Everything Is F*cked (The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck)
Part I: Hope
Chapter 1: The Uncomfortable Truth
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being heroic is the ability to conjure hope where there is none.
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show us a possibility for a better world — not a better world we want to exist, but a better world we didn’t know could exist.
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are so desperate for a hero today: not because things are necessarily so bad, but because we’ve lost the clear “Why?” that drove previous generations.
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We are a culture and a people in need of hope.
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Our psyche needs hope to survive the way a fish needs water.
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the opposite of happiness is not anger or sadness.
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the opposite of happiness is hopelessness, an endless gray horizon of resignation and indifference.
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Hopelessness is the root of anxiety, mental illness, and depression. It is the source of all misery and the cause of all addiction.
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When people prattle on about needing to find their “life’s purpose,” what they really mean is that it’s no longer clear to them what matters,
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This is why a lot of people flock to religion, because religions acknowledge this permanent state of unknowing and demand faith in the face of it.
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This is also probably partly why religious people suffer from depression and commit suicide in far fewer numbers than nonreligious people:
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But your hope narratives don’t need to be religious. They can be anything.
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For some people, the before / after story is raising their kids well. For others, it’s saving the environment
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Whether we realize it or not, we all have these narratives we’ve elected to buy into for whatever reason.
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our lives are made up of the endless overlapping of these hope narratives.
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successfully argue against nihilism, you must start at nihilism. You must start at the Uncomfortable Truth. From there, you must slowly build a convincing case for hope.
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An irrational sense of hopelessness is spreading across the rich, developed world.
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It’s a paradox of progress: the better things get, the more anxious and desperate we all seem to feel. 9
Nota - Pagina 16 · 220
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we are the safest and most prosperous humans in the history of the world, yet we are feeling more hopeless than ever before.
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The better things get, the more we seem to despair. It’s the paradox of progress.
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the wealthier and safer the place you live, the more likely you are to commit suicide. 30
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Hope doesn’t care about the problems that have already been solved. Hope cares only about the problems that still need to be solved.
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Because the better the world gets, the more we have to lose. And the more we have to lose, the less we feel we have to hope for.
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To build and maintain hope, we need three things: a sense of control, a belief in the value of something, and a community.
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Without a community, we feel isolated, and our values cease to mean anything. Without values, nothing appears worth pursuing. And without control, we feel powerless to pursue anything.
Chapter 2: Self-Control Is an Illusion
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To generate hope in our lives, we must first feel as though we have control over our lives.
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when Egas Moniz lobotomized his first patient in 1935, I’m sure he thought he had just discovered a way to do what, for more than two thousand years, philosophers had declared needed to be done: to grant reason dominion over the unruly passions, to help humanity finally exercise some damn control over itself.
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We see a lack of self - control as a sign of a deficient character. Conversely, we celebrate people who beat their emotions into submission.
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This is why we often develop the false belief that we need to change who we are.
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The constant desire to change yourself then becomes its own sort of addiction:
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Each cycle refuels you with the hope you’re looking for.
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We want to believe ourselves to be the masters of our own destiny, capable of anything we can dream.
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But lobotomies don’t work,
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The fact is that we require more than willpower to achieve self - control. It turns out that our emotions are instrumental in our decision making and our actions.
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You Have Two Brains, and They’re Really Bad at Talking to Each Other
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a Thinking Brain and a Feeling Brain.
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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.
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Your Feeling Brain represents your emotions, impulses, intuition, and instincts.
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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 fuck down and shut up
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Lobotomy patients had their Feeling Brains tied up and thrown in the car’s trunk, and that merely caused them to become sedated and lazy,
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Here’s the truth: the Feeling Brain is driving our Consciousness Car.
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because, ultimately, we are moved to action only by emotion. That’s because action is emotion.
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Self - control is an emotional problem;
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This sucks. Because emotional problems are much harder to deal with than logical ones.
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emotional problems can only have emotional solutions.
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If the Feeling Brain is our driver, then the Thinking Brain is the navigator.
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As Daniel Kahneman once put it, the Thinking Brain is “the supporting character who imagines herself to be the hero.”
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The Feeling Brain generates the emotions that cause us to move into action, and the Thinking Brain suggests where to direct that action.
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It’s incredibly easy to let your Thinking Brain fall into the trap of merely drawing the maps the Feeling Brain wants to follow.
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This is called the “self - serving bias,” and it’s the basis for pretty much everything awful about humanity.
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the self - serving bias simply makes you prejudiced and a little bit self - centered. You assume that what feels right is right.
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Your Consciousness Car becomes a Clown Car when your Thinking Brain has completely capitulated to your Feeling Brain, when your life’s pursuits are determined purely by self - gratification, when truth warps into a cartoon of self - serving assumptions, when all beliefs and principles are lost in a sea of nihilism.
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In the Clown Car, the Thinking Brain has been bullied and abused by the Feeling Brain for so long that it develops a sort of Stockholm syndrome — it can’t imagine a life beyond pleasing and justifying the Feeling Brain.
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people are always mistaking what feels good for what is good.
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Both classical philosophers and the Church had seen the destruction wrought by narcissistic and megalomaniacal men in power. And they all believed that the only way to manage the Feeling Brain was to deprive it,
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This thinking gave birth to the Classic Assumption: that the only way to be a good person is through dominance of the Thinking Brain over the Feeling Brain, the championing of reason over emotion, duty over desire.
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For most of history, the world has not been a pleasant place to live, and that was largely because everyone’s Feeling Brains were running amok.
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Then something happened in the last couple of hundred years.
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Life was more comfortable and easier
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As a result, several movements arose in the late twentieth century championing the Feeling Brain.
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The problem was that people began to go too far the other way. They went from recognizing and honoring their feelings to the other extreme of believing that their feelings were the only thing that mattered.
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this is the whole problem: speaking to both brains, integrating our brains into a cooperative, coordinated, unified whole.
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Because if self - control is an illusion of the Thinking Brain’s overblown self - regard, then it’s self - acceptance that will save us — accepting our emotions and working with them rather than against them.
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the only language the Feeling Brain really understands: empathy.
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Instead of bombarding the Feeling Brain with facts and reason, start by asking how it’s feeling.
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once you feel you’ve reached a point of understanding with your Feeling Brain, it’s time to appeal to it in a way it understands: through feelings.
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you need to bargain with your Feeling Brain the way you’d bargain with a Moroccan rug seller: it needs to believe it’s getting a good deal,
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whatever you do, do not fight the Feeling Brain. That just makes things worse.
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Self - control is an illusion. It’s an illusion that occurs when both brains are aligned and pursuing the same course of action.
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The only way you consistently nail that illusion is by consistently communicating and aligning the brains around the same values.
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here’s what you do have, Thinking Brain. You may not have self - control, but you do have meaning control.
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Instead of justifying and enslaving yourself to the impulses, challenge them and analyze them. Change their character and their shape.
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The Thinking Brain makes associations among facts, data, and observations. Similarly, the Feeling Brain makes value judgments based on those same facts, data, and observations.
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The Thinking Brain is objective and factual. The Feeling Brain is subjective and relative.
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This is the fundamental problem of hope — not an uneducated Thinking Brain, but an uneducated Feeling Brain, a Feeling Brain that has adopted and accepted poor value judgments about itself and the world.
Chapter 3: Newton’s Laws of Emotion
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We lie constantly and habitually.
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we lie to others because we’re in such a habit of lying to ourselves.
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For Every Action, There Is an Equal and Opposite Emotional Reaction
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Pain causes moral gaps.
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When confronted with moral gaps, we develop overwhelming emotions toward equalization, or a return to moral equality.
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These desires for equalization take the form of a sense of deserving. Because I punched you, you feel I deserve to be punched back or punished in some way.
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As with the negative moral gap, with the positive moral gap you will feel indebted to me, that you “owe me” something, that I deserve something good
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It’s our natural psychological inclination to equalize across moral gaps,
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The forces that impel us to fill those gaps are our emotions.
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In this sense, every action demands an equal and opposite emotional reaction.
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Our Thinking Brain thinks horizontally (how are these things related?), while our Feeling Brain thinks vertically (which of these things is better / worse?).
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Our Thinking Brain decides how things are, and our Feeling Brain decides how things ought to be.
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This is essentially what “growth” is: reprioritizing one’s value hierarchy in an optimal way.
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NEWTON’S SECOND LAW OF EMOTION Our Self - Worth Equals the Sum of Our Emotions Over Time
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If someone hits us and we’re never able to hit him back, eventually our Feeling Brain will come to a startling conclusion: We deserve to be hit.
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it is Newton’s Second Law of Emotion: How we come to value everything in life relative to ourselves is the sum of our emotions over time.
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Of course, the reverse moral gap must be true as well. If we’re given a bunch of stuff without earning it (participation trophies and grade inflation and gold medals for coming in ninth place), we (falsely) come to believe ourselves inherently superior to what we actually are.
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Self - worth is contextual. If you were bullied for your geeky glasses and funny nose as a child, your Feeling Brain will “know” that you’re a dweeb, even if you grow up to be a flaming sexpot of hotness
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A person who believes he deserves special treatment because of how great he is isn’t so different from someone who believes she deserves special treatment because of how shitty she is. Both are narcissistic. Both think they’re special. Both think the world should make exceptions and cater to their values and feelings over others ’.
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The more insecure you are about something, the more you’ll fly back and forth between delusional feelings of superiority (“I’m the best !”) and delusional feelings of inferiority (“I’m garbage !”)
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Self - worth is an illusion.
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The nature of our consciousness dictates that everything happen through us.
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It’s only natural, then, that our immediate assumption is that we are at the center of everything — because we are at the center of everything we experience.
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Persistent low - level narcissism is natural, but it’s also likely at the root of many of our sociopolitical problems.
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Our Feeling Brains warp reality in such a way so that we believe that our problems and pain are somehow special and unique in the world,
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Human beings require this level of built - in narcissism because narcissism is our last line of defense against the Uncomfortable Truth.
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Without a little bit of that narcissistic delusion, without that perpetual lie we tell ourselves about our specialness, we’d likely give up hope.
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Whether you believe you’re the best in the world or the worst in the world, one thing is also true: you are separate from the world.
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NEWTON’S THIRD LAW OF EMOTION Your Identity Will Stay Your Identity Until a New Experience Acts Against It
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Our values aren’t just collections of feelings. Our values are stories.
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when you adopt these little narratives as your identity, you protect them and react emotionally to them as though they were an inherent part of you.
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This “snowball effect” of early values is why our childhood experiences, both good and bad, have long - lasting effects on our identities and generate the fundamental values that go on to define much of our lives.
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Your early experiences become your core values, and if your core values are fucked up, they create a domino effect
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And the worst thing is, the longer we’ve held onto these narratives, the less aware we are that we have them.
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The only way to change our values is to have experiences contrary to our values.
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This is why there is no such thing as change without pain, no growth without discomfort.
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It’s why it is impossible to become someone new without first grieving the loss of who you used to be.
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There are two ways to heal yourself
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The first is to reexamine the experiences of your past and rewrite the narratives around them.
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The other way to change your values is to begin writing the narratives of your future self, to envision what life would be like if you had certain values or possessed a certain identity.
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Fruitful visualization should be a little bit uncomfortable. It should challenge you and be difficult to fathom. If it’s not, then it means that nothing is changing.
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The stories of our past define our identity. The stories of our future define our hopes.
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Our values attract one another and cause us to fall perpetually into each other’s orbit, in a metaphysical dance of friendship.
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“This emotional gravity, I declare, is the fundamental organization of all human conflict and endeavor.”
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“Our strongest values therefore demand either the affinity or the antipathy of others
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People who love the same thing love each other. People who hate the same thing also love each other. And people who love or hate different things hate each other.
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we come to perceive our differences as disproportionately more important than our similarities.
Chapter 4: How to Make All Your Dreams Come True
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You, too, can start your very own religion
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In this so - simple - anyone - can - do - it six - step program,
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Belief systems. Do you want your religion to be spiritual or secular?
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How to find your first followers. And more important: what do you want your followers to be? Rich? Poor? Male? Female? Vegan?
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Rituals, rituals, rituals ! Eat this. Stand there. Recite that.
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How to choose a scapegoat. No religion is complete without a common enemy
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And finally, how to make money. Why start a religion if you don’t profit from it?
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Paradoxically, it’s only in a group environment that the individual has no control, that he gains the perception of perfect self - control.
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HOW TO START YOUR OWN RELIGION
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Step One: Sell Hope to the Hopeless
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in order to feel hope, we need to feel there’s a better future out there (values); we need to feel as though we are capable of getting to that better future (self - control); and we need to find other people who share our values and support our efforts (community).
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starving people will believe anything if it will keep them fed. For your new religion, it’s best to start preaching your message to people whose lives suck the most: the poor, the outcasts, the abused and forgotten. You know, people who sit on Facebook all day. 13
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Step Two: Choose Your Faith
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Evidence and science are based on past experience. Hope is based on future experience.
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Even if you’re a nihilist, you are believing, on faith, that nothing is more important than anything else.
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The important question, then, is: Faith in what?
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whatever it is, it is a faith - based value that this one thing will produce the best future reality, and therefore gives the most hope.
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Evidence belongs to the Thinking Brain, whereas values are decided by the Feeling Brain.
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people interpret the significance of their experiences through their values.
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three types of religions, each type based on a different kind of God Value:
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the most important interpersonal religions are our familial and romantic relationships.
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Each family is its own mini - church,
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Step Three: Preemptively Invalidate All Criticism or Outside Questioning
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create a perception of “us” versus “them” in such a way that anyone who criticizes or questions “us” immediately becomes a “them.”
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These false us - versus - them dichotomies have the added benefit of always presenting the group with a common enemy.
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- versus - them dichotomies give us the enemies we all desperately crave.
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Step Four: Ritual Sacrifice for Dummies — So Easy, Anyone Can Do It !
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Step Five: Promise Heaven, Deliver Hell
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The beauty of a religion is that the more you promise your followers salvation, enlightenment, world peace, perfect happiness, or whatever, the more they will fail to live up to that promise.
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And the more they fail to live up to that promise, the more they’ll blame themselves and feel guilty. And the more they blame themselves and feel guilty, the more they’ll do whatever you tell them to do to make up for it.
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the more you do it, the more you’re told you need to do it to finally experience the satisfaction you’ve been promised. Yet that satisfaction never comes.
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Step Six: Prophet for Profit !
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This is how you go from Jesus to the Crusades, from Marxism to the gulags, from a wedding chapel to divorce court. This corruption of the religion’s original values
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In this sense, success is in many ways far more precarious than failure. First, because the more you gain the more you have to lose, and second, because the more you have to lose, the harder it is to maintain hope. But more important, because by experiencing our hopes, we lose them.
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We see that our beautiful visions for a perfect future are not so perfect,
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the only thing that can ever truly destroy a dream is to have it come true.
Chapter 5: Hope Is Fucked
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But for most of his life, his work was almost universally ignored. Then Nietzsche announced the death of God, and he went from failing university professor to pariah. He was unemployable and basically homeless. No one wanted anything to do with him: no university, no publisher, not even many of his friends. He scrounged together money to publish his work himself, borrowing from his mother and sister to survive. He relied on friends to manage his life for him. And even then, his books hardly sold a copy.
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The scientific revolution changed the world more than anything before or since. 10 It has reshaped the planet, lifted billions out of disease and poverty, and improved every aspect of life. 11 It is not an exaggeration to suggest that science may be the only demonstrably good thing humanity has ever done for itself.
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But science did something else even more spectacular: it introduced to the world the concept of growth.
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it is the conflict that maintains the hope.
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So, we’ve got it backward: everything being fucked doesn’t require hope; hope requires everything being fucked.
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Hope is, therefore, destructive. Hope depends on the rejection of what currently is.
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It requires us to be anti - something.
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Amor fati, for Nietzsche, meant the unconditional acceptance of all life and experience: the highs and the lows, the meaning and the meaninglessness.
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Everything is fucked. And hope is both the cause and the effect of that fuckedness.
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“Man is a rope, tied between beast and Superman — a rope over an abyss. What is great in man is that he is a bridge and not a goal: what can be loved in man is that he is an overture [to something greater.]”
Part II: Everything Is Fucked
Chapter 6: The Formula of Humanity
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Immanuel Kant was either the most boring person who ever lived or a productivity hacker’s wet dream. For forty years he woke up every morning at five o’clock and wrote for exactly three hours. He would then lecture at the same university for exactly four hours, and then eat lunch at the same restaurant every day. Then, in the afternoon, he would go on an extended walk through the same park, on the same route, leaving and returning home at the exact same time. He did this for forty years. Every. Single. Day.
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If you’re living in a democratic society that protects individual freedoms, you have Kant partially to thank for that. He was one of the first to argue that all people have an inherent dignity that must be regarded and respected. 2 He was the first person ever to envision a global governing body that could guarantee peace across much of the world
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His descriptions of how we perceive space and time would later help inspire Einstein’s discovery of the theory of relativity. 4 He was one of the first to suggest the possibility of animal rights. 5 He reinvented the philosophy of aesthetics and beauty. 6 He resolved the two - hundred - year - old philosophical debate between rationalism and empiricism in the span of a couple of hundred pages. 7 And as if all that weren’t enough, he reinvented moral philosophy,
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The most precious and important things in life are, by definition, nontransactional. And to try to bargain for them is to immediately destroy them. You
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The difference between a child, an adolescent, and an adult is not how old they are or what they do, but why they do something.
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To Kant, the only thing that distinguishes us from the rest of the matter in the universe is our ability to reason
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Kant cleverly deduced that, logically, the supreme value in the universe is the thing that conceives of value itself. The only true meaning in existence is the ability to form meaning. The only importance is the thing that decides importance.
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Kant believed that without rationality, the universe would be a waste,
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Kant argued that the most fundamental moral duty is the preservation and growth of consciousness, both in ourselves and in others. He called this principle of always putting consciousness first “the Formula of Humanity,”
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the problem with hope is that it is fundamentally transactional — it is a bargain between one’s current actions for some imagined, pleasant future. Don’t eat this, and you’ll go to heaven. Don’t kill that person, or you’ll get in trouble. Work hard and save your money, because that will make you happy.
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To transcend the transactional realm of hope, one must act unconditionally. You must love someone without expecting anything in return; otherwise it’s not truly love. You must respect someone without expecting anything in return; otherwise you don’t truly respect him.
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Kant summed up these unconditional acts with one simple principle: you must treat humanity never merely as a means, but always as an end itself.
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end is something that is desired for its own sake. It is the defining motivating factor of our decisions and behaviors.
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His Formula of Humanity states that treating any human being (or any consciousness) as a means to some other end is the basis of all wrong behavior. So,
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Telling ourselves that we are worthless and shitty is just as wrong as telling others that they are worthless and shitty.
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your improved ability to be honest with yourself will increase how honest you are with others,
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Politics is a transactional and selfish game,
Chapter 7: Pain Is the Universal Constant
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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.
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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
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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.
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They see mountains where there are molehills.
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cool Albert Einstein quote on the internet: “A man should look for what is, and not what he thinks should be.”
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Einstein didn’t say it.
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We are all moving, all the time, and the closer we get to the speed of light, the more time “slows down” and the more space contracts.
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Most of us live much of our lives this way, constantly chasing our imagined ten. You think, hey, to be happier, I’m going to need to get a new job; so you get a new job.
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This constancy of pain results in what is known as “the hedonic treadmill,” upon which you run and run and run, chasing your imagined ten. But, no matter what, you always end up with a seven. The pain is always there. What changes is your perception of it. And as soon as your life “improves,” your expectations shift, and you’re back to being mildly dissatisfied again.
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Trying to eliminate pain only increases your sensitivity to suffering, rather than alleviating your suffering. It causes you to see dangerous ghosts in every nook, to see tyranny and oppression in every authority, to see hate and deceit behind every embrace.
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Whereas a fragile system breaks down and a robust system resists change, the antifragile system gains from stressors and external pressures.
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Meditation is, at its core, a practice of antifragility: training your mind to observe and sustain the never - ending ebb and flow of pain and not to let the “self” get sucked away by its riptide.
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The Buddha said that suffering is like being shot by two arrows. The first arrow is the physical pain — it’s the metal piercing the skin, the force colliding into the body. The second arrow is the mental pain, the meaning and emotion we attach to the being struck, the narratives that we spin in our minds about whether we deserved or didn’t deserve what happened. In many cases, our mental pain is far worse than any physical pain. In most cases, it lasts far longer.
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there is always a separation between what we experience and how we interpret that experience.
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Death is psychologically necessary because it creates stakes in life. There is something to lose.
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Pain is the currency of our values.
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Pain is at the heart of all emotion. Negative emotions are caused by experiencing pain. Positive emotions are caused by alleviating pain.
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Antifragility is therefore synonymous with growth and maturity. Life is one never - ending stream of pain, and to grow is not to find a way to avoid that stream but, rather, to dive into it and successfully navigate its depths.
Chapter 8: The Feelings Economy
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In the 1920s, women didn’t smoke
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It was taboo.
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Here you had 50 percent of the population not smoking their cigarettes for no other reason than it was unfashionable or seen as impolite.
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in 1928, the American Tobacco Company hired Edward Bernays,
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Back in the early nineteenth century, marketing was seen simply as a means of communicating the tangible, real benefits of a product in the simplest and most concise form possible.
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Thinking Brain was in charge.
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But Bernays was unconventional
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He believed that people were emotional and impulsive and just hid it really well.
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If he wanted women to smoke, then he had to appeal not to their thoughts but to their values.
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To accomplish this, Bernays hired a group of women and got them into the Easter Sunday Parade in New York City.
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As Bernays planned it, at the appropriate moment, these women would all stop and light up cigarettes at the same time. He hired photographers to take flattering photos of the smoking women,
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He told the reporters that these ladies were not just lighting cigarettes, they were lighting “torches of freedom,” demonstrating their ability to assert their independence and be their own women.
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worked. Women started smoking, and ever since, we’ve had equal - opportunity lung cancer.
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Bernays: he was Sigmund Freud’s nephew.
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Freud was infamous because he was the first modern thinker to argue that it was the Feeling Brain that was really driving the Consciousness Car.
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There are two ways to create value in the marketplace:
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1. Innovations (upgrade pain). The first way to create value is to replace one pain with a much more tolerable / desirable pain.
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2. Diversions (avoid pain). The second way to create value in a marketplace is to help people numb their pain.
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The more you numb pain, the worse that pain becomes.