Don’t give a fudge
Some books define a generation and then represent that generation for the ensuing decades. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby,” for instance, is our window to the Jazz Age. Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” defines the Beat Generation of the 1950s and Stephen Chbosky’s “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” crafts a 1990s coming-of-age tale.
Then there’s us, those who have read all those titles as part of our school curriculum or by choice. It’s too early to choose a notable literary work to define this generation. Nonetheless, there’s this particular title that has appeared on occasions quite too many.
I saw a dog-eared copy on a breakfast table at a hostel in La Union, basking in the sun. I saw one again at a Starbucks on Taft Avenue in Manila, and then one in another Starbucks in Bacolod City. It has become so widespread that I wonder if this is our version of “The Purpose-Driven Life.”
Its title? “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life” by Mark Manson. A New York Times bestseller no doubt, and has sold over two million copies. Already, its Goodreads page has branded it a “generation-defining self-help guide.”
Before proceeding, let me say I am aware of how cringe-worthy the title is. It may not be a big deal for some, but it is for many (most specially those who, like me, were told to wash their tongues with soap for every cuss word uttered.)
So, to spare us the awkwardness, I will substitute the profanity with a word I prefer to use in its place: fudge.
Mark Manson already ranks high on a millennial’s coolness meter for selling his possessions to move to South America. While his work comes as standoffish and brutally upfront, “The Subtle Art” proves worthy of its hype. It details the malaise that plagues this generation, particularly our desire for completely positive experiences, for a life free of difficulty, and for exceptionalism and success.
Manson throws his readers such lines as “What you consider friendship is really just your constant attempts to impress people,” or “It’s part of the game of love. You can’t win if you don’t play.”
In the dawn of this new year, I walked out of the old one with some debris of anxiety, a longing for change, and a shorter list of people to trust. To put it metaphorically, the previous year was one cool house party for me, but I found that as the party died down, many people quietly slipped through the back door to leave me for good—or to have fun in another person’s backyard. I approached this new year wondering if not giving a fudge would make me less fudged than I already was.
This is a plugged-in generation, one that sees all the hedonism and consumerism possible in every social media platform available. It isn’t a wonder why we feel that for a life to be worth living, it must be stringed with cocktails at the beach with gorgeous friends, fancy degrees, and never-ending parties.
“The Subtle Art” counters, however, that most of life is in the ordinary and in the mundane, that happiness is not due to having no problems but due to solving them, and that maturity is to give a fudge about what is only truly fudge-worthy, such as friends and family.
If not giving a fudge will help us live good lives, will that also mean not offering our two cents about issues that plague our country, such as poverty, corruption, and calamity? Apparently, not giving a fudge does not equate with apathy. Rather, it means looking at a problem squarely and doing something about it. Because only when we give a fudge about what truly matters do we get to solve the problems that truly matter.
As the new year slowly settles in, we can only hope for less of those moments that pushed many toward profanity. Weren’t there such moments aplenty last year? Problems do come, sometimes in doubles, and occasionally upgraded. Inevitably, we will suffer. But may we suffer with “more compassion and more humility,” as Manson puts it.
People may come and go, the tides may change, and quite too often we find situations are beyond our control. But so what? Who gives a fudge?