It’s terrible and wonderful at the same time! It’s like freedom in a cup!

Credit: Thomas Hawk
Credit: Thomas Hawk

There’s a samurai adage to the effect of he who ceases to fear death becomes invincible.” The idea is that if you stop giving a shit what happens, you become free. Free to speak your speak your mind and follow your heart. You stop needing them so they can no longer harm you. They might take away this or that, but they’ll never take away your dignity.

This was an idea that Jean-Jacques Rousseau caught onto during the Renaissance. Rousseau believed that the key to freedom and happiness was to reduce our needs as much as possible. This why he distinguished between amour de soi and amour propre. The former is a natural form self-love that let’s us pursue whatever really is in our self-interest. The latter is a form of pride that we learn from society and through all its bullshit and brain-washing. Amour propre only serves to increase our dependencies. It’s rooted in pride and vanity and makes us reliant on arbitrary social conventions and the opinions of others.

This is why there are two sides to the saying that “freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.” On one hand, being free to do whatever we want often means having nothing left worth having. It implies being along and unhappy. But if you can shed any need that you can’t fill for yourself, then you can be both free and happy.

This is also why Bob Dylan said “to live outside the law you must be honest.” It’s not so much that you need to have integrity to get away with being an outlaw. Rather, it’s that you can’t escape the law if you don’t. You need to be honest with others (integrity), but more importantly, you need to be honest with yourself. You need to understand what you really need, and what the excess bullshit is so that you can let it go. Because once you let go of the bullsh*t, no one can rule over you. You’re free from social conventions, which are probably the most tyrannical set of laws we live under.

It’s easy to give into the bullshit. We all need to eat, we all need to make money, so it’s tempting to give in, tell people what they want to hear, and try to get what we want out of them. But if you stop giving a shit about all the bullshit, you’ll probably find out that you need a lot less than you thought, and that you can get by on a lot less. And the less you need, the less ass you have to kiss, and the less ass you kiss, the better you feel about yourself. It’s true, you should try it sometime.

9 thoughts on “Don’t Give a Sh*t

  1. I agree with this sentiment of letting go of that which truly doesn’t matter. It’s Fight Club all over. However, I think lots of people also have a kind of “premature enlightenment” going on, where they THINK they have let things go, but really haven’t. Maybe they haven’t really thought things through, maybe there is more benefit to the ass-kissing that they haven’t considered, maybe they just haven’t hit bottom. Who knows, but sometimes you write a post thinking that you don’t give a damn about the consequences, and then it turns into a shitstorm. I think we’ve all been there. So, I guess my point is this: how do you determine what “truly matters” and what can just slide? If you have a diagram or three easy steps or even some other philosophical insights, that’d be seriously awesome.

    1. I don’t know. But with all things human nature, I like to believe in the 80/20 split. I’m not sure that the majority of people can let go. I’m not sure why I think that, I just do.

      Take the Socratic point of view where “the unexamined life isn’t worth living”: how many people can really look into the mirror and see through what they want to see? People believe what they want to believe, and that might very well be a part of natural selection.

      Look at Socrates. As much as we remember him for his ideas and example, he was poor, lonely, miserable, drunk, and ultimately put to death. He was probably too honest with himself to be able to convince himself that it was really worth making an effort. The result: everything we know about him is second-hand, from his pupils, and his pupils ended up having a much greater impact on Western thought, tradition, and history than him.

      I mean, geezus, if I truly didn’t give a shit, I wouldn’t be blogging, right?

  2. So, I guess my point is this: how do you determine what “truly matters” and what can just slide?

    This is what mindfulness meditation is for in Buddhism. This is what Zen practice is for, and there’s a reason that it’s called practice. It’s hard. I agree with you completely on the premature enlightenment part; it’s easy to think “whee, I don’t care what others think” until someone you love calls you a jerk and you cry.

    Anyway, inspiring post. Thanks to @gletham and @sbixel.

    1. Yeah, I think that the Buddhists, Taoists, and Shintoists all picked up certain things that it took the another thousand years to figure out. The Western variants also kinda lacked the brevity and simplicity of their Eastern counterparts — and that in itself almost missed the point entirely.

  3. It’s also tough when you have dependents that cares about these things that ends up owning them.

    Now you’re up against it, time is running out.
    And your little lady wants a car and a house.

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