On Saturday, I appreciated the review of French Philosopher Fabrice Midal’s new book, The French art of not giving a f*ck. And when I saw it for sale in a bookshop, I bought it straight away. This professor of philosophy at the University of Paris has practised meditation for 25 years and taught it for 15 years. What I liked about the article (and, hence, I hope about the book) is the insistence that meditation (and mindfulness) are being taught and used as yet another thing to add to our to-do list of self-improvement and doing things perfectly. And making us feel guilty and inadequate.
Many people, he says to illustrate a point, use meditation to become calmer. But spiritual figures, says Midal, are not simply calm. We don’t want our lives to be sailing ships on a calm sea, unable to go anywhere. We need the energy to fight injustice…
I am forever trying to help people distinguish between means and the end (the Goal). The question I encourage people to keep using is, “why?”
I want to make time to go to the gym.
So that I can get fit.
So that I will be healthy.
So that I will be happy…
I want to study hard.
So that I get good results.
So that I can get a good job.
So that I earn good money
Ignatius of Loyola is one of the best teachers of means and end in his Principle and Foundation from the Spiritual Exercises. For Christians (and theists) the end is God. God is self-authenticating. Union with God is the end of all our whys. And everything can be used by God as a means to the end.
Atheists will have to work out their own end…
Happiness, then, for the Christian is not the end. So being depressed does not mean your life is meaningless – quite the opposite. Following Ignatius, both depression and happiness are means to union with God. In fact depression, and suffering, may be the more royal road…
Prayer is a means. Mindfulness is a means. Meditation is a means. Feelings are a means…
“The groundwork for my practice is that meditation is unproductive, that it doesn’t make you more efficient, it doesn’t make you wiser, and that, deep down, it has no ‘purpose’ in the common sense of the term,” Midal says in his internationally best-selling book. He urges us to the very basic but profound experience of just being alive. For the Christian, for the theist, I translate that to the acknowledgement to yourself that God loves you, as an individual, you particularly, into being. Each moment. And God does this, God the Mystery at the Heart of the Universe, of Reality, because God yearns to be in union with you. And God makes everything, everything, as the means for that union.
The French Art of Not Giving a Sh*t is the version I found for sale online. Someone can tell me if this is simply a politer title than the one I’ve bought and that I read the review of. Those who struggle with the language might like to remember that Saint Paul says shit.
I have already read The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck and I have bought Get Your Sh*t Together. There are any number of books (etc) riding the wave of what Midal acknowledges is a “not giving a f..k” trend.
To conclude: I would emphasise that this is not an encouragement to do things sloppily – it is not an excuse, in my own context, for dishonest earthquake “repairs”, or poor planning that means the road is dug up yet again! It is simply another way of making and keeping the main thing the main thing. Repairing the roads and fixing the houses is the goal (OK not the ultimate goal I was speaking of above). The 65% of energy put into the paperwork is the means! The money “earned” from the “repair” is not the goal…