Everything is F...... - Mark Manson

sid

Jedi Master
FOTCM Member

Everything Is F*cked: A Book About Hope by Mark Manson​


I picked up this book recently and turned out to be a delightful read. It's written by the same author who wrote "The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life", thread here - The subtle art of not giving a f... - Mark Manson
It's about 130 pages plus references so, should make for a quick read and plenty of laughs.

In this book, Mark has tried to simplify some esoteric concepts that we are aware of such as "suffering as a stepping stone to progress", "thinking fast and slow", "heroism as an archetype", "working on emotional centers" etc. and ultimately lays into the post-modernism, liberalism and the #Metoo crap that's been dumped on our collective conscious in recent years. He does so by referring to early experiences of Isaac Newtown and Friedrich Nietzsche with a bit of Plato and describes how especially Nietzsche was critical of all and everything including God.

It isn't easy to summarise a book which is already quite short, but I have tried to list the key areas he covers and few excerpts.

Hope

He begins with the heroic story of Witold Pilecki's escape from Auschwitz after he had gotten himself arrested and put into the camp on a secret mission to found out about the atrocities being committed there. What made Pilecki endanger himself despite having a wife and two kids? The answer is – Hope for a free and independent Poland. After escaping from Auschwitz, he made it back to Poland where the Polish authorities arrested him under Soviet's influence. Excerpt from the book, emphasis mine–

This time, though, he was discovered. He was warned that he was about to be arrested, and he had a chance to flee to Italy. Yet, Pilecki declined—he would rather stay and die Polish than run and live as something he didn't recognize. A free and independent Poland, by then, was his only source of hope. Without it, he was nothing.

And thus, his hope would also be his undoing. The Communists captured Pilecki in 1947, and they didn't go easy on him. He was tortured for almost a year, so harshly and consistently that he told his wife that "Auschwitz was just a trifle" by comparison.

Still, he never cooperated with his interrogators.

Eventually, realizing they could get no information from him, the Communists decided to make an example of him. In 1948, they held a show trial and charged Pilecki with everything from falsifying documents and violating curfew to engaging in espionage and treason. A month later, he was found guilty and sentenced to death. On the final day of the trial, Pilecki was allowed to speak. He stated that his allegiance had always been to Poland and its people, that he had never harmed or betrayed any Polish citizen, and that he regretted nothing. He concluded his statement with "I have tried to live my life such that in the hour of my death I would feel joy rather than fear."

So, it is hope that keeps us going day after day. We are altruistic by nature and striving to make things better or reduce suffering either for ourselves or others regardless of how we perceive things to be at present.

Mark says-

Our psyche needs hope to survive the way a fish needs water. Hope is the fuel for our mental engine. It's the butter on our biscuit. It's a lot of really cheesy metaphors. Without hope, your whole mental apparatus will stall out or starve. If we don't believe there's any hope that the future will be better than the present, that our lives will improve in some way, then we spiritually die. After all, if there's no hope of things ever being better, then why live—why do anything?

He further states that the opposite of Hope or happiness is not anger or sadness but hopelessness, a state of utter nihilism where there is no point to anything, leading to Chronic anxiety and depression. So, we try and create hope or remain hopeful to counter the effects of hopelessness.

There is much more to this topic of hope so best to read the book.


Thinking vs Feeling Brain

According to Mark, we are made of two types of brain – the thinking brain (slow thinking) and the feeling brain (fast thinking) - he refers to Daniel Kahneman as his inspiration for this concept. Mark uses a car analogy to describe the two brains-

You Have Two Brains, and They're Really Bad at Talking to Each Other

Let's pretend your mind is a car. Let's call it the "Consciousness Car." Your Consciousness Car is driving along the road of life, and there are intersections, on-ramps, and off-ramps. These roads and intersections represent the decisions you must make as you drive, and they will determine your destination.

Now, there are two travelers in your Consciousness Car: a Thinking Brain and a Feeling Brain. The Thinking Brain represents your conscious thoughts, your ability to make calculations, and your ability to reason through various options and express ideas through language. Your Feeling Brain represents your emotions, impulses, intuition, and instincts. While your Thinking Brain is calculating payment schedules on your credit card statement, your Feeling Brain wants to sell everything and run away to Tahiti.

Each of your two brains has its strengths and weaknesses. The Thinking Brain is conscientious, accurate, and impartial. It is methodical and rational, but it is also slow. It requires a lot of effort and energy, and like a muscle, it must be built up over time and can become fatigued if overexerted. The Feeling Brain, however, arrives at its conclusions quickly and effortlessly. The problem is that it is often inaccurate and irrational. The Feeling Brain is also a bit of a drama queen and has a bad habit of overreacting.

When we think of ourselves and our decision making, we generally assume that the Thinking Brain is driving our Consciousness Car and the Feeling Brain is sitting in the passenger seat shouting out where it wants to go. We're driving along, accomplishing our goals and figuring out how to get home, when that damn Feeling Brain sees something shiny or sexy or fun-looking and yanks the steering wheel in another direction, thus causing us to careen into oncoming traffic, harming other people's Consciousness Cars as well as our own.

This is the Classic Assumption, the belief that our reason is ultimately in control of our life and that we must train our emotions to sit the -flick- down and shut up while the adult is driving. We then applaud this kidnapping and abuse of our emotions by congratulating ourselves on our self-control.

What happens to people who can't get a handle on their emotions? They become the clown cars.

The Clown Car

The Feeling Brain, as great as it is, has its dark side. In the Consciousness Car, your Feeling Brain is like a verbally abusive boyfriend who refuses to pull over and ask for directions—he hates being told where to go and he will absolutely make you -flicking-g miserable if you question his driving.

In order to avoid these psychological kerfuffles, and to maintain a sense of hope, the Thinking Brain develops a tendency to draw maps explaining or justifying where the Feeling Brain has already decided it wants to go. If the Feeling Brain wants ice cream, instead of contradicting it with facts about processed sugar and excess calories, your Thinking Brain decides, "You know what, I worked hard today. I deserve some ice cream," and your Feeling Brain responds with a sense of ease and satisfaction. If your Feeling Brain decides that your partner is an asshole and you've done nothing wrong, your Thinking Brain's immediate reaction will be to recall instances when you, in fact, were a beacon of patience and humility while your partner was secretly conspiring to ruin your life.

Further, Mark says that lets assume if Newtown was in another reality and writes freely about emotions.

Newton three laws of emotion
The below three laws play out in the fashion described due to the interplay between feeling and thinking brains and particularly how the feeling brain feels about the experience and narratives spun by the thinking brain to apply the normalization.
  • For Every Action, There Is an Equal and Opposite Emotional Reaction – we are always trying to equalize things whenever we see moral gaps. A moral gap is when we have been harmed, and the other party has not paid its due. Mark gives some excellent examples to illustrate this point e.g. causing harm to someone (intentionally/unintentionally) and compensating with an apology or some money.
  • Our Self-Worth Equals the Sum of Our Emotions Over Time – This builds on the first law above where the equalization does not occur after a moral gap has been created. E.g. if the harm has been done but no apologies or monies offered, it will develop a sense of feeling within the victim that he/she deserved it and would internalize the harmful effects of that emotion forever.
  • Your Identity Will Stay Your Identity Until a New Experience Acts Against It – E.g. If a person from particular ethnicity attacks you, you may assume most people from such ethnicity to be dangerous until you have a pleasant experience in the future with another person of same ethnicity. At such point, you may even be conflicted and undecided until further experiences are gained.
Going further in the book, Mark offers a foolproof system of starting your own religion to dupe everyone which is absolutely hilarious and yet so true. And , further on, there is a full section on how to grow up and why we have a world full of "yet to grow up" kids/adolescents in adult bodies fueling the post-modernism thinking. I will avoid mentioning anything further on that so, best to read the book.

Pain Is the Universal Constant

Mark has written some fascinating and vital points about pain, our experience of it and, subsequently, our reactions to it.

Developmental psychology has long argued something similar: that protecting people from problems or adversity doesn't make them happier or more secure; it makes them more easily insecure. A young person who has been sheltered from dealing with any challenges or injustices growing up will come to find the slightest inconveniences of adult life intolerable, and will have the childish public meltdown to prove it. (Sid's note: how often we see this in the news these days?)

What we find, then, is that our emotional reactions to our problems are not determined by the size of the problem. Rather, our minds simply amplify (or minimize) our problems to fit the degree of stress we expect to experience. Material progress and security do not necessarily relax us or make it easier to hope for the future. On the contrary, it appears that perhaps by removing healthy adversity and challenge, people struggle even more. They become more selfish and more childish. They fail to develop and mature out of adolescence. They remain further removed from any virtue. They see mountains where there are molehills. And they scream at each other as though the world were one endless stream of spilled milk.

Mark has a further section on how technology and AI is being perfected to reduce pain in our lives but only ends up incrementing or bloating our reactions to the slightest hint of pain i.e. more doesn't lead to greater happiness or feelings of hope but rather creates more anxiety, stress and hopelessness.

Hopefully above is enough to get you all interested in the book. Feel free to comment or share your thoughts.
 

beetlemaniac

The Living Force
Thanks for the recommendation, sid! I listened to the entire book and mercifully it was over quite quickly, and towards the end, had a some interesting insight regarding the future of our interconnected, algorithm-controlled digital world. It was very dystopic and I was actually riveted in the shock and half not wanting to listen to his vision of an A.I. dominated future, where our emotional brains would be hijacked by these controllers and the very notion of free will decimated, by an illusion of freedom through the provision of variety, like the TV series on Netflix and online shopping.

It was also quite frightening to think about how professions like engineering would be going the way of the dinosaur due to automation. It got me frantically thinking about what to do about my job but I calmed down that voice - but I don't have any answers nor can I see what's coming down the pipeline / poopshoot so to speak. It may be the case that our professions will have to change and be transmogrified into something else - operations & maintenance of AI systems perhaps. Like caretakers and oilers of the big behemoth supercomputer or something like that. If this all comes to pass, which it looks like it is forming into this with so much interaction between us being conducted online, our faces masked. There's so much in potential interaction and encounters that seems to be lost from the isolating pod people phenomena, not to mention reduced empathy due to hiding of facial features. Imagine how we used to have spontaneous conversations with strangers at the grocery or while walking our dogs -- you'd think that there's so much less of that now. Sorry for the Corona-rant!

I also thought his ideas about religion were eye-opening, how religions start off at their infancy and when they grow in size - the primary motivation which is to bring people together in worship of God becomes supplanted by the need to preserve the gains that they have made. It's then contrasted with the idea that, in an AI future, with AI "gods" he hopes for an AI-created virtual religion and church, made somewhat addictive by somehow "gamifying" the carrying out virtuous behavior through feedback systems.

It made me think about how participating in FOTCM has effectively made me exclude myself as much as possible from this system of algorithms and AI. It seems to me like this is could be one of the rebel groups that goes against AI and co-opting of human consciousness and creativity and an existence of complete order and control. I think there are many professions that AI cannot handle, like ones which require the human touch, that require a knowledge of nature and its cycles, that need deep empathic bonding and connection. Relationships with our loved ones are also another thing that require work and energy to maintain, cannot thrive in sterility and algorithms that feed us what to say.

All in all a good and easy read and I would heartily recommend it to anyone who wants to understand what "hope" really is - something of a form of wishful thinking that denies us the impetus to be better human beings by seeing our flaws and a work in progress. Rather than covering up the truth of our situation with a comfortable feeling that "things will be better in the future", we aim to be better in carrying out our duties, being more humble, more compassionate, or any number of values which we'd like to improve on and cultivate.

Strangely enough though, even if we are works in progress, we still do have a degree of self-worth, which I don't think we should abandon for the sake of wanting to be better all the time. So it may be a process of finding a balance between having an objective view of who we are, coupled with a reasonable sense of positive self-regard, while being vigilant about the our ability to deceive ourselves, and being impeccable with our energy so that we may have some reserve to be channeled into self-improvement - or self-perfection if you like. Just my two cents.
 
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