving too much credit. But one thing is certain, Manson’s penchant for irony is clear with his choice to title and frame the book as one describing a “subtle art,” a nice prelude to his personality the contents of his work.
“The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck,” while inconsistent and not always the clearest in its expression, stays true to its intention of providing readers with a raw account of what Manson thinks of a number of topics, especially his issue with the deadening effect that social media and the overload of information impacts our personality. Mark Manson, while very genuine and remarkably firm in his life philosophy, dedicates much of his explanations to platitudinous, yet pithy-sounding remarks full of ironic feelings of the place of selfhood:
“A lot of people are afraid to accept mediocrity because they believe that if they accept it, they’ll never achieve anything, never improve, and that their life won’t matter. This sort of thinking is dangerous. Once you accept the premise that a life is worthwhile only if it is truly notable and great, then you basically accept the fact that most of the human population (including yourself) sucks and is worthless. And this mindset can quickly turn dangerous, to both yourself and others” (p. 61).
For many readers, this fear of mediocrity is relatable, so they find Manson’s ideas attractive in that he was able to reach and articulate a similar experience in his life to their own.
While there is value in the reflections that Manson has made, such reflections on the human condition have already been expressed centuries ago, and with greater eloquence, across many historical civilizations. Huxley or Orwell - as well as some very rich individuals - may argue that it is necessary for the mediocre to exist in order to fill certain societal rules, and that not everyone can be great. Dostoevsky shows the traumatic result of a mediocre man who attempts to validate if he indeed great through an extreme act worthy of justifying greatness in the novel “Crime and Punishment.” In any case, Manson’s advice will likely have a resonant impact with groups of individuals and readers feeling hopeless or without direction in the isolation that ushered in by technology and our modern age.
However, if you truly want to read about someone who doesn’t care, take a look at the Greek cynic Diogenes, whose antics put Manson to shame. Known for not bathing, being semi-naked, and the local vagrant, Diogenes also once remarked to Alexander the Great, while the latter was visiting Corinth, to move out of his way. When Alexander asked why, Diogenes explained that the powerful conqueror was blocking his sunlight. Impressed by Diogenes’ nonchalance, Alexander remarked: “"If I were not Alexander, then I should wish to be Diogenes.” To which Diogenes added: “If I were not Diogenes, I would still wish to be Diogenes.” Again, readers of Manson’s work should approach it as a useful introspective reflection on how we place value and our patterns of behavior, rather than buying too much into the promise of its interesting, eye-catching title.